The Re*****s have risen from the ashes. Washington was once 1-5 and are now 6-7 and in prime position for an NFC East title.
Here’s the amazing thing – even if Washington didn’t play in the East, they’d still have an outside shot at a Wild Card berth. Minnesota and Chicago are each 6-7 and have a 20% of making the playoffs.
Atop the East, Washington has a 74% chance of getting the 4 seed per FiveThirtyEight.
The Packers have proved the naysayers wrong. Green Bay’s season was seemingly over before it began after they wasted … er spent … their first-round pick on a backup quarterback.
Drew Brees has shut his haters up as well. We are bombarded with reports that the old man has no strength left in his right arm and that he can’t win in this league anymore … and yet New Orleans is tied for first place in the conference.
After a 6-1 start, Seattle is now 9-4 and not even the best team in their own division. After a couple of sleepy seasons, the LA Rams are back and ready to make some noise in the NFC playoffs.
With 3 weeks remaining in the 2020 NFL regular season, the playoff picture is beginning to crystalize. Let’s take a closer look at a couple of the NFC postseason races.
NFC Playoff Picture After Week 14
Green Bay Packers – 1st Place NFC North – 10-3
The Green Bay Packers clinched their second-straight NFC North title with the team’s 31-24 victory in Motown late Sunday afternoon in Week 14 action.
This win keeps the Packers just ahead of New Orleans in the battle for top seed and first-round bye in the NFC.
The Packers overcame an early 7-0 deficit against Detroit to sweep the season series. Green Bay dug out of a double-digit hole in the rival’s previous meeting in Week 2.
2020 becomes the 11th season in which the Packers have taken down the NFC North – a division which was created in 2002.
This division title surely comes at the astonishment of many football experts who predicted an ugly season for Green Bay after an offseason of drama which began with the Packers’ selection of QB Jordan Love in the first round.
Here is a look at the remaining 3 games facing Green Bay in the 2020 regular season. The Packers have a comfy last 3 with 2 home games and only 1 versus a winning team.
Given how bad Washington began their season, the Packers are guaranteed to finish with a better record than the former Re*****s. This puts the Packers’ floor at the 3 seed in the NFC.
The difference between the 2 and 3 seeds is not much. The difference between the 1 and 2 seed this season is everything! The 1 seed gets a bye while the 2 must play on Wild Card Weekend. The Packers want the 1 seed! They need the 1 seed!
Packers First-Round Bye Scenarios
The Packers control their own destiny for the bye and are given a 61% chance of clinching it on FiveThirtyEight.
Green Bay can clinch the top seed in the conference and the lone first-round bye if:
The Packers win out
The Packers lose 1 of their remaining games AND the Saints lose 1 of their remaining games AND the Rams lose 1 of their remaining games AND the Seahawks lose 1 of their remaining games
The scenario becomes more complex if Green Bay drops 1 of their last 3 games. This would give New Orleans, the LA Rams, and the Seahawks chances to catch Green Bay from behind on the final day of the season.
The Packers lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Saints lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Rams lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Seahawks lose 1 of their remaining games
If the Packers happen to drop 2 of their last 3, their final record becomes 11-5 and their chances of snagging a first-round bye drop to just 4%.
Green Bay would need a ton of help to hold onto their bye at 11-5. New Orleans could not win more than 1 of their remaining games – which is unlikely.
The Rams also would need 2 losses in the final 3 weeks – which is also unlikely but entirely possible given the teams they are facing (Jets, Seahawks, Cardinals).
The easiest criteria to fulfill in this scenario is the Seahawks dropping 1 of their remaining 3 games. Seattle plays Washington, the LA Rams, and San Francisco down the stretch.
The Packers lose out AND the Saints lose out AND the Rams lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Seahawks lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Buccaneers lose 1 of their remaining games
The Packers could lose out, finish 10-6, and still secure the first-round bye in the NFC. The likelihood is less than 1% of this happening, but it is possible.
The worst record ever for a 1 seed in the NFL under the current format is 11-5. This has only happened twice (1992 & 2002). A 1 seed at 10-6 would be a new low.
New Orleans Saints – 1st Place NFC South – 10-3
The New Orleans Saints are also 10-3 and a head-to-head tiebreaker behind the Packers for the top seed and first-round bye in the NFC.
The Saints have clinched a Wild Card berth and have a magic number of 1 with Tampa Bay for clinching the NFC South. FiveThirtyEight calculates New Orleans to have a 99% chance of taking home the division title.
New Orleans has guaranteed themselves a fourth-straight playoff appearance and a division title would be their fourth-straight as well.
Each of these appearances has been under long-time head coach Sean Payton who is in his 14th season at the helm in the Superdome.
The Saints have suffered some tough playoff losses in recent memory – including a couple of heartbreakers to Minnesota and receiving the blunt end of a no-call against the Rams in the 2019 NFC Championship game.
Despite these shortcomings, New Orleans has enjoyed more playoff success than most teams in their conference. Sean Payton holds a playoff record of 8-7 in his career. 8 playoff wins put Payton third among active NFC coaches.
Only Pete Carroll (11) and Mike McCarthy (10) have more playoff wins than Sean Payton. Bill Belichick leads all NFL coaches with 31 playoff wins.
Here is a look at the remaining 3 games for New Orleans.
Despite trailing Green Bay in the standings, the Saints hold a decent shot at grabbing the bye – 32% per FiveThirtyEight.
The biggest obstacle facing New Orleans is their Week 15 matchup against the mighty Chiefs. Kansas City has looked unbeatable for most of the season and are 4-point favorites over New Orleans heading into the Superdome next Sunday.
Should the Saints be unable to overcome Patrick Mahomes and Chiefs, New Orleans’ chances of a first-round bye drop to 23%. If the favored Packers win against Carolina that same week, the Saints’ chances of a bye fall to 15% – less than 1 out of 6.
Here is what needs to happen for New Orleans to claim that first-round bye:
The Saints win out AND the Packers lose 1 of their remaining games
Unlike Green Bay, the Saints do not control their own destiny and need the Packers to drop at least 1 game.
The Saints lose 1 of their remaining games AND the Packers lose 2 of their remaining games
The Saints still hold an outside shot of the first-round bye at 12-4. The Packers would need to lose 2 of their remaining 3 games, but the Saints wouldn’t have to worry about other teams sneaking up from behind on the last day of the season.
The Saints lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Packers lose to the Bears in Week 17 AND the Packers lose in either Week 15 or 16 AND the Rams beat the Jets in Week 15 AND the Rams lose 1 of their final 2 games AND the Seahawks lose 1 of their remaining games
Dropping 2 games would reduce New Orleans’ first-round bye chances to 5%. The odds would be stacked against them, but the numbers show it is possible.
The scenario becomes convoluted whenever specific games need to be won or lost. This would be a crazy finish. Perhaps even more unlikely is the other scenario which sees an 11-5 New Orleans atop the NFC. This one requires the Packers losing out …
The Saints lose 2 of their remaining games AND the Packers lose out AND the Rams lose 1 of their remaining games AND the Seahawks lose 1 of their remaining games
Overcoming an opponent and staving off multiple others is never easy. New Orleans should do themselves a favor and win at least 2 of their last 3 if they want a decent shot at the first-round bye.