Explaining Carolina's Playoff Chances
Most of you are probably already aware of the playoff scenarios for Carolina but allow me to help explain them a little better. There are realistically three teams competing for two wild card spots in the NFC - Arizona, San Francisco, and Carolina. Currently Carolina and San Francisco are 9-4, and Arizona is 8-5. Carolina holds the tiebreaker over San Francisco because of a head-to-head win. San Francisco holds the tiebreaker over Arizona, and Arizona holds the tiebreaker over Carolina. After playing with the Playoff Machine for a little bit, I better understand Carolina's chances to make the playoffs. http://espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs/machine
If Carolina, San Francisco and Arizona all finish with the same record, Carolina would be the #5 seed, San Francisco would be the #6 seed, and Arizona would miss the playoffs. If Carolina and Arizona end up with the same record, but San Francisco finishes with a better record than both, Carolina misses the playoffs. This holds true through the final three weeks.
Final opponents for all three teams:
Carolina: NYJ, NO, @ATL
Arizona: @TEN, @SEA, SF
San Francisco: @TB, ATL, @ARI
Because Arizona and San Francisco play each other in Week 17, Carolina can afford one more loss, finish 11-5, and still be assured a playoff spot. If San Francisco wins, it would drop Arizona to 10-6 if they won their other two remaining games, and they'd finish below Carolina. If Arizona wins, it would drop San Francisco to 11-5 if they won their other two remaining games. Like I said earlier, even if Arizona wins out and Carolina loses one, they'd all finish 11-5 and Carolina would win the tiebreaker. Everything goes to hell if Carolina drops two of their remaining three games and Arizona and San Francisco both win their next two games. Needless to say, next weeks game against the Jets is a must-win.
TL;DR - Carolina still has a great chance to make the playoffs even if they lose one more game. But if they lose two more...all bets are off.
EDIT: Okay so for those asking if San Francisco and Arizona both lose in Week 15, will Carolina make the playoffs, the answer is no. Carolina still has a chance to finish 10-6 or even 9-7 regardless of what Arizona and San Francisco do in Week 15. Also, it should be noted, that if Dallas or Philadelphia finish at 10-6, they would own the tiebreaker over Carolina because of conference record. There are a lot of scenarios where Carolina misses out of the playoffs if they finish at 10-6 to either Arizona, Philadelphia, or Dallas. There are even scenarios where Carolina, Arizona, San Francisco, Dallas, and Philly all finish 10-6. Like I said before, if Carolina, Arizona and San Fran all finish with the same record, Carolina wins the tiebreaker. It seems Carolina owns the tiebreaker over Chicago and Detroit. All in all, to be guaranteed a playoff spot, Carolina needs to win two of their next three. After that they get into the muddle mess of tiebreakers and you don't want to be there. This post to show how Carolina would make the playoffs if they only lost one more game, and who their main competition would be if they only lost one more game. If they lose two more games, like I said, all bets are off.
TL;DR AGAIN: It gets REALLY complicated if the Panthers lose two of their last three and finish 10-6. But finish 11-5 and they are guaranteed a spot. There is not a scenario that I found where Carolina misses the playoffs if they get to 11 wins.