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Playoff picture heading into Week 17


The Carolina Panthers have assured themselves of a spot in the NFC playoffs.

What will that spot be? Well, that's as up for grabs as Sunday's last-second victory over the Buccaneers that secured the spot.

Carolina can't be the No. 1 seed or the No. 6 seed, and what looks most likely is the No. 5 seed and a road trip for wild card weekend. But everything else, even including a first-round bye as the No. 2 seed, remains on the table heading into the final week of the regular season.

No. 2 seed: A long-shot scenario, the Panthers would earn a first-round bye with a win at the Falcons, a Saints loss to the Buccaneers, a Rams loss to the 49ers and a Vikings loss to the Bears.

No. 3 seed: This too requires a Panthers victory and a Saints loss to give Carolina the NFC South crown. Then either the Rams or the Vikings must lose to move Carolina up in the pecking order among division champs.

No. 4 seed: Again, the Panthers must win and Saints must lose to leave Carolina as division champs. Then if the Rams and Vikings both win, the Panthers will land here and will host the fifth-seeded Saints in the wild card round.

No. 5 seed: If the Saints take care of business, or if the Panthers lose, Carolina is locked into this spot and will visit the No. 4 seed - most likely the Saints but possibly the Rams.

View the top photos from the Panthers vs. Buccaneers game by team photographer, Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez, and second shooter, Jamey Price.

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