About an hour before kickoff at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Panthers’ hopes for the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs were fading.
A quick run-through on how the scenarios could play out for the Panthers (11-4), who are guaranteed no worse than the No. 5 seed.
▪ No. 2 seed: Panthers would get a bye next week and at least one home game if they beat Atlanta AND have the Saints (at Tampa Bay), Vikings (vs. Chicago) and Rams (vs. San Francisco) all lose.
However, Minnesota, which clinches the second seed with a win Sunday, was leading Chicago 23-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
▪ No. 3 seed: A Panthers win and losses by the Saints and either Minnesota OR the Rams.
▪ No. 4 seed: The Panthers would still get a home game as division champs and the fourth seed if they beat the Falcons and the Saints fall to the Bucs.
▪ No. 5 seed: If Carolina loses to Atlanta OR if the Saints knock off Tampa Bay, the Panthers would travel next weekend to the No. 4 seed – either at New Orleans or Los Angeles.