Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

29 Dec 2009

Every Week 17 NFC Playoff Scenario

Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com has a handy chart explaining which team will get which playoff seed in the NFC depending on how Week 17 shakes out, and assuming there are no ties.

It's almost guaranteed that the Cardinals and Packers will meet in Week 17 and then have a rematch in the Wild Card round one week later. Less likely, but possible, that the Eagles and Cowboys will do the same.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 29 Dec 2009

32 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2009, 6:07am by Vince Verhei


by knappster :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:04pm

So if the Packers win, they are guaranteed the 5 seed. I like their chances against the Cardinals if they play them in the first round.

by fyo :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:10pm

It's almost guaranteed that the Cardinals and Packers will meet in Week 17

Really? ;)

I know there's a second part, but the way the sentence is structured is just... funny.

by joe football (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:19pm

That's a fine tiebreaker chart, I guess. A bit dry though. For a proper fill of tiebreaker/scenario insanity, I'd reccomend this here AFC tiebreaker chart:


These have been running since I believe week 15 and are considerably less complex by now. Their obsessional majesty have ruined every other tiebreaker article for me

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:27pm

I like the format of the ESPN chart better -- "if these teams win on Sunday, here's who makes the playoffs." Rather than listing a bunch of possible ties in the standings and leaving it to me to figure out how those ties can be accomplished.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:24pm

That makes my head hurt.

by Gaucho Brazilian (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:31pm

The first scenario is the best: MIN over NYG; DAL over PHI; AZ over GB. That makes both WC Playoff games to be week 17 rematches!

P.S.: I just cannot imagine a NYG victory over MIN.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:17pm

The first two scenarios are identical in terms of WC week pairings - they just switch the #3/#4 and #5/#6 seeds. So it doesn't matter if GB beats Arizona or vice versa - if Minnesota beats the Giants and Dallas beats Philly, WC weekend rematches the teams from the week prior.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 7:22pm

I could imagine a Det victory over Minn right now.

by BJR (not verified) :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 9:52am

I know in the AFC it is likely that Bengals and Jets will play in consecutive weeks. Is there a scenario whereby the Patriots and Texans could also replay in the wildcard round?

If all four wildcard matches were reruns of week 17 matches it would be an extraordinary coincidence!

by RickD :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 1:36pm

Yes...check this out


if the Jets and Texans win and the Ravens and Broncos both lose and, on the NFC side, the Vikings and Cowboys win.

Then the Cards-Packers game just determines whether they are 3-6 or 4-5.

For fun, figure out how the Jets can play at New England. (It can be done.)

by jklps :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:57pm

So if AZ loses to GB, they play again no matter what. If AZ beats GB, in 1 out of 4 scenarios they play GB again.

So in 5 of 8 scenarios GB plays AZ again, in the same place 1 week later I believe.

by Gaucho Brazilian (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:11pm

Actually, 6/8. There can be also GB(6)@(3)ARI. You missed the first scenario.

by jklps :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:23pm

Yes thanks. 75% chance they play again. Wow. Wonder how that will impact the game for both sides.

If GB wins they play again no matter what - in Arizona.

by andrew :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:31pm

Its happened a number of times before....

the 1988 Cleveland Browns hosted the Houston Oilers in the last week of the regular season. They knew they would play each other the following week regardless, but the winner would determine where the game was played. The Oilers went up 23-7, but the Browns rallied to win 28-23.

So they played again in Cleveland the following week. This time the Oilers went up 14-3, and held on for a 24-23 win.

by jklps :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 3:59pm

Concerning the AFC, I think this movie quote says it best:

"So, if the Beers beat Detroit and Denver beats Atlanta in the American Southwestern Division East Northern, then Milwaukee goes to the Denslow Cup, unless Baltimore can upset Buffalo and Charlotte ties Toronto, then Oakland would play LA and Pittsburgh in a blind choice round robin. And if no clear winner emerges from all of this, a two-man sack race will be held on consecutive Sundays until a champion can be crowned. "

by TBW (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:20pm

So, if Minnesota wins their game @ 1pm, Dallas is facing the following two possibilities. 1) Lose to Philly, then travel to Minnesota for a Wild Card game or 2) Beat Philly at home two weeks in a row. What's more likely winning a Wild Card game in Minnesota or beating the Eagles two weeks in a row @ home ?

by andrew :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:31pm

Well if they beat them once, then they presumably know they can do it.

Green Bay may well be facing this situation in their game:

win and face Minnesota a third time in Minnesota....
or lose and face Arizona again. Of course if they pull starters the Cardinals can use that as a sign of disrespect...

by TBW (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:56pm

I find the Philly-Dallas scenario fascinating if Minnesota wins at 1pm. Obviously, the Eagles are highly motivated to win the game regardless of what happens, as they stand to gain a bye week. For the Cowboys though, the upside isn't nearly as attractive, hosting the Eagles again the next week. It seems like if you thought there was a chance you might play the Eagles again the following week you might want to save something for the playoff game, but of course doing so would lessen the likelihood that you would win.

But is it worth pulling out all of the stops to win the game, if you just face the same team the next week ? It just seems that the one possible competitive advantage for the Cowboys would be if they could beat the Eagles while still playing at 90% of their potential. Then they stay at home, play the Eagles again, but still have some new tricks up their sleeve. If you have to play all of your cards this week to beat the Eagles are you setting yourself up for a loss the next week ?

by RickD :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 1:37pm

I'm sure the Cowboys would prefer the 3 seed.

by andrew :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 4:57pm

late games motivation for next round if Minn wins:
Green Bay - nothing, locked into cards
Arizona - nothing, locked into packers
Philly - bye / on road vs Dallas they just lost to.
Dallas - home vs eagles they just beat at home / on road at Minnesota

late games motivation for next round if NYG wins:
Green Bay - on road vs cards they just beat on road / on road vs minn or dallas
Arizona - possible bye or at home vs dallas / at home vs pack they just lost to at home
Philly - bye / on road vs Minnesota they won at first round last year
Dallas - possible bye or at home vs packers / on road at Minnesota or Arizona.

Plus, Dallas may have some motivation based on season finale from last year.

Intersting we get two rematches from last game of last year, Philly/Dallas with less at stake (but still a lot) and NYG/Minn rematch of last year where it also mattered to Vikes but not to Giants. Difference is Giants were trying to stay healthy for playoffs last year while this year they have all offseason.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:24pm

... Kindof. There's minor motivation for both Arizona and Green Bay. If Arizona wins, they're the #3 seed if Philly loses, and thus would have home field versus Dallas if they make the conference championship. If Green Bay wins, and Philly loses, they're the #5 seed and have home field over Philly in the conference championship.

Not much motivation, but some. If Philly starts killing the Cowboys or something, even that minor motivation goes away.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 1:40pm

The Cardinals might well want to avoid being on the Saints' side of the bracket.

There's a slight advantage to being the 3 seed.

On the AFC side, the talk in Boston is that the Pats really don't care and might even prefer a potential rematch at Indy over facing the red-hot Chargers. I don't think it will matter.

by bubqr :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:17pm

The Cowboys are IMO the best team in the NFC right now. I'm far from thrilled to see the Egles facing them next week, and possibly in the WC round.

by NHPatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:26pm

So, Philly has the clearest road through and probably the biggest payoff. Win and they're the 2 seed. Period.

All else is chaos.

Except Bill Polian is a tool.

by whatyousay :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:45pm

Here's the really wild part:

If the Jets beat Cincinatti, and Houston beats the Patriots, and Denver and Baltimore lose, and all those little common opponents b/w NE and Cincinatti work out ...

and the Vikings beat the Giants, and Dallas beats Philly ...


what would happen

something should happen

by andrew :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 5:54pm

Think of the travel money they could save....

heck, not just the teams. The reporters....

by whatyousay :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 6:03pm

well, both AFC games would occur at the other site. But you are right for the NFC.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/29/2009 - 7:26pm

Raiders gogin to take out ravens. Raiders goign to help out Broncs and Texans and some others.

it's up to those teams to take advnatage of Raiders gift.

by jklps :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 11:56am

Just like the Raiders took out the mighty Redskins and Browns recently?

by gratif1 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 5:25am

Here's an easier graphic representation of all 64 AFC scenarios:


I made it. FO can have the rights to it if they'd like to post/redistribute it.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/30/2009 - 1:44pm

They have skipped the possibility of ties!

You're going to need a tie if you want to see a Jets-Patriots game.

by Vincent Verhei :: Thu, 12/31/2009 - 6:07am

No kidding, I just finished putting together an Excel spreadsheet to figure out all this. Yours is better though -- mine just said who would get in, yours actually figures out seeds. I'll put up an XP to this right now.