NFL playoff picture, Week 8: 49ers-Cardinals is only matchup of winning teams

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

We break down the current NFC playoff picture as the 49ers prepare for Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals

Once the 49ers play on Monday, they will officially sit halfway through their 2012 schedule. The playoffs are still a long way off, and hopefully the team is not doing a ton of scoreboard watching at this point. Of course, that does not mean we can't see what exactly is in play for the 49ers today. I'm going to create a story stream for the remainder of the season so we all can follow along how the playoff story develops.

For the 49ers purposes, all that really matters is winning. A divisional road win would be key in a division in which home teams have swept the games thus far. JH But not the Coach is taking a look at divisional tiebreakers in a weekly FanPost, due to the fact that things are fairly tight right now. However, a 49ers win would give them a key edge at the halfway point for the entire division.

Here is how the NFC playoff picture currently stands:

1. Atlanta Falcons: 6-0
2. Chicago Bears: 5-1
3. New York Giants: 5-2
4. San Francisco 49ers: 5-2
5. Minnesota Vikings: 5-3
6. Green Bay Packers: 4-3

Here is the NFC schedule for Week 8:

Buccaneers 36 - Vikings 17
Panthers (1-5) @ Bears (5-1)
Seahawks (4-3) @ Lions (2-4)
Jaguars @ Packers (4-3)
Patriots @ Rams (3-4) (London)
Falcons (6-0) @ Eagles (3-3)
Redskins (3-4) @ Steelers
Giants (5-2) @ Cowboys (3-3)
Saints (2-4) @ Broncos (3-3)
49ers (5-2) @ Cardinals (4-3)

In reality, all 16 NFC teams remain in the hunt, although the 1-5 Panthers face a must-win situation against the Chicago Bears. The 2-4 Detroit Lions are in a similar situation hosting the Seattle Seahawks.

For the 49ers, the Rams and Seahawks are both facing tough matchups. The Seahawks face an inconsistent but dangerous Lions squad, while the Rams are giving up a traditional home game to "host" the Patriots in London. The 49ers have to handle their business on Monday, but there are some opportunities to get some distance from the rest of the division.

So who to cheer for today? From a purely what will help the 49ers most angle, we want to see victories from the Panthers, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys and Broncos. The 49ers do hold the Panthers third round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, but Panther Watch might have to take a back seat to 2012 NFL playoff watch!

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