NFC playoff picture: 49ers clinch a playoff berth

Stephen Dunn

The NFC playoff picture continues to take shape and gained a little more clarity following Monday Night Football.

The San Francisco 49ers punched their ticket to the postseason. The Niners officially locked up at least a NFC wild card berth with their dramatic win over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night.

At 11-4, San Francisco still has an outside shot to catch Seattle in the NFC West. The 49ers need to beat Arizona next week and have St. Louis upset Seattle on the road. If both things happen, the 49ers would take the NFC West and clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage. Seattle would drop to the No. 5 seed.

Arizona remains on the outside of the playoff picture. With San Francisco clinching a spot, the Cardinals need to beat the 49ers next week and have Tampa Bay beat New Orleans. If that occurs, Arizona would jump the Saints and New Orleans would miss the playoffs. If the Saints win or Arizona loses, the Cardinals will be eliminated. New Orleans would clinch a playoff spot with a win and could still win the NFC South if Carolina loses to Atlanta.

The race for the NFC North and NFC East are much simpler. The Packers and Bears face off in a win-or-go home battle for the NFC North while the winner of Eagles-Cowboys will take the NFC East. The losers of those two games will miss the playoffs.

Since the Eagles have beaten both the Packers and the Bears this season, Philadelphia would be the No. 3 seed with a win. If the Cowboys win, they would need the Packers to win the NFC North to win to get the No. 3 seed. The Bears would get the No. 3 if the Cowboys win and Chicago defeats Green Bay.

Here is the NFC playoff picture as it currently stands:

X = clinched playoff spot, Y= clinched division

No. 1 - (X) Seattle Seahawks (12-3)
No. 2 - (X) Carolina Panthers (11-4)
No. 3 - Philadelphia Eagles (9-6)
No. 4 - Chicago Bears (8-7)
No. 5 - (X) San Francisco 49ers (11-4)
No. 6 - New Orleans Saints (10-5)

In the hunt: Arizona Cardinals (10-5), Dallas Cowboys (8-7), Green Bay Packers (7-7-1)

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