Yes, despite the fact that the NFC West team could be 7-9, there's a 100% chance that the division winner will have home-field advantage in a first round game. Unless Roger Goodell and the NFL decide to drastically restructure playoff seeding rules in the next week or two, the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, or San Francisco 49ers will be hosting a first round playoff game with no better than a .500 record on the season. The NFC West winner will no doubt be the fourth seed (the team with the worst record of the division records gets the lowest seed), so the fifth seed will be heading to their turf. And you can bet everyone's dying to get this spot, as opposed to a trip to face the Philadelphia Eagles or Chicago Bears in round one.
Although none of these candidates have yet to clinch a berth, it's probably a three-way race between the New Orleans Saints (who are still chasing the Atlanta Falcons for first place in their division and play them this weekend), the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers (who play the Giants this weekend) to grab that first wild-card spot. I would expect in all of those cases that the fifth-seed wild card team would be heavily favored, except maybe for a trip to the raucous Seattle stadium, where the raucous crowd could play a huge factor.
After the jump, let's review the fifth-seed scenarios.To review the NFC West division winner scenarios, click here.
The Saints seem to be in the comfiest position. Although they can still leap their way to the NFC South crown with two wins and two Atlanta losses (and they can control one of those win-loss scenarios by playing the Falcons), a fifth seed wouldn't be the worst place in the world to be. Then two road games against the NFC West winner and a likely rematch with the Falcons in round two? Not too shabby, not too shabby.
New York plays at Green Bay and at Washington to close the season. The Giants are in good shape IF they win this game--a victory against the Packers assures them of a playoff berth. The Packers would wrest control away from the Giants. If the Saints were to stumble their final two weeks, one of these teams could leap up and surge for that fifth spot and a date in Seattle, St. Louis, or San Francisco.
So get ready NFC West fans--unless they stumble or someone else in front of them falls down themselves, in all likelihood, Drew Brees, Sean Peyton, and the Super Bowl Champions are heading to the West Coast to the defend their title.