NFL Playoff Seeding Scenarios

The regular season comes to a close this weekend and NFL playoff seeding still needs to be determined. Inside The Pylon breaks down the battles for each spot and how the playoff scenarios shake out.

National Football Conference Playoff Seeding Scenarios

No. 1 Seed

Contenders: Arizona, Detroit, Green Bay and Seattle

Most Likely Scenario:

  • The Seahawks earn the top seed with a win.

Alternate Scenarios:

  • The Packers need a win and a Seahawks loss.
  • The Cardinals need a win over San Francisco, plus a Seattle loss to St. Louis and a Packers loss to the Lions.
  • The Lions need a win against the Packers, and losses by both the Seahawks and Cardinals.

No. 2 Seed

Contenders: Arizona, Dallas, Detroit, Green Bay

Most Likely Scenario:

  • The winner of the Packers/Lions game is guaranteed a bye; the loser drops to No. 6.

Alternate Scenarios:

  • The Cowboys need to win and have both the Seahawks and Cardinals lose.
  • The Cardinals need a win, a Seahawks loss and a Packers victory.

No. 3 Seed

Contenders: Dallas and Seattle

Most Likely Scenario:

  • The Cowboys, if they win.

Alternate Scenario:

  • The Seahawks if they lose and the Cardinals lose.

No. 4 Seed

Contenders: Carolina, Atlanta

Nightmare Scenario:

  • Tie. Seriously, it is the only way a situation with a sub-.500 division winner can get any worse. If the tie happens, the Panthers would earn the division title at 6-8-2 – even if the Saints win to move to 7-9. If that scenario played out, the teams would be tied in winning percentage – the NFL considers a tie equal to a half-win for standings purposes. The Panthers would then win the division based on its better winning percentage against NFC foes. The NFC South “winner” hosts a playoff game next weekend.

No. 5 Seed

Contenders: Arizona, Seattle

Most Likely Scenario:

  • Arizona finishes second if both the Cardinals and Seahawks win, and also if both teams lose.

Alternate Scenario:

  • Seattle finishes second if the Seahawks lose and the Cardinals win.

No. 6 Seed

Contenders: Detroit, Green Bay

The Scenario:

  • The loser of the Lions-Packers game is the No. 6 seed.

American Football Conference Playoff Seeding Scenarios

No. 1 Seed

No. 2 Seed

Contenders: Cincinnati, Denver

Most Likely Scenario:

  • Broncos can clinch with a win against Oakland or a Bengals loss to Pittsburgh.

Alternate Scenario:

  • Bengals get it with a win over the Steelers and a Broncos loss to the Raiders.

No. 3 Seed

Contenders: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Denver

Most Likely Scenario:

  • The slot goes to the winner of the Bengals-Steelers game in Pittsburgh.

Alternate Scenario:

  • Broncos get it with a loss to the Raiders and a Bengals win over the Steelers.

No. 4 Seed

  • Indianapolis clinched with Cincinnati’s win over Denver.

No. 5 Seed

Contenders: Cincinnati, Pittsburgh

The Scenario:

  • Loser of Bengals/Steelers game.

No. 6 Seed

Contenders: Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City, San Diego

The Scenarios:

  • Chargers are in with a win over the Chiefs.
  • Ravens are in with a win against the Browns and a Chargers loss to the Chiefs.
  • Texans sneak in with a win against Jacksonville, a Chargers loss to the Chiefs and a Ravens loss to the Browns.
  • Chiefs are in with a win over the Chargers, a Ravens loss to the Browns and a Texans loss to the Jaguars.

NOTE: Potential ties in any upcoming games are not accounted for in the above analysis.

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