NFL playoff picture: Atlanta Falcons and then everybody else in the NFC

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

We break down the NFC playoff picture heading into Monday Night Football, focusing on the undefeated Falcons and the Chicago Bears.

Although there is still one slightly important football game still to be played in Week 8, the NFC playoff picture continues to evolve. Well, evolve is not an entirely accurate term. The five teams that played already remain in place. A 49ers win means they would stay in the fourth spot. A loss would technically drop them down to the sixth seed behind Minnesota and ahead of Green Bay.

Here is how the NFC playoff picture currently stands heading into Monday Night Football:

1. Atlanta Falcons: 7-0
2. Chicago Bears: 6-1
3. New York Giants: 6-2
4. San Francisco 49ers: 5-2
5. Minnesota Vikings: 5-3
6. Green Bay Packers: 5-3

The big thing to come out of the Sunday games has to be the Atlanta Falcons going into Philadelphia and having their way with the Eagles. Philadelphia has plenty of question marks, but this game is among the best for the Falcons thus far this season. I'd say the road domination of San Diego and the home win over Denver are up there as well, although both teams have evolved a fair amount since those games.

As it currently stands, the Falcons are making their case as being the team to beat in the NFL. The Bears are right behind them in the NFC standings, but the Bears remain a bit of a conundrum. They've got the strong defense, but that offense is all over the place. They pulled out their win over the Panthers on Sunday, but it was not a pretty one, and really that was a game Carolina should have won.

The NFC West has a chance to either tighten up or develop some separation. My favorite game of the day was probably seeing the Seahawks blow their chance at a huge road win against the Detroit Lions.

1. San Francisco 49ers: 5-2
2. Arizona Cardinals: 4-3
3. Seattle Seahawks: 4-4
4. St. Louis Rams: 3-5

The Seahawks remain in the thick of things, sitting one game out of the wild card, but they blew a big opportunity. They have two very winnable home games against the Vikings and Jets over the next two weeks. They will need to sweep the set to hang in this race.

But as always, the most important thing is tonight's game. None of this matters much if the 49ers don't handle their business. Every 49ers win moves them a small step closer to the first of many prizes we'd like to see the team accrue this year. Time to make a road statement against their division rivals.

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