It was a wild day around the NFL on Sunday of week 18, but the NFC playoff field is finally set. It took overtime between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams to get there, but the seven-team field is set after 49ers cornerback Ambry Thomas intercepted Matthew Stafford in the extra period to clinch the victory for San Francisco.
With their win, the 49ers locked in a playoff spot, coming back from a 17-0 deficit in the first half to win their sixth straight game over their division rivals. Their prize is a Wild Card date that hearkens back to the 1990s, as they will play the Dallas Cowboys next weekend. San Francisco needed the victory, too, as the New Orleans Saints won to force the 49ers to win to get in.
Earlier in the day, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Detroit Lions in a game that saw Matt LaFleur pull most of his starters at halftime. But the Packers had locked up the NFC North weeks ago and the #1 seed last week, so there was nothing on the line in that game.
The Rams’ loss to the 49ers could have cost them the NFC West, but they were helped out by an upset in the other game in that division on Sunday. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals 38-30. giving the Rams the division title and a home game next weekend. Unfortunately for LA, by losing on Sunday they gave up the #2 seed to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who soundly defeated the Carolina Panthers in the late afternoon. In fact, the Rams dropped all the way down to the 4th seed, giving them a divisional rematch against the aforementioned Cardinals; the two teams split their season series in the regular season, with the road team winning both matchups.
Meanwhile, the other two teams in the postseason picture in the NFC played on Saturday night, with the Cowboys defeating the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly had locked in a spot last week, however, and benched most of their starters in that game.
With all of that action in the books, the final playoff matchups in the NFC are as follows:
- #1 Green Bay Packers (13-4): bye
- #7 Philadelphia Eagles (9-8) at #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (13-4)
- #6 San Francisco 49ers (10-7) at #3 Dallas Cowboys (12-5)
- #5 Arizona Cardinals (11-6) at #4 Los Angeles Rams (12-5)
In addition to the Rams-Cardinals game, the 2-7 matchup is also a repeat of a game from earlier this season, though the Bucs’ regular season game with the Eagles took place in Philadelphia. Tampa Bay won that game 28-22 back in week 6.
For the Packers, this means that they will play either the Rams in the Divisional Round (if all the home teams win) or the worst-seeded Wild Card winner from next weekend’s games.
In the AFC, the Tennessee Titans clinched the top seed and a bye. Sunday Night Football’s game between the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders will decide the Wild Card teams and seeding however, so keep an eye on that game tonight. Also be sure to stay tuned for the full schedule of Wild Card games, likely to be announced sometime during Sunday Night Football this evening.
Please note: this article originally and mistakenly had the Rams and Cowboys flipped as the 3rd and 4th seeds. The matchups and descriptions have been updated to reflect the correct seeding.