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NFC Playoff Picture: Saturday could decide NFC East

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This holiday season, the National Football Conference has given us the gift of clarity.

REDSKINS AT EAGLES

The NFC's once-jumbled Playoff Picture is largely intact heading into the final two weeks of the season, but room remains for a surprise or two down the stretch. 

You can check out the official playoff picture and upcoming schedule right here. As for the NFC, let's break down all the action below:

Nobody wants to play the Seahawks


Currently notched as the NFC's fifth seed, the white-hot Seahawks (9-5) have emerged as a club that could detonate the apple cart come playoff time.

Winners of five in a row, Seattle faces the Rams and Cardinals over the final two weeks of the campaign. If they roll into January with their No. 5 slot intact, Russell Wilson and friends would hit the road to face the winner of the ungodly NFC East in the wild-card round.

That's not a playoff bye, but it's as close as it gets in the NFC. The likely upshot is that either the Panthers or Cardinals would be dealt a divisional-round tilt against a Seattle club with more recent playoff experience than any team in the league west of New England.

Nobody wants to deal with the 'Hawks come January. Wilson is playing out of his mind for an offense that piled up 182 yards on the ground Sunday -- their third highest output all year -- without Marshawn Lynch or Thomas Rawls. Through the air, Wilson has produced five straight games with three-plus passing scores and no picks, the longest such streak in NFL history.

Seattle's offense is dropping bombs, while the Legion of Boom's 17.7 points allowed per tilt are just a fingernail more than what the 'Hawks gave up at this time last year. Seattle has the power to create a series of megaton headaches in the NFC, especially if they keep that fifth seed as their own.

Saturday could decide NFC East


The Redskins (7-7) played their best game of the year on Sunday, while the Eagles (6-8) were dismantled by the far-superior Cardinals on national television.

For their next trick, both teams will face each other in a Week 16 showdown on Saturday night (shown exclusively on NFL Network) that could decide this ridiculous division once and for all.

Washington can win the East with a win in Philly, but a loss would notch both teams at 7-8 and leave the final chapter of the story for the regular-season finale. If the 'Skins slip on Saturday, Washington would go on to face the flailing Cowboys in Week 17. The Eagles, meanwhile, would win the division with victories over the Redskins and the unpredictable Giants (6-8), who still possess an outside shot at the crown.

We're prone to writing off this junky division, but that's not exactly fair, not after New York nearly knocked off Carolina on Sunday. And not after Washington ripped through the Bills with a fantastic effort by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Even Chip Kelly's Eagles harbor their occasional moments of inspiration, but it's going to take a special game plan and effort for one of these clubs to steal a playoff win.

North far from settled


They clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, but the Packers (10-4) are a shadow of the team that came within seconds of last year's Super Bowl. Still, they currently rank as the NFC's third seed and control their playoff fortunes with games left against the Cardinals (12-2) and Vikings (9-5).

Green Bay can clinch the North in Week 16 with a win over the Cardinals along with a Vikings loss or tie against the Giants. Minnesota, though, can win the division by taking down Big Blue and beating the Packers at Lambeau in Week 17. If both teams take care of business on Sunday, these two rivals will play for the North in the regular season finale before potentially facing each other again -- as they did in 2012 -- in the wild-card round.

There's even a chance for Green Bay to steal away the No. 2 seed from the Cardinals, but that would require them winning out and Arizona completely collapsing down the stretch with a loss to the Pack on Sunday and Seattle in Week 17.

Can Minnesota miss the playoffs? Yes, if the Vikings and Seahawks lose out while the Falcons (7-7) win their final two, leaving all three teams notched at 9-7. In that scenario, Atlanta would earn the nod in a three-way tiebreaker over Minnesota.

The drama in the North is far from a wrap.

Can Cardinals steal the show?


Arizona (12-2) has been a dominant beast at home and still has a shot at the No. 1 seed.

The Cardinals would earn home-field advantage if they won out against the Packers and Seahawks with Carolina tumbling to the Falcons and Bucs. This feels highly unlikely with MVP-candidate Cam Newton and his Panthers playing at such an incredibly high level.

Even if the Cardinals lose out, they can still keep the No. 2 seed if the Packers fell to Minnesota in Week 17. Thankfully, Sunday is bound to clear plenty of this up.

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