clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Which NFC teams still have a chance at the top seed in the playoffs?

The Packers and Cardinals have the best chances at the top seed, but several different teams are still in the running.

Green Bay Packers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

As we get ready for week 13, the playoff picture is starting to form. Here are the teams that can still claim that #1 seed. Former APC contributor Alex Crawford is back to break them down.

After 12 weeks, the NFC playoff picture is starting to take shape. This year, the NFL has seen the highest parity in a long time, and the phrase “Any Given Sunday” rings loud.

The Cardinals & Packers have been the top two seeds in the NFC for the better part of two months, with the Buccaneers close behind. However, with 6 weeks still left in the NFL season, there are still plenty of teams in the NFC that still have a chance to take the number one seed.

Let’s break them down below.

Top Contenders

The Green Bay Packers are currently the second seed, and have already beaten the Arizona Cardinals this season, so they hold a potential tiebreaker. However, the Arizona Cardinals currently have 1 more win than the Packers, so in order for the Packers to take the #1 seed, they need to win one more game than the Cardinals over the next six weeks.

The Packers have to play the entire NFC North one more time plus the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns for their next 5 games, and it is realistic to expect them to win all 5.

Now for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals’ path is simple: they win out and they are the number one seed. However, if they lose, they need to hope the Packers also lose because of the tie breaker. Looking ahead, the Cardinals do not have a cakewalk to end the season. They still have games against the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas Cowboys, and Indianapolis Colts on their schedule.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are currently the #3 seed, and sit at 8-3 heading into week 13 —a half-game back of the Packers and with one more loss than the Cardinals. If the Buccaneers win out, they need the Packers to drop one game and the Cardinals to lose twice. If all three teams end with the same record, the Packers will take the #1 seed.

The Buccaneers play the Carolina Panthers twice, plus the New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets so a 5-0 record to end the season isn’t out of the question. Either way they will need some help from the Packers and Cardinals, so it is not completely out of question for them to still get the #1 seed.

Next let’s take a look at the teams that have a good chance to take the top spot, but would require a bit more help.

Need a number of things to break their way

Now for the second tier, these teams are currently in the playoff race, but getting to that top seed will be tough, and will require help from the rest of the NFL.

After beating the Saints on Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys are currently 8-4 and the 4th seed in the NFC. The Cowboys still have to play the Cardinals, so on top of winning that game the Cardinals would have to lose another game, so that if they end with the same record the Cowboys have the tiebreaker.

Now, if the Cowboys and the Packers end up with the same record, the Cowboys would actually take the #1 seed from the Packers. However, since they are a game behind, it would require the Packers to lose one more games than the Cowboys the rest of the way.

The Los Angeles Rams are currently the 5 seed with a 7-4 record, and like the Cowboys, that puts them 2 losses behind the Cardinals. However, their path is even harder because they are effectively three games back because they have already lost to both of them. Not only do the Rams have to beat the Cardinals in their second match up, but the Packers and the Cardinals would also need to lose at least two of their next 5 games.

If the Cowboys and Rams both end up atop the NFC with the same record, the Cowboys would be the #1 seed.


The last two teams currently in the playoffs, the 49ers (6 seed) and the Football Team (7 seed) can both still claim the top spot. Their path is slightly different because of the 49ers being in the Cardinals division.

The Washington Football team still plays the Cowboys twice, so they would have to win both of those games, plus the Packers and Cardinals would have to lose out the rest of the way because the Packers would own any tiebreakers.

The 49ers have already lost to the Cardinals twice and the Packers once, so they need a lot to go their way to get that top spot. The Packers would have to lose 4 games and the Cardinals would have to lose out.

Not to mention, the Football Team and the 49ers also have the hope the rest of the teams ahead of them also lose a couple of games. If this all happened and the Football Team and the 49ers ended with the same record, the Football Team would the #1 seed.

The Minnesota Vikings are currently not in the playoffs, but they still have a chance to claim that top spot. They would need the Cardinals to lose out, and to beat the Packers a second time, and for Green Bay to still lose two more games after that.

If they don’t beat the Packers the second time, the Vikings would still get the number one seed if the Packers lose out and they both end up at 10-7.

If the NFC collapses

These last teams still, shockingly, have a theoretical chance to take the top spot, similar to how you and I have a statistical chance to be struck by lightning in December in Wisconsin.

Yes, Bears fans (4-7), Chicago can still technically secure the #1, and ensure Matt Nagy is the coach of the future. Because they have already lost to 4 teams ahead of them in the playoff race, their path would require a complete meltdown of the NFC.

How you ask? It’s simple. All the Bears have to do is win every game the rest of the way, and hope the Packers, Cardinals and Buccaneers lose out.

The rest of the teams:

Falcons (currently 5-6)
Saints (currently 5-7)

Need the Cardinals to lose 5 more and Packers to 4 more, (Saints only need the Packers to lose 3 because of tie breaker)

Eagles (currently 5-7)
Panthers (5-7)

Need the Cardinals and the Packers to lose out.

Not to mention the rest of the NFC needs to lose a majority of their final games for all 5 of these teams to have a shot.

Theoretically speaking, there is still a chance the playoffs look like this:

If one of your teams is in these lower tiers, make sure to cheer your heart out for an NFC collapse in a year where it seems like both the NFC and AFC are both up for grabs.