Last week's results helped crystallize who will make the playoffs this year. The Bears were officially eliminated from the contention and the Rams were put on the brink. At this point, four of the six playoff teams are locked in; the 49ers, Packers, Saints, and Seahawks.
While those four teams are guaranteed to be in the postseason, where they will be seeded is still up in the air. All are currently tied at 11-3 and there is tons of potential movement still to come.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- Seattle Seahawks (11-3)
- Green Bay Packers (11-3)
- New Orleans Saints (11-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-7)
- San Francisco 49ers (11-3)
- Minnesota Vikings (10-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (8-6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)
- The Seahawks are ahead of the 49ers in the NFC West thanks to a head-to-head victory from Week 10. They play each other again in Week 17.
- The Seahawks are seeded above the Packers thanks to a better win percentage in common games. They're ahead of the Saints thanks to a better record (8-2) against NFC opponents.
- The Packers (8-2) are seeded above the Saints (8-3) based on a superior record against NFC opponents.
- The Cowboys are ahead of the Eagles in the NFC East thanks to a head-to-head victory from Week 7. They play each other again this week.
This weekly feature focuses on teams who are clear contenders in division or wild card races. At this point, the Rams are the only team currently outside the playoff the picture who still have a shot at a wild card spot. The Cowboys and Eagles are reliant on winning the NFC East to make the playoffs.
Here are this week's games involving the current NFC playoff contenders:
Dallas Cowboys @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Cowboys clinch the NFC East and the 4th seed in the playoffs with a win this week. It would be Dallas' second win against the Eagles this year, which would confirm the head-to-head tiebreaker and make anything that happens next week irrelevant.
If Philadelphia wins this one, they still have to finish the job in Week 17 to take the division. In this scenario, Dallas could still win the NFC East if they defeat Washington and the Eagles lose to the Giants in the regular season finales.
Hopefully we don't get to that point. It's a “win and you're in” game for the Cowboys, so hopefully they handle business and let us breathe for a week before the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams @ San Francisco 49ers
The Rams need to win out and have Minnesota lose out to get back into the playoffs. At that point, they would have a superior record in NFC play to give them the tiebreaker for the last wild card spot.
Unfortunately for them, the 49ers will probably end the conversation this week. San Francisco suffered a heartbreaking loss last week to Atlanta and once again dropped from 1st to 5th in the NFC standings. They will be out for blood.
It's now looking likely that either the Niners or Seahawks, whoever doesn't win the NFC West, will be the 5th seed and face either Dallas or Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. So for Cowboys fans, your rooting interest here depends on if you'd rather see San Francisco or Seattle in our first postseason game.
New Orleans Saints @ Tennessee Titans
The Saints have already clinched the NFC South but nothing beyond that is certain. The race for the top two seeds in the NFC, with their bye weeks and guaranteed second-round home games, is tight between New Orleans and the other top conference teams.
The debate gets interesting here about who you'd rather face when, and where, throughout the postseason. New Orleans, Green Bay, and Seattle all boast great home field advantages. You might rather play one of them in your own stadium in the first round and then travel to San Francisco for the next game.
With everyone bunched up at 11-3, though, anything can still happen. We'll dive more into the specific possibilities next week as things become clearer.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Similar discussion here as with New Orleans or even Green Bay; the Seahawks are a team with a great QB and a great home field that you don't want to mess with in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the road to the Super Bowl will almost certainly go through at least one of them.
The Cowboys defeated the Seahawks a year ago in a home playoff game. But Seattle is a stronger team now and Dallas has struggled mightily against mobile quarterbacks this season. They are the team I least want to see in the postseason.
Green Bay Packers @ Minnesota Vikings
The Packers clinch the division with a victory here. I would love to see the Vikings overtake Green Bay in the NFC North and make them a wild card team. Winning this game would certainly help, evening their overall record at 11-4 at negating the head-to-head tiebreaker by splitting the season series.
Even with a loss here, the Packers would maintain the division lead thanks to a superior record against NFC North teams. The Vikings would have to win in Week 17 (vs Bears) while Green Bay loses (@ Lions) to complete the coup.