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Vikings in control of NFC playoff picture, for this week anyway

Week 13 games shook up the NFC postseason standings. Expect more of the same the rest of the season.

Minnesota Vikings v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The playoff field in the NFC looked pretty different 24 hours ago. Now that Week 13 is over — in the NFC, at least — we’ve got a new No. 1 seed, the Seahawks are back from the grave, and the Bucs aren’t the only team with a case of FOMO in the NFC South.

Here’s everything you need to know about the changes to the NFC’s playoff picture this week.

What did the NFC playoff picture look like before Sunday?

Here’s a quick refresher on how the postseason was shaping up heading into Week 13. The Eagles were riding an eight-game win streak, and we had three-quarters of the NFC South penciled in for postseason action.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Los Angeles Rams
  4. New Orleans Saints
  5. Carolina Panthers
  6. Atlanta Falcons

But then three games shifted things: The Eagles lost to the Seahawks, the Falcons fell to the Vikings, and the Saints knocked off the Panthers.

OK, so where do things stand now?

If the season ended today, here are the six teams that would get in:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
  2. Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
  3. Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
  4. New Orleans Saints (9-3)
  5. Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
  6. Carolina Panthers (8-4)

There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s get to it.

Wait, why did the Vikings jump the Eagles?

It comes down to a complicated tiebreaker scenario. Here’s how deep you have to go down the tiebreaker rabbit hole to get there:

1. The priority tiebreaker is always head to head, but it doesn’t work in this case. The Eagles and Vikings don’t face each other this season.

2. Next, the league would look at each team’s record in the conference. They’re both 8-1 in the NFC, so that doesn’t help.

3. The next tiebreaker is each team’s win-loss record against a minimum of four common opponents. This one doesn’t apply yet, because the only common opponents right now for the Vikings and Eagles are the Bears and Washington. But after next week, they’ll have four common opponents and can go to this tiebreaker if they need it.

4. So right now it comes down to strength of the opponents each team has beaten. This is where the Vikings have the edge. The win percentage of the teams the Eagles have won against is .375. For the Vikings, it’s .466. Advantage: Vikings. For now, at least.

Have any teams clinched a spot yet?

No. The Eagles had a chance to this week, if they beat the Seahawks or if the Cowboys lost to Washington. Alas, 0-for-2; try again next week.

Which teams are still alive in the NFC?

Three teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Bears, 49ers, and Giants are all guaranteed to be watching the postseason from home this year.

But the rest of the teams in the NFC still could make the playoffs. The chances are getting pretty slim, according to PlayoffStatus.com.

Which games matter most in Week 14?

We’re glad you asked.

Saints vs. Falcons
Thursday, 8:25 p.m. ET

If the Falcons win: They could slip back into a tentative wild card spot, depending on what the Seahawks and Panthers do this week.

If the Saints win: They inch closer to a division crown, and Atlanta’s chances for postseason play will be fading quickly.

Vikings vs. Panthers
Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

If the Vikings win: They should hold on to the No. 1 seed for another week.

If the Panthers win: They’d keep themselves penciled into a wild card spot and stay in position to maybe steal the division from New Orleans. It’s not going to come easily against the Vikings, who have the second-ranked scoring defense in the league and haven’t lost a game since Week 4.

Seahawks vs. Jaguars
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

If the Seahawks win: A win could put the Seahawks in a position to challenge the Rams for the division title. But the Jaguars are a nightmare matchup for a Seattle offensive line that has been a liability all season.

If the Jaguars win: They’d remain in at least a tie atop the AFC South — but that’s in the other conference. You wanna know about the NFC race, right? So if the Seahawks lose, they’d need to keep an eye on what the Falcons are able to do against the Saints. Seattle could be right back on the outside looking in.

Eagles vs. Rams
Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET

If the Eagles win: They may be able to jump back into the No. 1 spot with a win in Los Angeles and a Vikings loss. They’ll also pad those strength of wins stats a bit with a victory against the 9-3 Rams.

If the Rams win: Then Seattle has a chance to even things up at the top of the NFC West. The Rams could lose their grip on the division.

Is it all coming down to the final week of the season?

Probably — and that kind of drama is what makes it so fun.


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