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DLT's Wild and Crazy 2016 NFC Playoff Scenarios - Week 14

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For real, this time.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Okay folks, it's that time of year and this year, I'm dusting off the ole DLT's Wild and Crazy Playoff Scenarios calculator and slide ruler.

For those of you new to this, I'll be focused on the NFC because frankly, we don't care what happens in the AFC until the Super Bowl, amiright?

In the past, you had to really squint hard to see the Bucs' playoff chances but this year is slightly different. For once, the Bucs are in control of their playoff lives.

Current Playoff Standings

W-L-T
Div W-L-T
Conf W-L-T
Remaining Games
Division Leaders
x- Cowboys
11-1
3-1
7-1
atNYG, TB, DET, atPHI
Seahawks
8-3-1
1-1-1
4-3-1
atGB, LA, ARI, @SF
Lions
8-4
2-2
6-2
CHI, atNYG, atDAL, GB
Falcons
7-5
3-1
5-3
atLA, SF, atCAR, NO
Wildcards
Giants
8-4
2-1
5-3
DAL, DET, atPHI, at WAS
Buccaneers
7-5
2-1
5-3
NO, atDAL, atNO, CAR
In The Hunt
Redskins
6-5-1
2-2
4-4
atPHI, CAR, atCHI, NYG
Vikings
6-6
1-3
4-6
atJax, IND, atGB, CHI
Packers
6-6
2-1
4-4
SEA, atCHI, MIN, atDet
Cardinals
5-6-1
2-1-1
4-4-1
atMIA, NO, atSea, at LA
Saints
5-7
1-2
4-4
atTB, ARI, TB, atATL
Eagles
5-7
0-3
3-6
Was, atBAL, NYG, DAL

Z-Home Field Y-Divison Champion X- Clinched Playoff Berth

The Contenders

Dallas and Seattle have the inside track to first round byes. The Cowboys look like they'll be the number one seed, barring a late collapse, while the Seahawks have a half game lead on Detroit for the second seed.

Atlanta is barely hanging on to the NFC South but owns a tiebreaker advantage over the Bucs and favorable schedule.

The Giants are at the 5 seed but face a formidable schedule. The Bucs are currently the 6 and have 3 of their 4 games against teams with losing records.

In the hunt, Washington has that tie which can either help or hurt them depending on how the teams finish. The rest of the teams are basically in win-out and hope for some help mode.

Saints and Eagles both have faint heartbeats...one loss and they're pretty much done.

What Happened Last Week

Dallas clinched a playoff berth. Washington took a bad loss to Arizona, leaving the Cards still alive and Washington outside of the top 6. The Bucs victory in San Diego moved them into a playoff spot and a first place tie with Atlanta who lost a heartbreaker to Kansas City. The Giants were stunned by the Steelers, releasing their stranglehold on the fifth seed a little bit.

Vikings, Saints and Eagles each took losses while the Lions, Seahawks and Packers took care of business.

How Are the Bucs Looking?

In great shape right now.  If they win out, they will be in the playoffs. They would still need an Atlanta loss to win the NFC South as Atlanta controls the tie-breaker with a better record in common games.

NFC South Championship Hopes

If the Bucs want to win the NFC South, they need to finish with a better record than the Atlanta Falcons in most scenarios. If both win out, Atlanta wins the division based on best record in common games.

If both finish 10-6, the Bucs loss cannot be a division loss, it would need to be Dallas, while Atlanta's loss would need to be to New Orleans or Carolina. The Bucs would win the tie-breaker on a better division record (5-1 to 4-2). If both are equal in Division record, Atlanta wins the tie-breaker based on best record in common games.

Wild Card Scenarios

If the Bucs go 3-1

Even if the Bucs lose to Dallas or one of the division games, they're still in good shape for the wild card. Washington would need to win out to get to 10 wins and despite a non-daunting schedule, they have a tough one with the Giants left on the schedule...then there is the Giants, who could potentially drop a couple games with playoff contenders Dallas, Detroit and Washington.

Even if Minnesota wins out, if they're tied with the Bucs, Tampa Bay will hold the tie-breaker edge thanks to Minnesota's abysmal conference record.

At 10-6, the Bucs would beat Green Bay in a tie-breaker with the best winning pct in common games. However, if Detroit stumbles and loses the NFC North, if the Bucs and Lions are tied at 10-6, Detroit wins based on best winning pct in common games.

If the Bucs go 2-2

If the Bucs go 2-2 down the stretch, then things begin to get a little dicey.

Washington would need to do no better than 2-2 or the Giants would need to finish at 9-7, the Bucs would beat the Giants with a better conference record.

Minnesota, Green Bay and Arizona would each need to take a loss and New Orleans would need to lose at least once.

If The Bucs go 1-3

If the Bucs go 1-3 and finish at 8-8, well, the percentage of the Bucs making the playoffs goes way down. There are ways it can happen, but the Bucs would need a ton of help and a few breaks. Basically, Green Bay and Minnesota would need to finish no better than 8-8, Washington and Arizona no better than 7-8-1 or the Giants basically lose out and Arizona finishes no better than 7-8-1.

Tampa Bay would win on tie-breakers as Minnesota would be knocked out by Green Bay on divisional tie-breakers and the Bucs would beat Green Bay on best record in common games.

If the Giants and Bucs are tied at 8-8, the Bucs would get the Giants on better conference record.

Can the Bucs Clinch a playoff spot this week?

No.

Clinching Scenarios

NFC
CLINCHED: Dallas – playoff berth
DALLAS COWBOYS (11-1) (at New York Giants (8-4), Sunday night)
Dallas clinches NFC East division with:
1. DAL win
Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:
1. DAL win + DET loss or tie OR
2. DAL win + SEA loss
Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:
1. DAL win + DET loss or tie + SEA loss

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (8-3-1) (at Green Bay (6-6), Sunday)
Seattle clinches NFC West division with:
1. SEA win + AZ loss or tie OR
2. SEA tie + AZ loss

Who to Root For this Week and Why?

Bucs over the Saints - Obviously. The Bucs would essentially end the Saints.

Eagles over Washington - The Eagles aren't much of a threat to the Bucs right now due to their terrible conference record. They would need to win out and hope the Bucs lose twice. Another loss for Washington would give the Bucs a margin for error.

Dolphins over Cardinals - Puts the Cards out of their misery.

Jaguars over the Vikings - Yes, unlikely but it would basically end Minnesota's hopes.

Lions over the Bears - Let's keep the Lions out of striking distance for Green Bay.

Rams over the Falcons - Also unlikely, but every once in awhile Jeff Fisher's team pulls off a shocker.

Seahawks over the Packers - Again, let's keep the Lions out of striking distance for Green Bay.

Cowboys over the Giants - Keeping Dallas fat and happy while opening the Giants up as another option for Tampa Bay in the wild card round. Dallas would also wrap up the NFC East with a win here.

Play with the playoff scenarios yourself with ESPN's Playoff Machine.