NFC No. 1 Seed Playoff Scenarios: Eagles, 49ers, Cowboys, and Vikings Path to First-Round Bye

The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers all have a path to the NFC's number one seed. Here's how.

The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, and San Francisco 49ers all have a path to the number one seed in the NFC and the first-round bye. They all know that the biggest advantage in the NFL playoffs is that bye.

Not only do teams benefit from an extra week of rest, but they also have essentially a free win and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Let’s look at how any of these teams can clinch a first-round bye in Week 17.

Week 17 Playoff Scenarios

Great teams have about a 40 percent chance to lose at home against a playoff-quality team. The math is clear — if they have successively larger chances to lose as each round of the playoffs progress, that means a great team would have a 40 percent chance to lose in the Wild Card round, a 42 percent chance to lose in the Divisional Round, a 45 percent chance to lose in the Championship Game, and 50 percent chance to lose in the Super Bowl.

That’s a 9.6 percent chance to win the title when playing the first-round game and a 16 percent chance to win the title when earning the bye. That doesn’t include the additional advantage of having home-field advantage in the Championship Game, which can swing things even more.

In the NFC, that means that the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings have a lot at stake as they finish out the season. With only two weeks left, the range of scenarios is limited, and the margin for error is low.

4 p.m. ET Update
The Eagles lost to the Saints 20-10. They cannot clinch a first-round bye in Week 17.

7:30 p.m. ET Update
The Vikings lost to the Packers and are eliminated from the race for the first-round bye in the NFC. The 49ers defeated the Raiders and will have a chance to clinch a first-round bye in Week 18.

Philadelphia Eagles Path to the No. 1 Seed

For the Eagles to clinch the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, here are the possible scenarios at play in Week 17:

  • Eagles win OR
  • Eagles tie and Vikings tie/loss
  • OR Cowboys tie/loss, 49ers tie/loss, Vikings loss

The Dallas Cowboys are considered longshots for the top seed, but they can capture both the division and top seed because they would have the tiebreaker against the Eagles — divisional win percentage — if they win out and the Eagles lose or tie their remaining games.

MORE: Week 17 NFL Power Rankings

The Eagles have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Vikings but lose the conference games tiebreaker to San Francisco if they end up with the same record; the Eagles have two conference games left, and if they lose both of them while the 49ers win out, that would be enough for San Francisco to take the lead.

The Eagles can end up with the same record as the Vikings but cannot end up with the same record as the Cowboys or 49ers.

Minnesota Vikings Path to the No. 1 Seed

The Minnesota Vikings cannot clinch the first seed in Week 17, but they can remain alive for it. In order for the Vikings to remain in the hunt for the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, they must see the following scenario:

  • Vikings win/tie
  • Eagles loss

For the Vikings to be eliminated from the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, here are the possible scenarios:

  • Eagles win

OR

  • Vikings loss

OR

  • Eagles tie
  • Vikings tie/loss

An Eagles tie would keep the Vikings alive, but a subsequent tie in Week 18 would result in the Eagles clinching in that scenario, even if the Vikings win out.

The 49ers hold the conference games tiebreaker over the Vikings and the Eagles should they all finish with the same record, so the Vikings will need either a 49ers loss in Week 17 or Week 18 in order to win the first seed and the first-round bye.

San Francisco 49ers Path to the No. 1 Seed

The San Francisco 49ers cannot clinch the number one seed in Week 17, but they can remain alive for it. For the 49ers to remain in the hunt for the top seed and a first-round bye, they must see the following scenario:

  • Eagles loss
  • 49ers win

For the 49ers to be eliminated from the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye, here are the possible scenarios:

  • Eagles win/tie

OR

  • 49ers tie/loss

The 49ers do not need a Vikings loss in Week 17, but would need a Vikings loss in Week 18 if the Vikings won in Week 17. If the Vikings tie in Week 17, then the 49ers would need the Vikings to either tie again in Week 18 or lose outright.

Dallas Cowboys Path to the No. 1 Seed

The Dallas Cowboys cannot clinch the first seed in Week 17, but they can remain alive for it. For the Cowboys to remain in the hunt for the top seed and a first-round bye, here are the possible scenarios:

  • Cowboys win
  • Eagles loss

MORE: Will the Raiders Trade Derek Carr?

For the Cowboys to be eliminated from contention for the number one seed and a first-round bye, here are the possible scenarios:

  • Eagles win

OR

  • Cowboys tie/loss

The Cowboys do not need the 49ers or Vikings to lose in Week 17, but if either team wins, the Cowboys need them to then lose in Week 18. If either team wins out, the Cowboys are eliminated from contention for the top seed and a first-round bye. If the Eagles win any of their games, the Cowboys will be eliminated from contention for the top seed and a first-round bye.

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