NFL playoff picture 2013: Explaining the Panthers road

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Here is a full breakdown of how Carolina can make the playoffs, and have it all blow up in their faces.

Riverboat Ron is gambling on the field, but the Panthers are playing with house money off it.

It's been said that the "Panthers control their destiny" which is true. Winning a single game will lock up the wild card, and give Carolina its first playoff berth since 2008. That said, there are a number of other playoff possibilities that include winning the NFC South and netting a first-round bye.

Scenario one: Carolina win out

This is obviously the ideal outcome. If the Panthers beat New Orleans at home and Atlanta on the road they finish the season 12-4.

In this scenario the Panthers win the NFC South and get a first round bye, likely facing the winner of a wild card game between Philadelphia and San Francisco. This is very tenuous, and the potential matchup could change in the next two weeks.

If the Seahawks lose out and also finish at 12-4 they still win home field advantage over Carolina due to their Week One win in Charlotte.

Scenario two: Carolina lose to New Orleans, beat Atlanta

The Panthers make the playoffs and likely win the final wild card in the NFC. Their season record would finish at 11-5, which could be beaten by a San Francisco team at 12-4 with wins over Atlanta and Arizona.

If this occurs the Panthers would likely face Philadelphia in a wild card game.

Scenario three: Carolina beat New Orleans, lose to Atlanta

This would be a shocking turn of events. The Panthers would lock up a wild card with their win, but likely finish the season tied with New Orleans at 11-5.

It would take the second tie-breaking scenario, but the Panthers would win the wild card and lose the NFC South on in-division record.

Scenario four: Carolina and Arizona lose out

The Panthers would secure a the final wild card behind San Francisco.

Scenario five: Carolina and San Francisco lose out

The Panthers would secure the final wild card behind Arizona, who beat them on head-to-head record. Carolina eliminates San Francisco based on head-to-head record.

Scenario six: Carolina lose out, Arizona wins one, San Francisco wins one

This is the nightmare scenario. It's not likely, but here we are. Carolina would miss the playoffs at 10-6, with the 49ers securing the first wild card at 11-5 and the Cardinals grabbing the second at 10-6 and winning on tiebreaker.

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