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NFC playoff picture: Dallas Cowboys still in control

The AFC playoff picture calcified Sunday. The NFC playoff picture remains a glorious mess.

With one week left, at least the stakes are clear. The Seattle Seahawks were the fourth team to clinch a playoff spot after their 42-13 win Sunday night over the NFC West-leading San Francisco 49ers. The Atlanta Falcons have the No. 1 seed locked up, and the Green Bay Packers are the NFC North champions.

Two spots remain, with five teams alive. Let's dive into what we know, starting at the top.

The Packers are in the driver's seat for a bye

The 49ers' loss at Seattle was a killer. They now have to win in Week 17 against the Arizona Cardinals just to lock up the NFC West. That shouldn't be a problem, but San Francisco will be the No. 3 seed unless it gets help from the Minnesota Vikings next week.

Green Bay would clinch the No. 2 seed and a bye with a win in Minnesota in Week 17. Three weeks ago, I pegged this as an easy game for the Packers. After watching Minnesota convincingly take out Chicago, St. Louis and Houston in succession, it would be foolish to give the Vikings no chance.

Minnesota is in with a win



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Adrian Peterson is banged up and needs 208 yards to beat Eric Dickerson's record. He might have to settle for just going after a playoff spot next week against the Packers. The Vikings are the No. 6 seed. They would be in with a win.

The Vikings conceivably could get in even if they lose. For that to happen, they would need the Giants, Cowboys and Bears all to lose. Not likely. We never imagined the Vikings being in this position. We also never imagined Peterson threatening 2,000 rushing yards after tearing his ACL either.

Chicago is in a nice spot

The Bears would be in with a win over the Detroit Lions and a loss by the Vikings. We're probably past the point where the Lions are truly dangerous, even if they seem dangerous. Detroit has lost seven consecutive games. This is a game the Bears should win, but they are 2-5 in their last seven games. They never should have fallen this far.

The Giants are just about done

Their season isn't over after Sunday's embarrassment ... but it's close. New York can't win the NFC East. To get the wild card, the Giants need to win and hope the Cowboys, Vikings and Bears all lose. At least Tom Coughlin's group went out fighting. Oh, wait ...

It's all about Sunday night

I saved the best for last, but you already knew this part. Washington Redskins. Dallas Cowboys. NFC East title on the line next Sunday night. The Cowboys, after a relatively inconsequential loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, are out of the mix if they lose. The Redskins only could get in as a wild-card team if the Bears and Vikings both lose earlier in the day.

My wife's reaction when she heard about this: "Oh no, Tony Romo is going to blow it in the last week again?"

That's what everyone expects. But Romo is playing very well overall lately, the Redskins have hardly been blowing teams out, and ... I can't wait.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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