The 2014 NFL schedule saw the NFC South plays its inter-conference games against the four AFC North teams, and the three clubs still in the hunt for the NFC South crown didn’t fare so well in those games against the AFC — the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers have combined to go 1-9-1 against the Bengals, Ravens, Steelers, and Browns.
Nonetheless, at least one of those AFC North teams – and perhaps more than one – will be left out of the postseason, and at least one team from the NFC South will host a playoff game. The 6-8 Saints, 5-8-1 Panthers, and 5-9 Falcons continue to vie for a division that could end up being won with just seven – or even six – victories.
With two weeks left in the season, the third-place Falcons are the key team in the race. Atlanta, already 4-0 in divisional games, plays both the Saints and the Panthers to finish the regular season, and if the Falcons win both contests, they’ll win the NFC South with a 7-9 record. Still, that won’t be easy — the Saints haven’t been their usual dominant selves in the Superdome this season, but they still enter tomorrow’s game as solid favorites over Atlanta, and then would just have to defeat the South’s last-place team (Tampa Bay) in Week 17 to clinch the division. In fact, a Week 16 win could guarantee New Orleans a division title if the Panthers don’t keep pace with a victory of their own against the Browns.
The Saints look like the current frontrunners, but the Falcons control their fate, and the Panthers’ tie means they could finish a half-game ahead of their division rivals and not have to worry about tiebreaker scenarios. What do you think? Which of these teams wins the South and hosts a first-round playoff game?