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NFC Playoff Picture: Week 14

With four games left in the season, which teams are in the running for the NFC playoffs?

Kansas City Chiefs v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

After an exciting weekend of NFL action, Week 13 is finally in the books. We’re starting to get a clearer picture of the playoff race in the NFC, with several teams pulling away and others scuffling.

Let’s take a look at the standings after Week 13’s games.

NFC Playoff Standings

  1. Dallas Cowboys (11-1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
  3. Detroit Lions (8-4)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
  5. New York Giants (8-4)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)

Dallas has officially clinched a playoff berth after their Thursday Night victory, making them the first team to do so this season. They’re running away with the #1 seed, and barring some crazy turnaround, they will clinch it within the next two weeks.

Seattle absolutely toasted the Carolina Panthers on Sunday Night, reasserting their hold on the #2 seed. Unfortunately, the Seahawks lost star FS Earl Thomas for the season during the game. They still control their destiny, but have little room for error if they want to keep the first round bye.

Detroit has been playing surprisingly inspired football as of late. They’re fresh off a dismantling of the hated New Orleans Saints in the Superdome (thanks Lions!). The Lions have a 2-game lead on the rest of the division and have swept the Vikings. If Green Bay continues to surge, however, their Week 17 game could decide the division.

Atlanta just lost a lousy, mistake-ridden game to the Kansas City Chiefs. As demoralizing as that was, the rest of the Falcons schedule is very favorable, as they don’t face a winning team the rest of the way. They are currently tied with the Bucs for the division lead, but Atlanta holds the tiebreaker due to division record.

New York got rocked on the road in Pittsburgh, but are still in firm control of the first wild card slot. There isn’t a ton of room for error, especially with games against the Cowboys and Washington coming up. But, as of now, the Giants are in good position to reach the playoffs as the top wild card.

Tampa Bay is on a 4-game winning streak, having dismantled the Seahawks and Chargers in back-to-back weeks. They’ve entered into a tie with the Falcons for the division lead. Tampa plays a very difficult schedule, including two games against the Saints and a primetime matchup against Dallas. The good news is, if Atlanta and Tampa win out, they’ll both make the playoffs.

In the Hunt

  1. Washington Redskins (6-5-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
  3. Green Bay Packers (6-6)

Washington is a difficult team to get a read on. They’ve looked dominant on offense at times, but at others been very lukewarm. Washington has struggled against some average teams, and although their schedule is somewhat favorable, that tie will continue to hurt them. They’re still just one game back on the last Wild Card, however.

Minnesota has rebounded somewhat as of late, and looked competitive in a close game against Dallas (that was ultimately lost on special teams). Still, they have fatal flaws that prevent them from being a legitimate contender. Their offensive line is the worst in the league, and it’s holding their offense hostage. The Vikings aren’t out of it yet, but they’ll need a dramatic turnaround on offense to reach the playoffs.

Green Bay is also clinging to life, having rebounded from a mid-season skid. Aaron Rodgers looks like his old self again, and the offense is as explosive as ever. Still, they’re in a tough spot, particularly with a trip to Seattle this week. That game will likely decide their postseason hopes, and even with a W, they’ll probably have to win out to have a chance.

There you have it, the playoff picture going into Week 14. It’s still a close race, particularly for the NFC South crown and the final Wild Card spot. Luckily, the Falcons are in great position, and simply have to take care of business the final four weeks.

Luckily for them, none of the remaining teams on the schedule are all that dangerous. Los Angeles and San Francisco are both dumpster fires, and Carolina just lost 40-7 in Seattle. The most difficult game left on the schedule is probably the Saints, but the Falcons already beat them in New Orleans.

In short, Atlanta is still in a good spot despite Sunday’s loss. If the playoffs were to start today, Atlanta would play the New York Giants (in Atlanta). I think I’d like the Falcons chances in that game.

What are your thoughts on the playoff race? Do you see any teams making a surprise comeback, or falling off?