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NFC Playoff Picture: Will Cowboys survive to Week 17?

Monday night's laughable performance by the Cowboys' defense in Chicago was bad enough to provide some clarity, even for the biggest Dallas homers.

Owner Jerry Jones is going to be forced to make big changes in the offseason again, starting at defensive coordinator with Monte Kiffin. And it's going to be a minor miracle if a defense this bad makes the playoffs.

The Cowboys are lucky to be 7-6 considering all of their close wins are against poor teams. They now are fighting an uphill battle in the NFC East with three games to play. While they hold all of the tiebreakers over Philadelphia, it might not make a difference. Now trailing the Eagles by one game, the Cowboys probably don't have the luxury to slip up again in the next two weeks against Green Bay and Washington.

It's quite possible that the Week 17 Eagles-Cowboys game we've pointed to for so long might mean nothing. Philadelphia, currently on a five-game winning streak, could wrap things up before then.

Marc Sessler already did a great job looking at all the playoff picture takeaways in the AFC. Here are the other big takeaways in the NFC Playoff Picture after Week 14.

NFC North tightens up


The playoff picture
How would your team's prospects look if the season ended today? See where each team stands in the playoff picture midway through the season. More ...

Only one team is going to come out of the North. And Detroit has shown it's not ready to run away with this division. If Aaron Rodgers can somehow return to the Packers, the Lions will regret not building a bigger cushion.

Detroit's loss in Philadelphia, coupled with wins by Chicago and Green Bay, resulted in the three teams being half a game apart with three weeks to play. We could analyze which team has the "easiest path" left, but what's the point? The Lions, Bears and Packers all are capable of losing to any team remaining on their schedules. It's a division of slightly above-average teams. First one to nine wins probably keeps playing in January.

Reality hits Carolina


The Panthers have been a great story, but Sunday night's humbling loss was a reminder of how far they have to go. The division title is out of their hands. They could sweep their remaining three games, including a Week 16 contest against New Orleans, and it might not make a difference in the NFC South race.

The Saints will win the division if they just win in St. Louis this week and take care of Tampa Bay in New Orleans in Week 17. The Panthers could be staring at a wild-card berth, which means they'd need to win a road game before having to travel to New Orleans or Seattle. Rough.

49ers could remove drama from No. 6 seed


San Francisco's home win over Seattle could help ruin the drama in the race for the No. 6 NFC seed. Arizona only trails the 49ers by one game, but the Cardinals have to go to Seattle in Week 16. If the 49ers continue to win, the Cardinals will have to pull off a huge upset on the road against the Seahawks to stay alive in the playoff mix.

The 49ers and Cardinals face off in Week 17. The Cardinals have an uphill climb to make that a win-and-in scenario.

Looking ahead to Week 15


Chicago Bears at Cleveland Browns: If you are looking for an upset special, you could do a lot worse.

Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings: You know things are going Chip Kelly's way when he might avoid Adrian Peterson in December.

Seattle Seahawks at New York Giants: Seattle gets to test out the locker room at MetLife Stadium in hopes of a return visit.

San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The NFC wild-card race would be a lot more interesting if the Buccaneers pull off this one.

New York Jets at Carolina Panthers: Geno Smith vs. an angry Riverboat Ron sounds like a mismatch.

Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys: Fork-off?

Arizona Cardinals at Tennessee Titans: We've hit the "must-win" part of the season for the Cardinals.

Baltimore Ravens at Detroit Lions: The best game of the week is on Monday night.

The latest "Around The League Podcast" recapped all the Week 14 games.

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