The two NFC teams with the best chance to earn a postseason bye are the
Green Bay Packers and
New Orleans Saints. They have favorable remaining schedules (only two games apiece against teams that currently have winning records). The
49ers have the best record in the NFC right now, but they face a gauntlet to close out the regular season with games vs. the
Seahawks still ahead. Going 4-2 during that stretch seems like a best-case scenario, but I'm not going to rule out the possibility of them losing most -- or even (gulp) all -- of those games. Minnesota has an outside shot at the bye, but I'm not as confident about its chances given
the upcoming schedule, and the same goes for
I see the
Saints finishing as the top seed in the NFC for the second straight season. Sean Payton's squad is the most complete team in the conference right now. His players and staff are battle-tested and have a ton of experience. Seattle is starting to play its best football on both sides of the ball heading into the final six games.
Russell Wilson continues to perform at an MVP level, the
Seahawks have a quality run game and
Jadeveon Clowney is setting the tone as a disruptive player up front for the defense.
Given how tight the standings are at the top of the NFC, you have to look closely at schedules and matchups down the stretch to give this question a proper answer. With that in mind, I think the
Packers will clinch the byes. The
Seahawks are dangerous teams, but the NFC West is extremely tough. Both teams have at least two division games left to play, including one against each other in Week 17. I'm guessing we'll see the NFC West pair playing in the wild-card games.
I'm taking the
Saints have a big advantage in playing only one other top NFC team down the stretch (the
49ers in Week 14). The
Packers should win at least four of their final six and they very well could go 6-0 to close out the season. I think it's as simple as that.
The way the NFL schedule is laid out, the top seeds in the NFC might not be decided until Week 16 or 17. I really think the
Packers could clinch the first-round bye with a victory over the
Minnesota Vikings in Week 16 -- their toughest game of the final month. The final spot will come down to the
Seahawks, and while the
Saints are playing good football right now, the
Seahawks have the luxury of trotting out the probable MVP every week. He knows what's on the line, and I don't see
Russell Wilson letting a chance to clinch home-field advantage slip away.
This feels like a pure guess, and I wish I could count on my Magic 8-Ball to give me the answers to questions like this one. Right now, when looking at the standings and the upcoming schedules, I'm taking New Orleans and Seattle. Both will face their toughest opponents down the stretch at home with the
Saints hosting the
49ers in Week 14 and the AFC South-leading
Colts in Week 15, while the
Seahawks host Minnesota in Week 13 and the
49ers in Week 17. Plus, the
Seahawks boast proven quarterbacks who play some of their best football when it matters most.