The NFC South has proven to be the worst NFL division in years, allowing multiple losing teams the chance to host a playoff game. Heading into Week 16, the New Orleans Saints, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers all have a chance to win the division.
With the Saints in sole possession of first place with eight losses, there is no chance the division's winner will have a winning record. After 15 weeks, the NFC South’s combined winning percentage of .330 is the lowest of any NFL division since 1970. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-12) are out of playoff contention.
None of the division’s four teams have a chance at winning a wild-card spot, and the first-place Saints are four games out of the race. The winner of the division is guaranteed the No.4 seed and a postseason game at home.
Below is a look at the NFC South race, possible scenarios and tiebreakers for the division, and the chances of each team making the playoffs. All betting odds are courtesy of Bovada.lv.
New Orleans Saints (6-8, 2-2)
The Saints (-225 odds) are not only favored to win the division because they are in first place, but they have the easiest remaining schedule of any NFC South team. In Week 16, they’ll have a chance to eliminate the Falcons when they play their rivals at home, and a New Orleans win combined with a Carolina loss would put the Saints in the playoffs. The Saints visit the Bucs in Week 17, and Tampa Bay is winless at home.
New Orleans would be out of luck in a tiebreaker scenario with Atlanta. The only way for the Falcons and Saints to finish tied is for Atlanta to win on Sunday, and that would give them two wins over New Orleans in 2014. The Saints and Panthers are unlikely to finish with the same record, because Carolina has a tie.
Carolina Panthers (5-8-1, 3-2)
The Panthers (+400 odds) are the only team in the NFC South that does not control their own destiny. They are favored to win their Week 16 game, as they’ll host Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns. Even if they beat Cleveland, Carolina can’t lose their Week 17 visit to Atlanta, if they expect to have a chance of winning the division.
If the Saints win their last two games, the Panthers will be out of luck. If New Orleans ties one of their last two games and both teams finish with seven wins, Carolina would win the NFC South because of a superior divisional record.
Atlanta Falcons (5-9, 4-0)
Atlanta (+400 odds) can’t lose either of their final two games, if they hope to win the division. They are heavy underdogs in their visit to New Orleans, but they beat the Saints in the season opener, and New Orleans has lost four in a row at home. The Falcons will host the Panthers in the season’s final game, and they’ve already beaten Carolina on the road.
Two straight wins would make the Falcons NFC South champs. They have the edge in tiebreaker scenarios, having not lost any divisional games.