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Updated NFC Playoff Scenarios: Things Just Got Slightly More Interesting

Well, everything from my earlier playoff scenarios made the assumption that the Atlanta Falcons would knock off the New Orleans Saints tonight at the Georgia Dome on Monday Night Football.

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So, naturally, it didn't happen that way, as the Saints handed Atlanta their first home loss of the year, 17-14.

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That victory for the Saints means that they are in to the NFC Playoffs as no worse than the #5 seed. None of the three teams that are still battling for wild card spots can match the Saints' current total of 11 wins. The Saints can still win the NFC South if they can beat Tampa Bay on Sunday and the Falcons manage to find a way to lose to the NFL's worst team, the Carolina Panthers.

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Let's assume, for a moment, that the Falcons do manage to knock off Carolina, secure the #1 seed in the NFC, and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. . .I think that's a relatively safe assumption at this point. (Yes, crazier things have happened, but the Panthers pulling the upset in the Georgia Dome next week borders on absolutely insane.) In the event of an Atlanta win, the Saints would fall into the #5 spot and get the right to travel to either Seattle or St. Louis, depending on who wins the Sunday Night Football match-up between the Rams and Seahawks to determine the NFC West Champion. The NFC West champion will be the #4 seed regardless of what else happens anywhere in the conference.

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The #2 and #3 seeds would be a battle between Chicago and Philadelphia. If both of those teams win or if both of those teams lose, the Bears are the #2 seed based on their head-to-head victory over Philadelphia a few weeks back. The only way Philly climbs into the #2 spot is if they beat the Dallas Cowboys and the Bears fall to the Green Bay Packers. (And, yes, I'm assuming a Philadelphia win over the Vikings on Tuesday night. Going way out on a limb with that one, I know.)

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Speaking of the Packers, they control their own destiny for the #6 seed. If they can beat the Bears on Sunday, they will claim the final wild card spot in the NFC. If the Packers lose to the Bears, the next team in line is the New York Giants, who face the Washington Redskins in the nation's capital. A Packers loss and a Giants win puts New York into the playoffs. If both of those teams lose, that opens the door for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If the Packers and the Giants both lose and the Buccaneers beat New Orleans, then Tampa Bay will grab the last NFC playoff spot. If all three of those teams manage to lose, Green Bay will back in based on tiebreakers.

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Now, if Carolina pulls the undisputed upset of the year and beats the Falcons on Sunday, all hell breaks loose with the seeding scenarios. . .but we can deal with that in a separate post as the week progresses.

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Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.