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NFC Playoff Outlook Heading into Week 11

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As the season progresses, we can get a clearer picture of how the NFC playoff bracket will look

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints
The Rams and Saints are the most likely candidates for the NFC’s top spot in the playoffs
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Before the season, there were arguably 6 teams that could have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and, of course, the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles. But through the first 10 weeks of the regular season, many of those teams hopes have faded and several others have seen them rise. Of course, the Rams and Saints are as advertised, but what do we make of teams like the Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins or Carolina Panthers? And for some teams sitting below the second Wild Card seed, can a team like the Packers or the Seattle Seahawks grind their way into January?

Here’s how the NFC looks through 10 weeks

  1. Los Angeles Rams (9-1)
  2. New Orleans Saints (8-1) (owns the tie-breaker over Los Angeles)
  3. Chicago Bears (6-3) (owns the tie-breaker over Washington based on conference win percentage)
  4. Washington Redskins (6-3)
  5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
  6. Minnesota Vikings (5-3-1)
  7. Green Bay Packers (4-4-1)
  8. Atlanta Falcons (4-5) (owns tie-breaker over Dallas and Seattle based on conference win percentage)
  9. Seattle Seahawks (4-5) (owns tie-breaker over Dallas based on head to head results)
  10. Dallas Cowboys (4-5) (owns tie-breaker over Philadelphia based on head to head results, but play each other one more time)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5)

A handful of observations based on this list. First, ties absolutely suck and make things complicated in regards to playoff seeding. And another is that the 10-6 threshold required to make the playoffs last season looks like it will be lowered. Losses are bound to accumulate just because many of these teams still have to play each other (and some, like the Panthers and Saints, still need to play twice) and these tiebreakers based on conference win percentage are going to remain fluid.

Now how do the Rams factor into this? Well the NFC West will be theirs in the coming days, guaranteeing a home playoff game in consecutive seasons. But with a 2-game lead over the Bears, a first-round bye is the expected outcome. And while the Rams are currently considered the top seed in the NFC, they actually don’t control their own fate to finish there. Because of an earlier bye, the Saints have played one fewer game and reflects in the win percentage, but own the tie-breaker over the Rams.

Since the Rams are likely to receive a first-round bye in the playoffs, it’s impossible to anticipate a first round matchup. There’s no fixed bracket in the NFL playoffs, meaning the top seed in the NFC will play the lowest remaining seed after Wild Card Weekend. If the standings remain true, this only eliminates the Bears and Saints as potential Divisional Round opponents.