With four teams vying for two N.F.C. playoff spots, all eyes were on the Giants-Redskins game on Sunday. A Redskins victory could have caused movement in the seedings, with the Lions and Packers playing a win-or-go-home evening matchup.
The Giants, who had already locked up the No. 5 seed and had nothing to gain, threw a wrench in the Redskins’ plans, eliminating their division rivals with a decisive 19-10 victory.
With the drama essentially taken out of the N.F.C., all of the playoff movement Sunday occurred in the A.F.C.
Pundits spent this week deciphering all of the wild scenarios that could play out for positioning among the remaining teams. But as the end nears, eight of the teams that were in line for a playoff spot remain in the same seeding order, and that number could grow to ten if the Packers beat the Lions.
The only movement thus far came with a flip-flop at the top of the standings in the A.F.C. West. Just a week after losing Derek Carr, the team’s quarterback and a legitimate candidate for most valuable player, to a broken leg, the Oakland Raiders were crushed 24-6 by the Denver Broncos. That, combined with the Kansas City Chiefs’ 37-27 victory over the San Diego Chargers vaulted the Chiefs from a wild-card spot all the way to the No. 2 seed in the A.F.C., which comes with a first-round bye in the playoffs. The loss for Oakland added to the misery of the Raiders, who have gone from Super Bowl contenders last week to a wild-card team that will play on the road in Houston next week potentially with a third-string quarterback under center as Carr’s backup, Matt McGloin, injured his shoulder in the loss to the Broncos.
Cowboys and Patriots on Top
Here are the current playoff seedings:
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. Atlanta Falcons
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions
5. N.Y. Giants
6. Green Bay Packers or Detroit Lions
1. New England Patriots
2. Kansas City Chiefs
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Houston Texans
5. Oakland Raiders
6. Miami Dolphins
Business as Usual
Beyond the switch to the Chiefs as the No. 2-seed in the A.F.C., it was business as usual for the teams that will get bye weeks in the playoffs. The New England Patriots secured the No. 1 spot in the A.F.C. with a win over Miami, the Dallas Cowboys were already guaranteed the No. 1 spot in the N.F.C. before their loss to Philadelphia, and the Atlanta Falcons held onto the No. 2 seed in the N.F.C. with a 38-32 win over New Orleans.
The only remaining chance for a minor shake-up would be for the Packers, who currently lead their division by virtue of a tiebreaker, to lose to the Lions, which would force them to play on the road in the wild-card round of the playoffs. Even a tie would be enough for Green Bay to get the division title. But the winner-take-all aspect of the de facto N.F.C. North championship went away when the Redskins lost to the Giants, which eliminated the Redskins from wild-card contention. Because of that result, both the Packers and Lions will make the playoffs regardless of the result of their matchup.
While most of the races were straight forward, one of the crazier playoff scenarios that had been discussed before the week was the possibility that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could find themselves in the playoffs. They simply had to shoot the moon by beating the Carolina Panthers, having the Redskins tie the Giants, the Packers lose to the Lions, and should all of that happen they simply required wins by Indianapolis, Dallas, Tennessee and San Francisco to top the Packers in strength of schedule. Tampa Bay took care of their end by beating the Panthers early in the day, but they were eliminated officially when Dallas lost to Philadelphia.
With the playoff teams now settled, a look ahead to the wild-card round next week reveals a schedule that has the Pittsburgh Steelers hosting the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Texans hosting the Raiders. The N.F.C. matchups will not be finalized until the Packers-Lions game concludes, but the Seattle Seahawks will host the loser of the game while the winner will host the Giants.