Posted: Wednesday December 8, 2010 3:37PM ; Updated: Wednesday December 8, 2010 3:37PM
Dom Bonvissuto
Dom Bonvissuto>INSIDE THE NFL

NFL playoff projections, Week 14

Story Highlights

If Falcons get caught looking ahead, the Saints could take the No. 1 seed

Eagles need to win one of their next two road games to avoid being squeezed

It's still difficult to see the inconsistent Jaguars winning the AFC South

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Drew Brees and the defending champion Saints have won five straight games.
Bob Rosato/SI

In Week 13, nobody clinched a playoff spot, the first time that's happened since the 2000 season. But don't blame the teams -- there was no scenario where a team could clinch a spot. That's not the case in Week 14.

The NFL, god bless 'em, found the time to figure out all the playoff-clinching scenarios this weekend. Here they are. A total of four teams -- the Patriots, Steelers and Jets in the AFC; the Falcons in the NFC -- could clinch this weekend, which means the continuously cloudy playoff picture will begin to clear up.

Below, we lay out the playoff picture two ways: 1) As though the season ended today, and 2) As though the season will play out the way we predict it will. We will use the NFL's official tiebreaker procedures to determine seeding. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail us or find us on Twitter. Without further ado...

NFC

ATLANTA FALCONS (10-2)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 1 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Carolina (W); at Seattle (L); vs. New Orleans (L); vs. Carolina (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 5 seed
Extra Point: What has Seattle done to show it can upset Atlanta in Week 14? Nothing. But the Falcons are new to this whole front-running thing and a 2,600-mile road trip the week before a faceoff against the defending Super Bowl champs spells trap game to us. But hey, we've been wrong before...

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CHICAGO BEARS (9-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 2 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. New England (L); at Minnesota (L); vs. N.Y. Jets (W); at Green Bay (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; No. 6 seed (wins tiebreaker with Eagles on head-to-head)
Extra Point: We still believe the Bears are in for a cold spell and the next two weeks look like the best bet. It would be fun, though, if the games broke the right way and that Week 17 showdown in Lambeau was for the division title.

***

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 3 seed (wins tiebreaker with Giants on head-to-head)
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Dallas (L); at N.Y. Giants (L); vs. Minnesota (W); vs. Dallas (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 10-6; out
Extra Point: Think Philly fans would be outraged to be 10-6 and miss the playoffs? Imagine the scenario where the Packers, Bears, Giants and Eagles all finish 11-5, and one of those four (possibly, again, Philly) would stay home in January while a .500 (or worse) NFC West winner hosts a playoff game.

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ST. LOUIS RAMS (6-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 4 seed (wins tiebreaker with Seahawks on head-to-head)
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at New Orleans (L); vs. Kansas City (L); vs. San Francisco (W); at Seattle (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 7-9; out
Extra Point: They don't have to do it, but the Rams would like their situation a whole lot more if they can get a W in either of their next two games. It'd take the pressure off a young team heading into Week 16 knowing it likely would have to win its final two games.

***

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (9-3)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 5 seed
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. St. Louis (W); at Baltimore (W); at Atlanta (W); vs. Tampa Bay (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 13-3; No. 1 seed
Extra Point: Remember last winter, when everyone was worried about the Saints losing three straight to end the season? That turned out OK for New Orleans. So how scary would it be if the Saints go into their title defense on a nine-game winning streak, as we project? Don't sleep on the champs.

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NEW YORK GIANTS (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: In; No. 6 seed (wins tiebreaker with Packers on conference record)
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Minnesota (W), vs. Philadelphia (W), at Green Bay (L); at Washington (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 11-5; No. 3 seed
Extra Point: The Giants can't get caught looking past the Vikings into next week's showdown with the Eagles at the New Meadowlands. A loss in the Metrodome would put them in the unenviable position of likely having to win out to make the postseason.

***

GREEN BAY PACKERS (8-4)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Detroit (W); at New England (W); vs. N.Y. Giants (W); vs. Chicago (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 12-4; No. 2 seed
Extra Point: A Super Bowl preview Week 15 in Foxboro? That's how it will be billed, but the Packers can't get too caught up in that hype. If Green Bay doesn't win three of its final four, it very likely could miss the playoffs altogether.

***

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (7-5)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at Washington (L); vs. Detroit (W); vs. Seattle (W); at New Orleans (L)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 9-7; out
Extra Point: Tampa has a very forgiving slate the next three weeks, but injuries are mounting and, so far, the young Bucs haven't proven they can win the games they have to.

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SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (6-6)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): at San Francisco (L); vs. Atlanta (W); at Tampa Bay (L); vs. St. Louis (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 8-8; No. 4 seed
Extra Point: As we pointed out last week, even if Seattle doesn't pull the upset at home against the Falcons, it can still go 7-9 and win the tiebreaker with St. Louis based on division record.

***

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (4-8)

If The Playoffs Started Today: Out
Remaining Schedule (Projected Results): vs. Seattle (W); at San Diego (L); at St. Louis (L); vs. Arizona (W)
Final Projected Record, Playoff Seeding: 6-10; out
Extra Point: The Niners face an elimination game at home Sunday and we project they'll stay alive for another week. Get through those back-to-back roadies in Weeks 15 and 16 and they have a very winnable finale. Can't see Alex Smith being that much of a savior, though.

NOTE: The 5-7 Vikings and Redskins, the 4-8 Cowboys and the 3-9 Cardinals have not been eliminated from playoff contention.

NFC Playoff Picture
Scenario No. 1 Seed No. 2 Seed No. 3 Seed No. 4 Seed No. 5 Seed No. 6 Seed
If The Playoffs Started Today Falcons Bears Eagles Rams Saints Giants
SI.com Projections Saints Packers Giants Seahawks Falcons Bears
 
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