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NFC Playoff Picture, Week 15: Packers climb back into pole position with Cardinals’ loss

Thanks to some help from an undermanned Rams squad on Monday Night, the Packers are back in control of home-field advantage.

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Monday Night Football in week 14 brought the Green Bay Packers exactly what they wanted following their big win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Los Angeles Rams’ win over the Arizona Cardinals drops the Cards down into a tie with the Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the best record in the NFC.

That Rams victory came with Los Angeles being severely undermanned due to numerous positive COVID-19 tests. Still, they emerged victorious in Arizona with a 30-23 win, one that dramatically reshaped the standings atop the NFC playoff race.

Thanks to the NFL’s tiebreakers, the Packers will come out atop that tie now and at any point in the future if any or all of these teams end up winning out the rest of the way, making that Cardinals loss essential to the Packers’ hopes for home-field advantage. That control of their own future is essential but will be put to the test on Sunday afternoon when the Packers visit the Baltimore Ravens.

Meanwhile, the NFC finally had its first team eliminated from the playoff hunt entirely after week 14, as the Detroit Lions finally fully dropped out of contention. Here’s a look at how the NFC looks heading into week 15.

Current Playoff Teams

  1. Green Bay Packers (10-3, NFC North leaders; next @ Ravens)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3, NFC South leaders, next vs. Saints)
  3. Arizona Cardinals (10-3, NFC West leaders, next @ Lions)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (9-4, NFC East leaders, next @ Giants)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4, Wild Card, next vs. Seahawks)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (7-6, Wild Card, next vs. Falcons)
  7. Washington Football Team (6-7, Wild Card, next @ Eagles)

With the Cardinals’ loss dropping them into the three-way tie with the Buccaneers and Packers, they end up at the bottom of that tiebreaker. The Packers’ superior conference record hands them the top spot for now, while the Buccaneers get the 2 seed thanks to a much deeper tiebreaker: strength of victory.

Meanwhile, Washington is the only other team needing a tiebreaker to define their seeding (and in this case, their spot in the postseason picture) thanks to a five-way tie. Division tiebreakers send this to a three-way tie with the Vikings and Falcons, which the Football Team comes out atop thanks to a better conference record.

In the Hunt

8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7, next @ Bears)
9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7, next vs. Washington)
10. Atlanta Falcons (6-7, next @ 49ers)
11. New Orleans Saints (6-7, next @ Buccaneers)
12. Carolina Panthers (5-8, next @ Bills)
13. Seattle Seahawks (5-8, next @ Rams)
14. New York Giants (4-9, next vs. Cowboys)
15. Chicago Bears (4-9, next vs. Vikings)

This morass of four other teams tied with Washington at 6-7 continues to be a blob of truly impressively mediocre squads. Any one of these teams could take control of the race for that 7th spot with a win and a handful of other teams’ losses this week,

Of course, the Washington vs. Philadelphia game will knock at least one of these teams out of that big tie, while the 49ers-Falcons game could add some more chaos to this bunching in the middle of Atlanta can earn a road victory. Look for the Giants and Bears to be effectively eliminated, even if they are not mathematically eliminated, should they lose this weekend.

Eliminated

16. Detroit Lions (1-11-1, next vs. Cardinals)

Detroit is finally officially out after still being theoretically alive last week. However, at least one of the 100-point plan required for them to find their way to the postseason fell short, most notably their own loss to the Broncos.