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2017 NFL playoff picture: Panthers re-claim NFC’s 5th seed with 31-24 win over Vikings

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If the NFL playoffs started today, the Carolina Panthers would be the 5th seed in the NFC.

The Panthers improved their playoff standing from last week after an exciting 31-24 win over the Vikings yesterday, moving up from the 6th seed in the NFC to the 5th seed. By virtue of the Falcons beating the Saints last Thursday night, the Panthers are now tied with the Saints atop the NFC South at 9-4*.

Here’s a look at the current playoff picture in the NFC from Adam Stites at SB Nation:

NFC playoff picture

NFC playoff seeds

1. Philadelphia Eagles (11-2)**

2. Minnesota Vikings (10-3)

3. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)

4. New Orleans Saints (9-4)

5. Carolina Panthers (9-4)

6. Atlanta Falcons (8-5)

**clinched division

In the hunt

Seattle Seahawks (8-5)

Detroit Lions (7-6)

Green Bay Packers (7-6)

Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

Still alive

Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

Eliminated

Washington (5-8)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)

Chicago Bears (4-9)

San Francisco 49ers (3-10)

New York Giants (2-11)

~ Adam Stites, SB Nation

What this means for the Panthers

If the playoffs started today, the Panthers would have a wild card game in New Orleans against the Saints. But, the Panthers are still in play to improve their seeding. Carolina hasn’t been mathematically eliminated from any of the six playoff seeds in the NFC.

The Panthers can still win the NFC South if they win one more game than New Orleans. Carolina’s remaining schedule (vs GB, vs TB, at ATL) is tough, but all three games are winnable. If the Panthers can finish 12-4 and win the division, they can also take one of the top two seeds in the NFC and earn a first round bye.

Here’s what has to happen for Carolina to claim one of the top two seeds:

  1. The Panthers have to win the NFC South at 12-4.
  2. The Vikings have to also finish 12-4.
  3. Either the Eagles or Rams have to finish 11-5 or worse.

In that scenario, the Eagles/Rams would be the #1 seed and the Panthers would be the #2 seed. Both the Eagles and Rams own the tie-breaker over Carolina, but the Panthers have the tie-breaker over the Vikings**. However, if BOTH the Eagles and Rams finish 11-5 or worse, and the Panthers and Vikings both finish 12-4, the road to the Super Bowl would go through Charlotte. Unlikely? Yes, but crazier things have happened.

While there are plenty of scenarios for the Panthers to improve their playoff seed, there are just as many for them to miss out on the playoffs entirely. If the Panthers lose two out of the next three games they won’t make the playoffs unless a lot of other teams also lose. A 10-6 record with all six losses being in the NFC is pretty much a death sentence to their playoff hopes, so let’s hope that doesn’t happen.

But hey, at least we’re finally in the hunt right? It’s nice to have something different this year instead of either having the #1 seed locked up or talking about top ten draft picks. At least it is to me, anyway.

* - The Saints own the tie-breaker over the Panthers for the NFC South title if both teams finish with the same record. For Carolina to win the division, they have to win at least one more game than the Saints by season’s end.

** - The Eagles own the tie-breaker over the Panthers by virtue of their Week 6 win in Charlotte. The Rams own the tie-breaker over the Panthers due to having fewer NFC losses. The Panthers own the tie-breaker over the Vikings thanks to their 31-24 win yesterday in Charlotte.

Poll

Which playoff seed do you think the Panthers end up with?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    #1 seed
    (19 votes)
  • 15%
    #2 seed
    (86 votes)
  • 14%
    #3 seed
    (77 votes)
  • 13%
    #4 seed
    (73 votes)
  • 41%
    #5 seed
    (226 votes)
  • 9%
    #6 seed
    (50 votes)
  • 2%
    None
    (14 votes)
545 votes total Vote Now