GREEN BAY—It doesn’t get any simpler than this for the Packers: If they defeat the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field, they will win the NFC North and earn the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs.
In that case, it’s just as simple in the NFC East: The winner of Eagles-Cowboys will be the division champ and the No. 3 seed.
The rest of the NFC seeding hasn’t been sorted out, yet, which means there’s no knowing until all the games are done on Sunday who the Packers’ opponent would be at Lambeau Field on wild-card weekend should Green Bay win.
This much we do know: If the Packers win, the No. 5 seed will travel to Green Bay and the No. 6 seed will travel to the NFC East winner on wild-card weekend.
Beyond that, any number of scenarios could unfold, but rather than go through each one in detail, let’s try to crystallize the picture a bit.
Of the four other seeds – Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 6 – three of them will be filled by Seattle, Carolina and San Francisco, all of whom have clinched playoff spots. The remaining spot will be filled by either New Orleans or Arizona.
If the Saints beat the Buccaneers, or if the Cardinals lose to the 49ers, the Saints are in. The only way for Arizona to get in is if the Cardinals win and the Saints lose.
There, that fills out the playoff field.
The seeding is where it gets trickier, because the NFC West and South have not yet decided a champion.
Seattle and Carolina are in control, in that if they each win on Sunday, they will win those divisions and earn first-round byes as the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively.
If that happens, the No. 5 and 6 seeds will come from the trio of San Francisco, New Orleans and Arizona. In that scenario, Green Bay’s potential playoff opponent as the No. 5 seed would be either the 49ers or Saints. If Arizona gets in instead of New Orleans, the Cardinals can only be the No. 6 seed.
If either Seattle or Carolina loses, then the seeding possibilities increase exponentially, and it would get too complicated to try to lay them all out here.
It’s also possible for the Bears to climb as high as the No. 3 seed, should they beat the Packers and if the Cowboys beat the Eagles. Philadelphia has control of the No. 3 seed, though, and gets it with a win, regardless of the Packers-Bears outcome.
But back to Green Bay’s basics – beat the Bears and the Packers are the No. 4 seed playing at home on either Jan. 4 or 5 against the No. 5 seed. The rest of the details will get sorted out soon enough.