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NFC Playoff Picture: Packers loss adds intrigue at No. 1

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The Bills have done gone and mucked the whole thing up.

The Packers went into Orchard Park on Sunday and -- to the surprise of many, including yours truly -- had their five-game winning streak halted. The loss put the first true blemish to Aaron Rodgers' otherwise sterling MVP resume and removed Green Bay from favorite status for home-field advantage in the NFC.

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The loss, combined with a Seahawks win over the 49ers, has turned the top of the conference playoff picture into a free-for-all.

Here's where we're at: If the Packers and Seahawks win out to both finish 12-4, Seattle will be the No. 1 seed and the Packers will be No. 2. But if the Cardinals beat the Seahawks on Sunday, it's Arizona in the top seed with Seattle falling all the way to the wild card.

As we wrote last week, home-field advantage might decide who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl. The Cardinals, Packers and Seahawks are a combined 20-1 in their own buildings. Home sweet home.

Here's what else we learned about the NFC playoff race in Week 15:

Cowboys alive and well

Dallas would have had a very hard time qualifying for the playoffs if it didn't find a way against the Eagles on Sunday night. But the Cowboys did, and it's put them in good position for their first postseason trip since 2008. DeMarco Murray's hand surgery adds another challenge here, but the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win over the Colts coupled with an Eagles loss or tie in Washington.

Lions remain in the hunt

The Lions entered this season riding a nine-game losing streak in December. They've bucked that trend with two wins this month and can claim the NFC North with a win over the dreadful Bears coupled with a Packers loss to the Buccaneers (yes, that second part is highly unlikely). One thing to watch out for: The Lions absolutely, positively cannot afford to slip up on Sunday. They have a road date at Lambeau to close the season.

I guess we should talk about the NFC South

The Saints moved to 6-8 and back into first place in the division with a win over the Bears on Monday night. New Orleans has been the NFC South favorite since Week 1, and they probably should still be seen that way now. A home win over the Falcons coupled with a Panthers loss to the Browns would give Sean Payton's team the division. But if the Falcons knock off the Saints at the Superdome -- not an impossible thought considering the Saints have lost four consecutive games there -- three teams could have a shot at the sullied crown in Week 17. This thing is far from over.

And now ... a moment of silence

For the 49ers, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention after a 17-7 loss to the Seahawks. This will be the first NFC playoff bracket without the 49ers involved since Mike Singletary was running the show in San Francisco.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast recaps every Sunday game from Week 15 and discusses all the playoff implications. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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