Breaking Down NFC South Playoff Scenarios

The Carolina Panthers have won their last two games but their playoff chances took a big hit last night when the New Orleans Saints were able to beat the Chicago Bears and keep a half-game lead over the Panthers. This is how the race for the NFC South division looks heading into the final two weeks of the season.

Carolina Panthers

Record: 5-8-1

Remaining Games: vs. Cleveland, at Atlanta

If the Carolina Panthers want to give themselves the best chance of making the playoffs they are going to have to win out. However unlike the other two teams in the race, even if they win out they still would need some help to win the division. Luckily for the Panthers they have two winnable games starting with the Browns Sunday. A few weeks ago this looked like a much tougher game however Cleveland has turned to rookie Johnny Manziel to stop the slide but in his first start only threw for 80 yards and two interceptions.

If by chance the Panthers stumble against the Browns in Week 16, there is still a chance of them making the playoffs but it is much tougher. It would start with a Falcons win over the Saints this week and the Panthers beating the Falcons next week. The Saints would then have to lose to the Bucs in Tampa Bay in Week 17, which seems like a long shot however the Bucs did take the Saints to overtime in Week 5. This would then give the Panthers a record of 6-9-1, the Falcons a record of 6-10 and the Saints a record of 6-10.

 

New Orleans Saints

Record: 6-8

Remaining Games: vs. Atlanta, at Tampa Bay

The New Orleans Saints control their own destiny and if they win out, they are in. They will have to do it against two divisional opponents in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Both teams have given the Saints trouble with Atlanta beating New Orleans in overtime in Week 1 and the Bucs losing to them in overtime in Week 5.

It is usually tough for fans to root for divisional opponents but Panthers’ fans should be rooting for a Falcons win in Week 16. This would set up a showdown between Atlanta and Carolina in the last week of the season with the winner of that game winning the division, assuming Carolina beats Cleveland this Sunday. A combination of a Falcons win and a Panthers win in Week 16 would eliminate the Saints from playoff contention.

 

Atlanta Falcons

Record: 5-9

Remaining Games: at New Orleans, vs. Carolina

The Atlanta Falcons have probably the toughest road to the playoffs going against both the Saints and the Panthers. They currently sit in third place in the division but they control their own destiny. If they win out, they would be 7-9 and hold the tie-breaker over the other two teams. Unlike the Panthers and Saints, who could still get the division if they lose one of their final two games, one loss for the Falcons knocks them out of contention.

This is the one team that will have the most impact on who wins this division. If the Falcons beat the Saints on Sunday, it keeps the Panthers as well as their own playoff hopes alive. However if they are not able to knock off Drew Brees in New Orleans, it would set up the Saints to win the division, assuming they can beat the Bucs.

 


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