No matter what happens in the final two weeks of the regular season, one of the best teams in the NFL is going to miss the playoffs thanks to the archaic playoff system still used by the league.
As it stands right now, the five best teams in the NFC, based on both record and point differential, all come from either the NFC South (Saints, Panthers) or the NFC West (Seahawks, 49ers, Cardinals) divisions.
But because of the four-division structure of the conferences, only four of those teams can make the playoffs.
As a result, there is a very good chance that one team in the NFC will go 11-5 and miss the playoffs. And that would most likely be either the Arizona Cardinals or the Carolina Panthers.
Even if the Cardinals win their final two games to go 11-5, they would still be in third place in the NFC West as they would lose the tie-breaker to the 49ers (division record). At that point, Arizona’s only hope would be that the Carolina Panthers would lose one of their final two games*.
If the Cardinals and Panthers finish tied, Arizona would win the tie-breaker (head-to-head record) and the Panthers would miss the playoffs despite being 11-5.
Leagues still want to reward teams that win their divisions. But that is silly when NFL teams only play a little more than one-third of their schedule (6 of 16 games) against divisional foes and good teams are not making the playoffs.
* There is also a possibility that Carolina, Arizona, and New Orleans would all finish 11-5. Arizona would lose the tie-breaker in that scenario as Carolina would win the divisional tie-breaker in the NFC South and New Orleans would then win the Wild Card tie-breaker over the Cardinals (head-to-head).
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