NFC South Reporter
Ah, the NFC South.
We’re right here to rebrand the division, if just for one story. This isn’t the worst division within the NFL. Sure, all 4 groups have shedding data in mid-December, however its 4 groups have mixed to win three extra video games than the AFC South. And since we have established it isn’t the worst division, let’s level out what it’s: Probably the most aggressive division within the NFL.
With 4 weeks to go, the distinction between first and final place is simply two video games, making the NFC South essentially the most tightly packed division within the league. Within the final decade, solely as soon as has a division completed with so little separation from prime to backside — final 12 months’s AFC North, which produced a Tremendous Bowl workforce within the Bengals.
Certainly one of these 4 NFC South groups will host a playoff sport, in opposition to a wild card with probably as many as 14 wins. However unhealthy division winners can nonetheless win playoff video games. Since 2002, 4 of the 5 groups to win a division with a .500 report or worse managed to win within the wild-card spherical.
So embrace the chaos. This can be a uncommon last month of the season the place all 4 groups have a shot, and with 4 division video games left, these groups need to undergo one another to get to the playoffs. We will lay out the place issues stand for all 4 groups, from the simplicity of the Buccaneers and Panthers, who each management their very own future in the event that they win out, to the Saints, who want appreciable assist to get in.
Need percentages? The New York Occasions’ fantastic playoff simulator has the Bucs with a 76 p.c likelihood of profitable, the Panthers at 18 p.c, the Falcons at 5 p.c and the Saints at 1 p.c. Fivethirtyeight’s mannequin has it a lot nearer — Bucs at 65 p.c, Panthers at 31 p.c, Falcons at 4 p.c and Saints at 0.7 p.c. Here is every part you’ll want to learn about all 4 groups’ possibilities.
Tampa Bay is coming off a humbling 35-7 loss to the 49ers, however as a result of they’re 3-1 within the division, they’re nonetheless sitting fairly. The Bucs can lose their subsequent two video games (vs. Bengals and Cardinals) and fall to 6-9, they usually’d nonetheless be answerable for their playoff destiny, realizing in the event that they beat the Panthers and Falcons within the last two weeks, they’d win the South at 8-9.
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As a result of Carolina beat them in Charlotte earlier this season, the Panthers are the place Tampa Bay is most weak. If the Bucs beat Carolina on New Yr’s Day in Tampa, on that end result alone, they’ve a 95 p.c likelihood to win the division per NYT math. Conversely, a loss there by itself drops their odds to 40 p.c. So long as the Bucs beat the Panthers, some other mixture of a single Bucs win or a single Falcons loss within the subsequent 4 weeks clinches the NFC South for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs, in principle, can clinch the division with two weeks left, earlier than they face the Panthers, so long as they win their subsequent two and the Panthers and Falcons lose their subsequent two. At that time, no person can catch the Bucs, even when they lose their final two video games to complete 8-9.
Sunday’s loss to the 49ers additionally means Tampa Bay is sort of locked in because the No. 4 seed in the event that they win the NFC South, which might imply opening the playoffs in opposition to the Cowboys (10-3) because the NFC’s prime wild card. The Bucs beat the Cowboys 19-3 on the street in Week 1, however that will be a formidable problem to open the playoffs, they usually may face the probably top-seeded Eagles within the following spherical. Contemplating they’ve a shedding report, most Bucs followers are completely satisfied to get into the playoffs and gone fretting who they’re going through as soon as they’re in.
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Like Tampa Bay, Carolina is aware of it should win the NFC South with a sweep of their remaining 4 video games, a stunning place to be in contemplating they had been 2-7 simply 4 weeks in the past. They’ve surged below interim coach Steve Wilks and are only a sport again of first place, the one workforce with any constructive momentum getting into the ultimate 4 video games.
Carolina and Atlanta have the identical report and cut up their regular-season series, however the Panthers have the tiebreaker edge on a greater division report proper now, in order that they have a less complicated path to profitable the division. The final two video games are in opposition to groups they’ve already crushed this season, the following is at house in opposition to a Steelers workforce that is perhaps with out their beginning quarterback, so the largest impediment is perhaps on Christmas Eve in opposition to the surging Lions, who’ve gained 5 of six are in competition for a wild card.
Panthers rush for 223 yards to beat the Seahawks 30-24
The Carolina Panthers choose off Geno Smith twice and rush for 223 yards to beat the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.
Probably the most optimistic approach to clarify the Panthers is that this: If Carolina wins the following two and the Bucs lose both of their subsequent two, then the Panthers can all however clinch the NFC South by beating the Bucs on New Yr’s Day in Week 17. And if the Falcons lose to the Ravens in Week 16, Carolina can clinch the division title outright then and there in Tampa, even when they lose the finale vs. Saints.
Atlanta may lose its subsequent two video games, be 5-10 and nonetheless be alive for the NFC South title. They’d want an unimaginable quantity of assist: the Bucs and Panthers would want to lose their subsequent two, the Saints must lose in Week 16, and in that case, the Falcons are nonetheless alive and might win the division at 7-10. A a lot better technique: Not shedding the following two video games.
Extra sensible? They simply want to remain alive till Week 18, establishing their house sport with Tampa Bay as an NFC South championship sport. They cannot win a tiebreaker over the Bucs or Panthers, so they should win another than the Bucs do within the subsequent three weeks, and another than the Panthers do the remainder of the way in which.
There are many situations the place the division comes all the way down to Jan. 8, and the NFL would undoubtedly put Bucs-Falcons and Panthers-Saints in the identical window, the place the 2 video games play out concurrently and a number of groups — maybe all 4 — would enter the day with an opportunity to win the division.
The wildest end? All 4 NFC South groups enter the ultimate weekend at 7-9, and if the Saints and Falcons each win their finales in that state of affairs, New Orleans wins the division on a head-to-head sweep of Atlanta, in order that they’d go from 4-9 to creating the playoffs, the primary workforce in NFL historical past ever to take action.
In final place proper now, the Saints want essentially the most assist of the NFC South groups to win the division, nevertheless it would not even have to begin with them profitable out. So long as New Orleans wins at house in opposition to Atlanta on Sunday and the Bucs lose to the Bengals, the Saints may even lose on the Browns on Christmas Eve and nonetheless be alive to win the division.
If the Saints win out and the Bucs lose three of their final 4 — that is simply the only hypothetical — then the one different factor the Saints must win the South at 8-9 is one other Panthers loss, in any of the following three video games.
Dizzy but? We’ll come again and replace this every week. The variety of situations and groups nonetheless alive ought to go down every week, however the division has solely appeared to drag nearer and nearer previously month, so we’ll see.
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Greg Auman is FOX Sports activities’ NFC South reporter, overlaying the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He’s in his tenth season overlaying the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Occasions and The Athletic. You’ll be able to comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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Publish date: 2022-12-13 23:19:14
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