With the NFL Playoffs beginning on January 3, 2015, the NFC is still up for grabs.
In the NFC South, 3 teams are in the hunt for a playoff spot; Falcons, Saints and Panthers. The winner will have a .500 record or lower, but will still enter the playoffs as the division winner.
Currently the New Orleans Saints are in the lead with a 6-8 record, followed by the Carolina Panthers, who are 5-8-1, and the 5-9 Falcons are in 3rd place.
The Atlanta Falcons can clinch the NFC South under these circumstances however:
If the Falcons win in New Orleans on Sunday and defeat the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome in Week 17.
The Carolina Panthers can clinch the NFC South under these circumstances:
If they can win their final two games, one at home against Cleveland in Week 16 and in Atlanta in Week 17, and if the Saints lose one game within the next two weeks.
The New Orleans Saints can clinch the NFC South under these circumstances:
If the Saints win against the Falcons on Sunday and win on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17
If they can stop the Falcons and break their 4 game losing streak at the Mercedes Superdome, and if the Carolina Panthers lose either of their last two games.
If they lose to the Falcons on Sunday but finish off a lowly Tampa Bay team in Week 17, combined with a Panthers loss in Week 16 to Cleveland and a Falcons loss in Week 17 to the Panthers.
The Falcons by far have the easiest way into the playoffs. All they have to do is win. Unfortunately, the Falcons haven’t been very good at winning games since the 2012 NFC Championship Game.
My opinion is that the Falcons should lose to set up Carolina to go to the playoffs, that way the Panthers will get a lower (mid 20’s) draft pick and continue to be a horrible team due to their cap room issues. But I’m sure, for whatever reason, that Mike Smith will rally his team, led by a red hot Matt Ryan into winning the division.
What happens once a NFC South team gets into the playoffs however, is a different story.
(Reference: Reid Ferrin)