NFL Playoff Picture 2011: Eight Teams Vying For Six Playoffs Spots In NFC

The NFC playoff picture is starting to take shape after Week 12 and realistically there are only eight teams fighting for six playoff spots. Teams like the Packers and 49ers will definitely be in the playoffs but after that the race is a mystery with five games to play.

If the playoffs ended today, the seeds in the AFC would be: 1.) Packers 2.) 49ers 3.) Saints 4.) Cowboys 5.) Bears 6.) Falcons.

There's not as much competition for a playoff spot in the NFC as there is in the AFC. The Giants and Lions are really the only other teams in the NFC (other than the ones listed above) who have realistic playoff hopes. 

NFC East: Cowboys (7-4), Giants (6-4), Eagles (4-7), Redskins (4-7)

The NFC East is getting a lot more interesting with the Cowboys winning four straight games. I had the Giants as the leader in the clubhouse last week to win the division but I'm changing my tune. The Giants have a huge game against New Orleans on Monday Night Football and, if they lose that (as the odds say they will), they'll stand one game behind Dallas with five games to play. Another collapse on the horizon for New York? It's possible. The Eagles, meanwhile, lost to the Patriots effectively ending any playoff talk for them.

Prediction: Cowboys win the division, no wildcard.

***

NFC North: Packers (11-0), Lions (7-4), Bears (7-4), Vikings (2-9)

The Packers are obviously going to walk away with this division but it's what's happening with the Lions and Bears that will make this race interesting. Last week we predicted both Detroit and Chicago end up with wildcards but events in the last two weeks has us changing our minds. The Lions might be without Ndamukong Suh for a game or two (or more) thanks to his Thanksgiving Day stomp and the Bears are now starting Caleb Hanie with Jay Cutler out. Methinks Chicago can't get to 10 wins without Cutler which means they'll be watching the playoffs from home.

Prediction: Packers win the division, Lions get the wildcard.

***

NFC South: Saints (7-3), Falcons (7-4), Bucs (4-7), Panthers (3-8)

The NFC South is coming down to the Saints and Falcons. The Saints are the Saints -- they're one of the best teams in football and they should win the division. The Falcons, though, started the season inconsistently but have rebounded to win five of their last six. In our latest playoff picture, the Falcons have an edge over the Bears and we're predicting they pull out the wildcard. I see three more wins from Atlanta -- Panthers, Jaguars and Bucs -- and they might have to steal another one between the Texans and Saints.

Prediction: Saints win the division, Falcons get the wildcard.

***

NFC West: 49ers (9-2), Seahawks (4-7), Cardinals (4-7), Rams (2-9)

This is still the most obvious playoff picture in the league. The 49ers will win the division and no wildcards will come from the NFC West.

Prediction: 49ers win the division, no wildcard.

So if our predictions came to light, it would look like the current playoff picture above except Detroit in the playoffs instead of Chicago. 

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