At the three-quarters point of the season, five teams are fighting for the last two playoff spots in the NFC. But that wasn’t the biggest development in the conference after Week 13. The top-seeded New Orleans Saints dropped a dud in Dallas and the 3-seeded Chicago Bears saw a comeback that never should have been needed fall just short to the New York Giants. The Saints loss was big for the Los Angles Rams, who were on the wrong-end of a tie-breaker. But can the suddenly hot Dallas Cowboys catch up to the Bears for a preferable Wild Card matchup?
Here’s where we stand after Week 13:
- Los Angeles Rams(z) (11-1)
- New Orleans Saints (10-2)
- Chicago Bears (8-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-5-1)
- Carolina Panthers (6-6) *holds head-to-head tiebreaker over Eagles
- Philadelphia Eagles (6-6) *holds head-to-head tiebreaker over Redskins
- Washington Redskins (6-6)
Some quick-hitters on the standings
- The Rams now control their own destiny. One game up on the Saints, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker, the Rams can win out and take the top overall seed heading into January.
- The Rams are playing to secure a first-round bye against the Bears on Sunday. Technically speaking, the magic number to secure the bye is 2 ( Rams wins or Bears losses, a win over the Bears obviously does one of each).
- The Cowboys are hot right now. They’ve won 4 straight games and now sit atop the NFC East. On the season, the Cowboys’ defense has given up no more than 28 points in a game. Can they catch the Bears for the third spot? It’s certainly feasible. They have an easier remaining schedule than the Bears, who have to play the Rams as well as exercising some demons against the Green Bay Packers.
- Of the Seahawks’ 5 losses, four have come against playoff teams. The lone exception was an opening week loss against the Denver Broncos. The combined record of the four unique teams that have beaten the Seahawks is 34-14. That aforementioned fight for the third seed is one to avoid this playoff matchup.
- The sky is falling for the Panthers and Redskins. 3 weeks ago, the Redskins were atop the NFC East. But since QB Alex Smith went down with a broken leg, the team has dropped 3 straight and now find themselves behind not only the surging Cowboys, but also the Eagles, who now own the tie-breaker between the two teams. As for the Panthers, they were once 6-2 and very quietly playing well behind the Saints in the NFC South. 4 straight losses, including games against the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Panthers are now a half-game back of the Vikings for the last playoff spot.
- Only the Saints can clinch a playoff spot this week. A win against the Buccaneers or a Carolina loss to the Cleveland Browns will lock up the NFC South.
- Monday Night Football has the Seahawks hosting the Vikings. A Seahawks win would give them a stranglehold on the WC1 spot. A Vikings win would keep both spots open to any of the fringe teams that win this week.