Week 12 included no fewer than five games between NFC contenders: Giants-Packers, 49ers-Saints, Vikings-Bears, Buccaneers-Falcons and Redskins-Cowboys. While the results reminded us of last season's playoffs, we're more interested in what it told us about this year's NFC playoff picture. Marc Sessler broke down the AFC playoff race.
Six seed leaders have problems
Let's assume for a minute that the Bears and Packers both make the playoffs. Their talent and respective records make that very likely. That creates a battle royale for the final playoff spot other than the four division winners. And all of the leading candidates -- and they all lost this week -- have serious problems.
Giants can wrap up the NFC East this week
The Giants have a two-game lead in the NFC East with five to play. A win at the Redskins on Sunday would essentially knock the Redskins out of division contention. Dallas would be two back with four to play -- at best. Realistically, this race is over if the Giants can get the road win against Robert Griffin III. The race will go on if the Redskins win. It won't be easy, but that's a nice scenario for New York considering it's only Week 13.
Hope for a seven-loss wild card team
For most of this season, it's looked like you would need at least 10 wins to make the NFC playoffs as a wild card. That may very well still be the case, but all of the issues of the five-loss teams above makes it far more likely a 9-7 sneaks in. That's why the Saints, Cowboys and Redskins remain very much alive. And why the Detroit Lions have to be sick to their collective stomachs.
Niners in great position for a bye
We have a lot of big games left, but it's fair to say that the Falcons and San Francisco 49ers are now heavy favorites for byes. Sure, the Bears only have three losses. But they have serious offensive line problems, major injuries and the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers left on their schedule. The 49ers win in New Orleans was massive. The 49ers have practically clinched the NFC West and will be tough to dislodge for a bye. The No. 1 seed could still be in play.
Saints @ Falcons: The Falcons could really damage their rivals with a win on NFL Network's "Thursday Night Football."
Seahawks @ Bears: The Seahawks fall back to .500 unless they get their first tough road-win of the year.
Vikings @ Packers: The five-loss teams will all be road underdogs this week. This Wild Card race will take a while to shake out.
Buccaneers @ Broncos: The Buccaneers are going to have to win a road game or two you don't expect to make the playoffs. Here's their chance.
Giants @ Redskins: A sweet way to end the week.