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NFC Playoff Picture, Week 14: Vikings slip in Detroit, Packers get no help over bye

The Cardinals got their QB and top WR back after the bye and held on to the NFC’s top spot with a win in Chicago.

Arizona Cardinals v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers sat idle on Sunday, hoping to see their NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears, give them some help in the race for the top playoff seed in the conference. Chicago was hosting the Arizona Cardinals, who currently occupy the top spot in the NFC, but the Bears were unable to get their offense going in a 33-22 loss.

That win moved the Cardinals to 10-2, keeping them a full game up on the Packers. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in a tight game against the Atlanta Falcons through two quarters, but Tampa pulled away in the second half for a 30-17 victory. The Buccaneers now match the Packers’ record at 9-3, though Green Bay still holds the tiebreaker at present to keep a grasp on the #2 seed.

Here’s a look at where the NFC playoff race now stands for week 14, with all teams in the conference having completed their games for week 13. Meanwhile, the AFC picture should change a bit with Monday’s Bills-Patriots game. The only changes in the NFC’s playoff seeds from last week came in the Wild Card spots, where Washington and San Francisco swapped places in the 6 and 7 slots. Otherwise, the top five remained the same, while there was a bit of movement among the teams below the cutoff.

Here is the current playoff slate if the season ended today:

Current Playoff Teams

  1. Arizona Cardinals (10-2, NFC West leaders; Week 14 vs. Rams)
  2. Green Bay Packers (9-3, NFC North leaders; vs. Bears)
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3, NFC South leaders; vs. Bills)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (8-4, NFC East leaders; @ Washington)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (8-4, Wild Card; @ Cardinals)
  6. Washington Football Team (6-6, Wild Card; vs. Cowboys)
  7. San Francisco 49ers (6-6, Wild Card, @ Bengals)

Currently, the Packers still hold the tiebreaker over the Buccaneers based on a superior conference record. The Packers are 7-2 in the NFC, while the Buccaneers are 6-3. That tiebreaker also gives Washington (5-2) the edge over San Francisco (5-5). Otherwise, this playoff slate is pretty straightforward.

In the Hunt

8. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7, bye week)
9. Minnesota Vikings (5-7, vs. Steelers)
10. Carolina Panthers (5-7, vs. Falcons)
11. Atlanta Falcons (5-7, @ Panthers)
12. New Orleans Saints (5-7, @ Jets)
13. New York Giants (4-8, @ Chargers)
14. Chicago Bears (4-8, @ Packers)
15. Seattle Seahawks (4-8, @ Texans)
16. Detroit Lions (1-10-1, @ Broncos)

There is a massive logjam in the NFC at 5-7, but Minnesota has the top spot among the glut of teams with that record.

Yes, technically the Lions are still alive for a playoff spot. There is only one team eliminated from playoff contention in the entire NFL so far: the Houston Texans at 2-10. But in the NFC, there is still a path to the postseason for a 6-10-1 Lions squad.

One of the more notable week 13 games that affected the jockeying for Wild Card positioning was the Lions’ victory over the Vikings. Detroit earned its first win of the season, but Minnesota missed out on a chance to get into the 7 seed. A win would have given the Vikings a 6-6 record overall and a 5-3 record in the conference, handing them the tiebreaker over the 49ers. However, at 5-7 and 4-4 in the NFC, Minnesota has to settle for the tiebreaker over Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Carolina is next up, thanks to head-to-head victories over each of those two other NFC South teams. However, they play the Falcons this week and the Saints in week 17.

For the Packers, however, the Vikings’ loss means that Green Bay could clinch the NFC North as soon as next Sunday. Green Bay’s magic number is now down to two, so a Vikings loss and a Packers victory in week 14 would deliver the Packers their third straight division title.

Finally, the tie between the Giants, Bears, and Seahawks comes down to conference record. New York’s 3-5 record is a half-game better than the Bears’ 2-5, which is a half-game better than the Seahawks at 2-6.