NFC South Playoff Preview: Week 16
As week 16 of the 2014 NFL season approaches, three teams from the NFC South still have hopes of a division title, despite the fact that none of them have a shot at a winning record.
Currently, the New Orleans Saints lead the division, with an overall record of 6-8, one-half game ahead of the Carolina Panthers, who are 5-8-1 on the season, and one full game ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, who are 5-9, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the cellar, at 2-12.
Obviously, the Buccaneers have no shot. The best that they can do is to finish at 4-12.
Tampa Bay, who is 0-5 in the division and 1-9 against NFC foes, has a shot at the top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
The Panthers are only one-half game back, and probably have the most favorable schedule, with home a home game against Cleveland and a road match-up with the Falcons.
The problem for Carolina is while the Saints and Falcons control their own destiny, they do not.
Carolina is 3-2 in the division, with two wins over Tampa Bay, and one against New Orleans, with losses to Atlanta and New Orleans, while standing 5-6 in conference play.
Atlanta, based on their division and conference record, have the edge in the tiebreaker, if it would come down to that The Falcons are a perfect 4-0 against the NFC South, including a win over the Saints, two over the Buccaneers, and one over the Panthers, while standing 5-5 against conference competition.
The Falcons have a road match-up against New Orleans this Sunday, followed by a home match-up with the Panthers on the final weekend.
If Atlanta wins out, they would win the division.
The Saints, who also control their own destiny, are 2-2 against divisional foes, with wins over Tampa Bay and Carolina, and losses to Atlanta and Carolina, while compiling a 5-5 record against the rest of the NFC.
New Orleans will play a home game against Atlanta this Sunday, and a road tilt against Tampa Bay to close out the year.
Sunday's New Orleans/Atlanta game is obviously big for both teams. A win by the Saints would eliminate the Falcons, while a win by Atlanta, along with a Carolina win over Cleveland, would drop the Saints to third place, by virtue of Atlanta's two wins over New Orleans, plus their 5-0 divisional record.
A loss by the Saints on Sunday would mean that they would have to win their season finale the following Sunday against Tampa Bay, plus they would need the Panthers to lose against the Browns on Sunday, then defeat, or tie the Falcons the following Sunday.
This week, the Saints host the Falcons, while the Panthers host the Browns, and the Buccaneers host the Packers.