LOS ANGELES, December 24, 2014 — With one week to go in the 2014 NFL regular season, it is time to look at the playoff picture. The NFC teams are almost all set. The main issue is seeding. This is where we find out who controls their own destiny and who needs help. The Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are all 11-4. They are all in the playoffs. All five teams could end up with a first round bye. All five could end up as the top seed with home field advantage, although it is highly unlikely for the Cowboys. Except for the Cowboys, the others could drop to the wildcard five or six seed.
The last team will have a losing record and will either be the Carolina Panthers or Atlanta Falcons, who play each other to close the season.
While this season has shown that tie games are possible in the NFL, they are so rare that they will be discounted in explaining what happens, except in rare cases. Factoring in ties only adds confusion, so the standings going forward are assuming there will be no more tie games.
The Seattle Seahawks host the St. Louis Rams. If the Seahawks win, they clinch the NFC West division and the top seed in the NFC with home field throughout the playoffs.
The Arizona Cardinals are at the San Francisco 49ers. If the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals win, the Cardinals win the NFC West and the two seed with a first round bye.
If the Cardinals win and the Seahawks and Packers both lose, the Cardinals would be the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs.
If the Seahawks and Cardinals both lose, the Seahawks win the NFC West, but fall to the two seed if Dallas loses or even as far as the three seed if Dallas wins.
Whoever loses the NFC West tumbles all the way to the wildcard as the five or six seed.
The Detroit Lions are at the Green Bay Packers. The winner of this game wins the NFC North and is at worst the two seed with a first round bye. The only exception would be if the game ended in a tie. The Lions would win the division but could drop as low as the three seed if Dallas wins.
If the Packers win and the Seahawks lose, the Packers would win the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
If the Lions win and the Seahawks and Cardinals both lose, the Lions would win the top seed and home field advantage.
Whoever loses the NFC North drops to the wildcard five seed or six seed.
The Dallas Cowboys have clinched the NFC East. At worst, they are the three seed. They are at the Washington Redskins to close the season.
If the Cowboys win and the Seahawks and Cardinals both lose, the Cowboys move up to the two seed and get the first round bye.
If the Cowboys win, the Seahawks and Cardinals both lose, and by some miracle the Packers and Lions finish in a tie, the Cowboys would win the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs.
The NFC South sees the 6-8-1 Panthers at the 6-9 Falcons. The winner of this game wins the NFC South and is the four seed. The loser misses the playoffs.
The Seahawks are at home for Week 17. They will win their game and get the top seed and home field throughout the playoffs for the second straight year.
The Packers are at home. They will defeat the Lions. The Packers will be the two seed with a first round bye.
The Cowboys are the team most likely to stay in the three seed, so they may just rest their starters. Win or lose, they will end up the three seed.
The Falcons are at home and will defeat the Panthers. The Falcons will be the four seed.
The Cardinals will lose and tumble to the five seed. Even if they win they would still be the five seed.
The Lions will lose and tumble to the six seed.
Wildcards: 6) Lions at 3) Cowboys, 5) Cardinals at 4) Falcons
Divisionals: 3) Cowboys at 2) Packers, 4) Falcons at 1) Seahawks
NFC Title Game: 2) Packers at 1) Seahawks
NFC Champion: Seahawks