If the season ended right now, the winner of the NFC West would get the top-ranked NFC wild card team of the playoffs. The NFC West champion is assured of a record at or below .500, and would easily be the lowest-seeded division winner. Even with a worse record than the wild card team they will face, either St. Louis or Seattle will host a playoff game in the first round.
Who will they face? After Sunday’s action, the Seahawks or Rams are still in line to face the New Orleans Saints in the first round. The Saints, at 10-4, are two games clear of the next best wild card team and have the top wild card spot all but locked up. Only a huge collapse, in the form of two straight losses, would drop the Saints out of playoff contention.
Another scenario that could come to pass puts the Atlanta Falcons into the playoffs as the top NFC wild card team. The Falcons have already clinched a playoff berth, but could fall out of the NFC North lead with back-to-back losses to finish the season coupled with two New Orleans wins. In that scenario, it’s the Falcons that would take-on the Seahawks or Rams.
Both Atlanta and New Orleans have had their way with the Seahawks and Rams in the regular season. The Saints beat the Seahawks and Rams at the Superdome while the Falcons won road games at Seattle and St. Louis. Atlanta and New Orleans are also guaranteed more than 10 wins in the 2010 season, putting them head-and-shoulders above their potential first-round opponents.
While the NFC West will get a playoff berth, no matter how bad the division has been in 2010, and a home playoff game, the road is a difficult one once the division champion makes the playoffs.