Heading into their bye week, the Minnesota Vikings had every opportunity to solidify their playoff position in the NFC. However, losing two games by a combined total of three points (while turning the football over seven times) have put them into a much more difficult spot heading into the homestretch.
With Monday night’s game only affecting the AFC, we have the final NFC playoff picture with Week 13 in the books. Let’s take a look at the current seedings and the schedules for each team the rest of the way.
1) Philadelphia Eagles (10-2, NFC East leaders)
The Eagles got blown out on Sunday for just their second loss of the year, but they’ve been playing things awfully close for a few weeks now and have been a bit fortunate. They’re going to have a heck of a time keeping a hold on the #1 seed and, potentially, the NFC East with a trip to Dallas on the horizon on Sunday Night Football in Week 14. They beat Dallas earlier this year but Dallas is rolling at this point, too.
Remaining schedule: at Dallas, at Seattle, vs New York Giants, vs Arizona, at New York Giants
2) San Francisco 49ers (9-3, NFC West leaders, ahead of Detroit because of conference record)
Remember when the Niners lost three in a row and weren’t elite anymore? Yeah, that was pretty funny. The Niners throttled Philadelphia on Sunday and are now breathing down their necks for the top seed in the conference. San Francisco has blown out both Philadelphia and Dallas this season and might be playing the best football of anyone in the NFC right now. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at #1 when the regular season ends.
Remaining schedule: vs Seattle, at Arizona, vs Baltimore, at Washington, vs Los Angeles Rams
3) Detroit Lions (9-3, NFC North leaders)
The Lions appear to have the NFC North on lock, barring some sort of a weird collapse. Their defense has come back down to earth after a hot start to the season, but they’re still far enough ahead of the rest of the field that they should be able to get their first division title since the Bush Administration. (That’s Bush 41, not Bush 43 if you’re scoring at home.) Will Minnesota’s two games in the final three weeks against them have any meaning?
Remaining schedule: at Chicago, vs Denver, at Minnesota, at Dallas, vs Minnesota
4) Atlanta Falcons (6-6, NFC South leaders)
Hey, guess what? The NFC South is awful again. The Falcons are on top of the division now with a .500 record, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them send a sub-.500 team to the postseason for the second season in a row. That would still be enough to get them the right to get squashed in a home playoff game by whoever finishes second in the NFC East, which I guess is something.
Remaining schedule: vs Tampa Bay, at Carolina, vs Indianapolis, at Chicago, at New Orleans
5) Dallas Cowboys (9-3, NFC East 2nd place)
The Cowboys are three games clear of the rest of the Wild Card field, so if they don’t manage to find a way to win the NFC East they’ll almost certainly be the #5 seed as they were last year. Dallas is one of the league’s hottest teams right now and might be catching Philadelphia at just the right time in an effort to get past them in the division race. Their schedule down the stretch is much tougher than Philadelphia’s on the surface, however.
Remaining schedule: vs Philadelphia, at Buffalo, at Miami, vs Detroit, at Washington
6) Minnesota Vikings (6-6, NFC North 2nd place)
Here’s how the tiebreaker works in this instance: The Vikings are ahead of Green Bay in the NFC North because of their head-to-head victory, and Los Angeles is ahead of Seattle in the NFC West because of their sweep of Seattle. That breaks it down to the Vikings and the Rams, and the Rams are ahead due to their superior conference record.
That means that the Vikings control their own destiny. . .if they win their games, nobody can push them out of the playoffs. Of course, if they (once again) can’t stop turning the ball over, they won’t beat anybody and it won’t matter. But controlling your own destiny at this point in the season is always nice.
Remaining schedule: at Las Vegas, at Cincinnati, vs Detroit, vs Green Bay, at Detroit
7) Green Bay Packers (6-6, NFC North 3rd place, ahead of Los Angeles via head-to-head)
The Packers have managed to crawl into the final playoff spot in the NFC after their win tonight. They beat the Rams earlier this season so they now occupy this spot. They don’t exactly have a Murderer’s Row of a schedule over the final five weeks of the year, so it’s going to be a bit difficult to hold them off. Here’s hoping the purple can do it.
Remaining schedule: at New York Giants, vs Tampa Bay, at Carolina, at Minnesota, vs Chicago
Outside Looking In
8) Los Angeles Rams (6-6, NFC West 2nd place)
9) Seattle Seahawks (6-6, NFC West 3rd place)
10) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-7, NFC South 2nd place, ahead of New Orleans via head-to-head)
11) New Orleans Saints (5-7, NFC South 3rd place)
12) New York Giants (4-8, NFC East 3rd place, ahead of Chicago via conference record)
13) Chicago Bears (4-8, NFC North 4th place)
14) Washington Commanders (4-9, NFC East 4th place)
15) Arizona Cardinals (3-10, NFC West 4th place)
16) Carolina Panthers (1-11)
That’s a look at the NFC Playoff Picture as things stand with 13 weeks in the books, folks. Again, the Vikings could have salted away a playoff spot over the past couple of weeks but, as is their wont, they’ve managed to make things a lot more difficult on themselves than they need to be.