NFC PLAYOFF SCENARIOS
Thanks to the Minnesota Vikings the Bears got a first-round bye in the playoffs and their road to SB XLV is guaranteed to kickoff at Soldier Field on either January 15th or 16th. Their opponent will not be determined until the wild card round is played, but there are a few games this week that will help indicate who the Bears are most likely to play.
The Bears can finish no lower than the No. 2 seed in NFC. The only way for them to jump up to the No. 1 seed is to beat the Packers in Green Bay, then have the Falcons lose at home to Carolina, AND the Saints lose at home to the Bucs. Odds are the Bears remain at the No. 2 seed, as the Falcons and Saints still have the NFC South title up for grabs. A Falcons win over the Panthers would give them the No. 1 seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Saints would not only need to beat Tampa Bay, but also hope that a 2-13 Carolina team upset the Falcons in Atlanta to earn the NFC’s top spot and NFC South crown. I see the Falcons handling the Panthers at home and taking the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the Saints winding up with the No. 5 seed.
The Eagles are locked into the NFC’s No. 3 seed and will host the No. 6 seed on Jan. 8 or 9.
The Packers, Bucs, or Giants will be the No. 6 seed depending on Week 17 results. The Packers own the tie-breaker over both the Giants and Bucs so if they beat the Bears on Sunday they are in. The Giants need the Bears to beat and the Packers and to win their game at Washington while the Bucs need a miracle to get in. They must beat the Saints in New Orleans and hope both the Packers and Giants lose. Look for the Packers to beat the Bears this Sunday in Lambeau to secure the No. 6 seed.
The St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks square off this week on NBC’s Sunday Night Football with the NFC West title at stake. The winner of the game will be awarded the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs and a home playoff game vs. the No. 5 seed in the first round of the playoffs. This game is a toss-up but I am going with the Seahawks claiming the NFC West (with a 7-9 record) and the No. 4 seed.
#1: Atlanta Falcons – BYE
#2: Chicago Bears – BYE
#3: Philadelphia Eagles vs. #6: Green Bay Packers (in Philadelphia)
#4: Seattle Seahawks vs. #5: New Orleans Saints (in Seattle)
The winners of these two match-ups will face off against either the Falcons or Bears in the Divisional Round on January 15th or 16th. The Falcons will play the lowest seed remaining and the Bears will play the highest seed remaining.
In my expert NFL opinion (2010 NFL games: 142-98), I predict the Saints and Packers will both pull out road playoff victories during wild-card weekend. That would mean the Bears would be facing the New Orleans Saints in their first playoff game on January 15th or 16th. Who do you want the Bears to play?
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