NFL’s Final Weekend Involves Not Only Playoff Berths But Complicated Seeding In NFC

NFL playoffs commence Should a team that wins its division in the NFL with a .500 record be the host for a playoff game? Well, two division winners in...

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NFL playoffs commence

Should a team that wins its division in the NFL with a .500 record be the host for a playoff game?

Well, two division winners in each conference get a first-round bye. The third and fourth must play a wild-card team in the opening postseason round. Just one game remains, and when Sunday is finally sorted out, you may get exactly the scenario posited above with the Dallas Cowboys.

The NFC East and NFC West are the last of the six divisions that need to be settled. In the NFC East, the Cowboys (7-8) need to beat the Washington Redskins (3-12) while the Philadelphia Eagles (8-7) lose to the New York Giants (4-11). If that happens, the fifth seed in the NFC will travel to Dallas (the No. 4) and that No. 5 seed will have no fewer than 11 wins.

Such are the rewards for winning a division, though division games make up only six of the 16 games played. An NFL tweak a few years ago ensured that the schedule would wrap up with a heavy concentration of division games – 15 of Sunday’s are exactly that.

The 16 matchups will produce the last two of the 12 playoff qualifiers, two division champions, and three first-round byes. Rather than a fight for numerous spots, this is more a struggle for advantageous seeding.

Let’s go back to that division title. If the Seattle Seahawks (11-4) beat the San Francisco 49ers (12-3), they win the NFC West and are seeded third. That gives them a home game against the Minnesota Vikings (10-5). If they lose to the Niners, they’re a wild card and on the road against either Philadelphia or Dallas.

Figuring out the playoffs always involves math. Now it gets a helping of geography as well.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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