NFL playoff picture: 49ers lose, Seahawks gain ground

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE

We break down the NFC playoff picture following the close of Week 13.

The NFL playoff picture has gained some clarity with teams clinching playoff spots, but it has also grown a bit more fuzzy with some big wins and losses. In the NFC, the Atlanta Falcons clinched the NFC South and are getting closer to securing home field throughout the NFC side of the playoffs. They sit at 11-1, 2 1/2 games up on the 49ers and three games up on the Packers and Bears with four games remaining.

The 49ers stubbed their toe in a big way this past Sunday as they blew a big opportunity with their 16-13 overtime loss to the Rams. With the Seahawks upsetting the Bears, the 49ers now find themselves 1 1/2 games up on Seattle. That keeps them in control of the division, but when you compare the 49ers and Seahawks schedules, things are not so simple:

49ers
vs. Miami
@ New England
@ Seattle
vs. Arizona

Seahawks
vs. Arizona
@ Buffalo
vs. San Francisco
vs. St. Louis

The 49ers did get a bit of help from the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football. The Redskins knocked off the Giants, which dropped New York to 7-5. Furthermore, it opens the door in the NFC East for a riveting battle down the stretch. The Redskins and Cowboys now both sit at 6-6, one game back of the Giants. With four games remaining, there are all sorts of interesting permutations for how this could go down. And with the Redskins and Cowboys facing off in Week 17, it could get really interesting.

Here is the NFC playoff picture following Week 13:

1. Atlanta Falcons (11-1)
2. San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1)
3. Green Bay Packers (8-4)
4. Chicago Bears (8-4)
5. New York Giants (7-5)
6. Seattle Seahawks (7-5)

Bubble
Washington Redskins (6-6)
Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-6)
St. Louis Rams (5-6-1)
New Orleans Saints (5-7)

I've added the Rams back into the mix since last week because of their big win. They have a lot of work still left to do with four teams between them and the Seahawks, but things can happen. The NFC wild card picture is quite the mess with four weeks to go, which will make this final stretch all the more fun.

Week 17 doesn't feature a ton of matchups that are compelling on their face. Upsets do happen so I wouldn't expect a week of favorites dominating, but we'll have to wait and see what the week brings us. The biggest all-NFC matchup would have to be the 8-4 Bears traveling to face the 6-6 Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are hanging around the outside, while the Bears are in a must-win situation now that they're tied with the Packers.

For the 49ers, they will be playing at the same time as the Seahawks are hosting the Cardinals. Needless to say, we're rooting for Arizona in this one. The Rams play earlier in the day, when they travel to face the Buffalo Bills. The Rams are still alive in the playoff race, but they are in must-win mode just about every single week. And not 49ers must-win mode, but actual, mathematical must-win mode.

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