ATLANTA: The first 16 weeks of the 2020 NFL regular season are in the history books, Week 17 is here. This week football jargon not used for 51 weeks is said over and over. We learn who controls their own destiny and who needs help making the playoffs. Some years it seems almost everybody has a shot at the playoffs. This year several NFC teams have possibilities. That’s our assessment of the 2020-2021 NFC playoff permutations and combinations.
A major change has taken place for the 2020 postseason. After 30 years of 12 teams making the playoffs, this year that expands to 14 teams. Seven teams from each conference go to the postseason. This means each conference will have three Wildcard teams instead of two. More importantly, it is no longer the top two seeds that get a first-round bye. The two seed now has to play a Wildcard game. Only the top seed with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs gets the first-round bye.
Six of the eight NFC Week 17 games have playoff implications.
In the NFC, three of the four divisions have already been clinched. Virtually everything is up for grabs. The top seed is wide open. So are two of the three Wildcard spots, where three teams are fighting for those two spots. The four seed remains open, and three NFC East teams are alive for that final spot.
The AFC playoff picture is another matter entirely.
Here is the NFC playoff picture.
1.) Green Bay Packers (12-3):
The Packers have clinched the NFC North and are currently the top seed. If they win next week, they would get home field throughout the playoffs and get a first-round bye. If the Packers lose next week, they can still remain the top seed if the Saints and Seahawks also lose. If the Packers lose and either the Saints or Seahawks win, the Packers fall to the two seed and would have to host a playoff game on Wildcard weekend. If the Packers lose and the Saints and Seahawks both win, the Packers fall to the three seed.
2.) New Orleans Saints (11-4):
The Saints have clinched the NFC South and are currently the two seed. The lowest they can be is the three seed. If they lose next week and Seattle wins, they are the three seed. On the other hand, if the Saints win and the Packers lose, the Saints move up to the top seed and have home field throughout the playoffs and a first round bye.
3.) Seahawks (11-4):
The Seahawks clinched the NFC West and right now are the three seed. They cannot finish lower than that. If they win their regular-season finale and New Orleans or Green Bay loses, the Seahawks move up to the two seed. If the Seahawks win and both Green Bay and New Orleans lose, the Seahawks vault to the top seed with home field throughout the playoffs and a first-round bye.
4.) Washington No-Names (6-9) —
The Non-Redskins currently are tied for the NFC East and are the four seed because they hold the tie-breaker. However, they have not clinched anything. The No-Names cannot make the playoffs as a Wildcard. If they win next week, they win the division and the four seed. If they lose, they are out.
5.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-5):
The Buccaneers have clinched a playoff spot as a Wildcard. They are currently the five seed. If they lose next week and the Rams win, they fall to the sixth seed.
6.) Los Angeles Rams (9-6):
The Rams can only make the playoffs as a Wildcard. They control their own destiny and are currently the six seed. If they win, they are in. If they win and the Buccaneers lose, they move up to the five seed. If they lose, their only hope is to have Chicago or Arizona lose. If they lose and Chicago and Arizona both win, they are out.
7.) Chicago Bears (8-7):
The Bears can only make the playoffs as a Wildcard. They control their own destiny. If they win, they are in. If they lose, their only hope is to have the Rams or Arizona lose. If they lose and the Rams and Arizona both win, they are out.
8:) Arizona Cardinals (8-7):
The Cardinals are on the outside looking in. They can only make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Their only hope is to win next week and has the Rams or Chicago lose. If that happens, the Cardinals clinch the seven seed. If they lose, they are out.
9.) Dallas Cowboys (7-8):
The Cowboys are on the outside looking in. They cannot make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Their only hope is to win next week and have Washington lose. If that happens, the Cowboys clinch the NFC East and are the four seed. They would host a Wildcard game. If they lose, they are out.
10.) New York Giants (6-9):
The Giants are on the outside looking in. They cannot make the playoffs as a Wildcard. Their only hope is to win next week and have Washington lose. If that happens, the Giants clinch the NFC East and are the four seed. They would host a Wildcard game. If they lose, they are out.
Here are the NFC games with playoff implications:
Green Bay Packers (12-3) at Chicago Bears (8-7)
New Orleans Saints (11-4) at Carolina Panthers (5-10)
Dallas Cowboys (6-9) at New York Giants (5-10)
Washington No-Names (6-9) at Philadelphia Eagles (4-10-1)
Seattle Seahawks (11-4) at San Francisco 49ers (6-9)
Arizona Cardinals (8-7) at Los Angeles Rams (9-6)
1.) Packers 13-3
2.) Saints 12-4
3.) Seahawks 12-4
4.) Cowboys 7-9
5.) Buccaneers 11-5
6.) Rams 10-6
7.) Bears 8-8
Out — Cardinals 8-8, No-Names 6-10, Giants 5-11
Other than the Buccaneers, nobody has the luxury of resting their starters. The Packers, Seahawks and Saints all have road games against teams with inferior records.
7.) Bears at 2.) Saints
6.) Rams at 3.) Seahawks
5.) Buccaneers at 4.) Cowboys
The Packers have the first-round bye.
5.) Buccaneers at 2.) Saints, 6.) Rams at 1.) Packers
NFC Title Game: 2.) Saints at 1.) 49ers
The Saints have the most complete team in the NFC. Alvin Kamara is the most versatile receiver in the NFC. When you switch the home field, the Saints would appear to have the advantage. However, the Packers have the home field in a game built for brutal cold weather. The Saints play indoors. Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees are two of the all time greats. Go with the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau Field to be the deciding factor.
The Packers will host the George Halas NFC Championship Trophy and reach the Super Bowl. Bringing home the Vince Lombardi Trophy will be very tough. This year will be a rematch of Super Bowl I. Back then the Packers under Lombardi were clearly the superior team. That is not the case this year, so expect a different result.