In week seven, the NFC playoff picture has started to take shape, with a few distinct tiers of teams starting to separate themselves. The conference has a clear bottom tier, consisting of teams like Chicago, Carolina, and San Francisco, but there is a growing middle tier of teams fighting for position with the division leaders and for Wild Card spots.
But first, let’s take a look at the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers improved to 4-2 on the season with their Thursday night victory over the Chicago Bears, putting them a game and a half behind the 5-0 Vikings for the division lead. However, the Vikings went out and got blitzed by the Philadelphia Eagles 21-10, handing them their fist loss of the year and bringing them down to 5-1, just a game ahead of Green Bay.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions pulled off a come-from-behind victory over Washington and have now won three straight games to improve to 4-3. That leaves Detroit a half-game behind the Packers, although Green Bay holds the head-to-head tiebreaker. However, it also helps set up an intriguing week 17 matchup. Detroit does have a pair of tough road games coming up against division leaders, as they travel to 4-2 Houston next week before going to Minnesota in week 9.
In the NFC East, Dallas was idle and stayed at 5-1, while Philadelphia improved to 4-2 with their win over the Vikings. Washington’s loss to Detroit bumps them down to 4-3, while the Giants beat Baltimore to match Washington with that record. That now makes the NFC East - which last year went a combined 26-38 - as the only division in the NFL where all four teams have a winning record.
The NFC South-leading Falcons lost a heartbreaker to the San Diego Chargers in overtime, and did so on a questionable call by head coach Dan Quinn. On the first drive of overtime, he elected to leave his offense on the field on a fourth-and-one from his own 45-yard line. Devonta Freeman was stuffed, and the Chargers kicked the game-winning field goal a few plays later. That knocked them down to 4-3, just a half-game up on the 3-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (who beat the 49ers in an afternoon game).
Finally, the NFC West was featured on Sunday Night Football, with the 4-1 Seahawks at the 3-3 Cardinals. In arguably the ugliest game of the year, the two teams tied 6-6 after trading field goals early in overtime and chip-shot field goal misses late in the extra period. Meanwhile, the Rams have now lost three straight after the Giants beat them in London early Sunday morning.
Here’s a look at how the NFC playoff standings look after seven weeks.
NFC Playoff Picture
NFC North: Minnesota Vikings (5-1)
NFC East: Dallas Cowboys (5-1)
NFC West: Seattle Seahawks (4-1-1)
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
Green Bay Packers (4-2)
Philadelphia Eagles (4-2)
In the Hunt
New York Giants (4-3)
Detroit Lions (4-3)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-3)
Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1)
Los Angeles Rams (3-4)
New Orleans Saints (2-4)
Carolina Panthers (1-5)
Chicago Bears (1-6)
San Francisco 49ers (1-6)