UPDATE: This post has been updated to reflect the results of Sunday Night Football.
We knew that, when the smoke cleared and the dust settled on Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Vikings would still be holding on to the #2 seed in the NFC playoff picture. Sitting at 9-2 after their victory over the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving, the Vikings held all the tiebreakers and could not be bumped out of that spot.
On Sunday, however, the Vikings gained a little more separation from the rest of the NFC pack. Here is how the NFC playoff picture looks as things stand right now. We will update this post at the conclusion of Sunday Night Football, as the Monday Night Football contest won’t affect the NFC playoff picture. The nifty picture comes from the ESPN Playoff Machine.
#1 seed - Philadelphia Eagles (10-1, NFC East leaders)
The Eagles coasted to another easy victory on Sunday, defeating the Chicago Bears by a final score of 31-3. That makes them the first team in the National Football League with ten victories and allows them to maintain the top spot in the NFC. The Eagles’ schedule gets a little more difficult over these next couple of weeks, as they have to travel to Seattle next week and to Los Angeles the week after that. Still, they remain in the top spot.
#2 seed - Minnesota Vikings (9-2, NFC North leaders)
Speaking of schedules getting more difficult, the Vikings have to take it on the road the next couple of weeks as well. Both of their matchups come against teams that, if the season ended today, would be NFC playoff teams in Atlanta and Carolina. Those will be tough tests, to be sure, but if the Vikings can pass those tests, they’ll be in pretty good shape for the rest of the season.
#3 seed - Los Angeles Rams (8-3, NFC West leaders, at #3 due to head-to-head victory over New Orleans)
The Rams got a big win, as they bounced back from their defeat in Minnesota last Sunday to take down a New Orleans team that had won eight consecutive games going into this one. The Rams also needed that one to stay a game up on Seattle in the NFC West, as Seattle has already beaten the Rams head-to-head once.
#4 seed - New Orleans Saints (8-3, NFC South leaders, at #4 due to head-to-head victory over Carolina)
With the Rams’ victory over the Saints on Sunday, the Vikings now (essentially) have a two-game lead over both Los Angeles and New Orleans for the second seed, as they have head-to-head victories over both, and a head-to-head sweep of those two teams in the event of a three-way tie. The Saints have an opportunity to sweep their season series against Carolina next week when the two teams get together in New Orleans.
#5 seed - Carolina Panthers (8-3, wild card #1)
Carolina appears to have gotten themselves right over the past couple of weeks, although it appears they may have lost tight end Greg Olsen (again) after he returned from a broken foot in their win over the New York Jets. They get another crack at the Saints next week before the big matchup with Minnesota in Charlotte in Week 14.
#6 seed - Atlanta Falcons (7-4, wild card #2, at #6 due to head-to-head victory over Seattle)
As we know, the Falcons and Vikings will get together in Atlanta’s fancy new stadium in Week 13. The Falcons got a big win over their division rivals from Tampa, but they had to work for it. They also appear to have gotten Julio Jones going, as he put up over 250 receiving yards against Tampa on Sunday. The matchup between Jones and Xavier Rhodes on Sunday should be a good one.
Outside Looking In/Still Mathematically Alive
#7 seed - Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
#8 seed - Detroit Lions (6-5)
#9 seed - Green Bay Packers (5-6, at #9 due to head-to-head win over Dallas)
#10 seed - Dallas Cowboys (5-6, at #10 due to head-to-head wins over Washington and Arizona)
#11 seed - Washington Redskins (5-6, at #11 due to better conference record than Arizona)
#12 seed - Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
#13 seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
#14 seed - Chicago Bears (3-8)
Officially Mathematically Eliminated
#15 seed - New York Giants (2-9)
#16 seed - San Francisco 49ers (1-10)
That’s how things look at the conclusion of the majority of Week 12’s action, folks. As stated earlier, we will update this post at the conclusion of Sunday Night Football. . .not that a lot is going to change as a result.