Who would be in
No. 1 seed: Seahawks (11-4). They grabbed the NFC West lead and clinched at least a wild-card berth after finishing their sweep of the Cardinals on Sunday. A win over the Rams in Week 17 would both give them the division title and top seed for the second straight season. Home-field advantage would serve them nicely in their Super Bowl defense. What’s left: vs. STL
No. 2 seed: Lions (11-4). They still lead the NFC North after beating the Bears on Sunday by virtue of their win over the Packers in Detroit earlier. They have clinched at least a wild-card berth; a win at Lambeau Field gives them the division title, a first-round bye and a chance at the top seed if the Seahawks stumble. A loss would drop them down to No. 6. What’s left: at GB
No. 3 seed: Cowboys (11-4). They clinched the NFC East title by routing the Colts on Sunday. They most likely will hold this seed, but there’s an outside shot at a first-round bye. They can earn that by beating the Redskins in Week 17, coupled with both the Seahawks and Cardinals losing or the Packers and Lions tying. What’s left: at WAS
No. 4 seed: Panthers (6-8-1). They have the NFC South lead after they beat the Browns and the Saints lost to the Falcons at home on Sunday. Now the Panthers just need to beat the Falcons on the road in Week 17 to win a second straight division title. What’s left: at ATL
No. 5 seed: Packers (11-4). They clinched at least a wild-card berth by rolling over the Buccaneers on Sunday. If they beat the Lions at Lambeau Field in Week 17, it would give them at least the No. 2 seed, a first-round bye and a home playoff game with a shot at No. 1. If they lose, they would likely step into an immediate tough road matchup against the Cowboys. What’s left: vs. DET
No. 6 seed: Cardinals (11-4). They lost the NFC West lead and top spot and now need help to be more than a wild-card team with a much tougher road to the Super Bowl. That requires them beating the 49ers for a second time in Week 17 and the Rams doing the same to the Seahawks. If the Cardinals just win, they would at least move up to No. 4 over the Lions or Packers to get an opening shot at the weak South champions. What’s left: at SF
Who’s right behind: Falcons (6-9). They can either beat the Panthers at home and get in as South champions or just stay home for the playoffs. The latter unfortunately would also prompt a coaching change.
Who’s out: Eagles (9-6), 49ers (7-8), Saints (6-9), Vikings (6-9), Giants (6-9), Rams (6-9), Bears (5-10), Redskins (4-11), Buccaneers (2-13). The Eagles’ elimination as a potential 10-win team behind an inferior South champion should make the NFL rethink its playoff setup. On the flip side, the Buccaneers know they can lock up the No. 1 draft pick with a loss to the just eliminated Saints.