NFC playoff picture: Seahawks fighting to hold onto conference lead

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks currently hold a tenuous lead on the NFC but face an easier task on Sunday than the teams chasing them in the standings.

With the season just past the halfway point in 2013, the playoff picture in both conferences is starting to come into focus. Sunday features a number of big games with postseason implications; here is a closer look at the bigger matchups of the day.

Seattle Seahawks (8-1) vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-6), 1 p.m. ET

The Seahawks currently hold on to the top seed in the NFC with a 8-1 record, feasting on the second-easiest schedule in the conference so far in the season. The Falcons have struggled to pick up wins this season and are almost certainly completely out of postseason contention with a loss this week and have been blown out in each of the past two weeks.

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Detroit Lions (5-3) vs. Chicago Bears (5-3), 1 p.m ET

The Bears and Lions are fighting for both the NFC North lead as well as the final spot in the NFC playoff race, in one of the bigger games of the week when it comes to postseason implications. The Lions won in a shootout back on Sept. 29 against the Bears, 40-32, and look to build off a stunning last-second victory in Dallas last week.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-5) vs. Green Bay Packers (5-3), 1 p.m. ET

The Packers currently lose out in the tiebreaker to both Chicago and Detroit in the battle for the top spot in the NFC North and right now sit on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture. A win on Sunday over the Eagles, who somehow are still in the race for the NFC East title, will go a long way with at least one of the Lions or the Bears having to lose on Sunday (unless it's a tie).

Carolina Panthers (5-3) vs. San Francisco 49ers (6-2), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Panthers have now won four straight games to boost their way into the final wild card spot in the NFC, but their hold on a postseason berth is tenuous at best. The Packers and Bears are close behind and a loss on Sunday could push them out of the picture, at least for this week. The 49ers have a firm hold on the other wild card spot and have a strong shot at catching the Seahawks for the division lead with a win Sunday.

Houston Texans (2-6) vs. Arizona Cardinals (4-4), 4:05 p.m. ET

The Cardinals are a long shot for the postseason, fighting with multiple other teams with better records for a wild card position, yet could feast on a struggling Texans team to boost their chances on Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys (5-4) vs. New Orleans Saints (6-2), 8:30 p.m. ET

Thanks to the weakness of the NFC East, the Cowboys have held onto the top spot in the NFC East despite an up and down season, and now face their toughest test of the year against the Saints. New Orleans, meanwhile, is facing stiffening competition in the division from the young Panthers team in the NFC South and needs the win on Sunday to maintain their one game lead.

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