The 2020 NFL season has been absolutely wild and Week 17 will be no different as the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Seattle Seahawks all have the opportunity to claim the coveted No. 1 seed in the NFC.
With seven teams in each conference now earning spots in the NFL playoffs, only one team on each side of the bracket will get a week off as opposed to the two we’ve seen for years, which makes that No. 1 spot all the more valuable. We know that the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs already have the top spot in the AFC locked up so let’s run through the scenarios on how the Packers, Saints, and Seahawks can join Patrick Mahomes & Co. on the couch for the wild-card round.
But before we get to those scenarios, let’s take a quick look at the schedule. The Green Bay Packers, who are currently the No. 1 seed in the NFC at 12-3, will visit the rival Chicago Bears, who are fighting just to get into the postseason. The New Orleans Saints, who are currently in the No. 2 spot at 11-4, head to Carolina to play the Panthers, while the third-seeded Seattle Seahawks, who are also 11-4, will take on the San Francisco 49ers. All three games will begin at 4:25 p.m. Eastern so they’ll be a lot of scoreboard watching going on.
All the Green Bay Packers need to do is beat or tie the Chicago Bears to get the No. 1 seed in the NFC
The formula for the Green Bay Packers to clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC is quite simple. All they have to do is beat the Chicago Bears, which they already back in Week 12, 41-25, and they take the top spot no matter what happens with the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks, which also occurs if Green Bay and Chicago tie.
However, if the Packers happen to lose to the Bears, Green Bay can still clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC if the Seahawks lose to or tie the 49ers. In this scenario, it wouldn’t matter what happens in the Saints-Panthers game as Green Bay holds the tiebreaker over New Orleans. But if Green Bay loses and Seattle and New Orleans both win, the Packers would be out of the No. 1 spot and would have to play on wild-card weekend.
The New Orleans Saints are hoping for a three-way tie with the Packers and Seahawks
As for the New Orleans Saints, everything first hinges on them beating the Carolina Panthers because if they lose that game, they’d have no shot at the No. 1 seed.
So if New Orleans wins, they’ll be rooting for a Green Bay Packers loss and a Seattle Seahawks win on Sunday as the only way they can claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC is if all three teams tie with a 12-4 record. If the Saints win and the Packers and Seahawks both lose, that does nothing for New Orleans as only they and Green Bay would be 12-4, which, as we just explained, favors the Packers since they beat the Saints back in Week 3.
However, if all three teams finish 12-4, the Saints would own the tiebreaker as the top spot would be determined by each team’s record against the NFC. If the Saints beat the Panthers, they would move to 10-2 in conference play. If the Seahawks beat the Niners, they would be 9-3 against the NFC, which is the same record the Packers would have in conference play if they lose to the Bears.
The Seattle Seahawks have to win and need both Green Bay and New Orleans to lose
As the current No. 3 seed, the Seattle Seahawks have the most difficult path to the No. 1 spot in the NFC. First, they need to beat the 49ers and then need both the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints to lose. The Hawks can also clinch No. 1 with a win combined with a Green Bay loss and a New Orleans tie.
If they can’t reach No. 1, they can get to No. 2 if they beat the 49ers and the Packers and Saints split their games (one team loses, one team wins). All three teams can still end up in any of the top three spots but can’t drop any lower than No. 3 as the No. 4 seed will be the NFC East champion, who won’t even have a winning record no matter who it is.
Scores and schedules courtesy of NFL.com