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NFC Playoff Picture: Can the Cardinals hold on?

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When placed in capable hands, home-field advantage can represent checkmate in the NFL postseason.

In the Packers and Seahawks, we have two teams who will be virtually invincible in their building in late January. The last three weeks of the regular season will decide who gets the inside track to Glendale.

The 10-3 Packers should be seen as the favorites. They have a one-game lead on Seattle in the standings and have been playing better than any team in football over the past two months. They finish at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay and at home versus the Lions, a favorable schedule that sets up well for 13-3.

The Seahawks still have to handle the business of winning the NFC West. They close with three division matchups, including a monster Week 16 road trip to Arizona to face the division-leading Cardinals. Seattle will have to win out if it has any designs on claiming the top seed.

One final thing to keep an eye on: The Seahawks have the tiebreaker edge on the Packers by virtue of their head-to-head win way back in Week 1. The Packers have no breathing room.

Here's what else we learned about the NFC playoff race in Week 14:

So long to the Niners

The 49ers face-planted on Sunday, getting embarrassed by the 2-11 Raiders. It's a devastating setback for San Francisco's playoff hopes. The Niners are now 7-6, buried in third place in the NFC West with a road trip to Seattle on tap. Good luck in whatever comes next, Mr. Harbaugh.

Cowboys, Lions off to promising December starts

If you're the type of fan who loves a good, old-fashioned late-season collapse, the Cowboys and Lions must hold a warm place in your heart. Both teams are known to kick away playoff chances in the season's final month, but perhaps this is the year that changes. The Cowboys whooped up on the Bears in primetime, while the Lions dominated a bad Bucs team at home. Both teams sit at 9-4 and remain in good position.

NFC South keeps getting worse

The Saints laid an epic egg against the Panthers, mucking up a division that was a mess before kickoff on Sunday. With both the Saints and Falcons losing this week, it ensures the West winner won't have a winning record. Great job, guys. Watch out for the 4-8-1 Panthers, though Cam Newton's car accident clouds the picture in Charlotte.

Cardinals remain on top

The Cardinals are the No. 1 reason we lack any sense of clarity in the NFC. We believe the Lions, Cowboys and Eagles are all better than an injury-ravaged Arizona team led by Drew Stanton. But one of those teams will likely miss out on the playoffs because the Cards keep finding ways to win. Now 10-3 after a narrow victory over the Chiefs, Arizona remains atop the NFC. Bruce Arians deserves all the awards if they stay there.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 14 and discusses the Seahawks' return to Super Bowl form. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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