NFL playoff picture 2013: 49ers face huge matchup vs. Washington

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers face a huge game on Monday Night Football, as the NFC wildcard race is tightening up. We break down the NFL playoff picture leading up to the game. We've got a breakdown following the 49ers brutal loss to the Saints. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

The San Francisco 49ers head into Monday Night Football facing a pretty huge game. The 49ers are scuffling on offense, while Washington is struggling to figure out a little bit of everything. While "must-win" might not be the proper phrase for tonight's game, they better figure out a way to win this. Several teams around the 49ers lost, but with the Arizona Cardinals destroying the Indianapolis Colts, the battle for the second wildcard spot is incredibly tight.

Here is a rundown of the NFC playoff race heading into Monday Night Football:

No. 1 Seattle Seahawks 10-1 (NFC West leader)
No. 2 New Orleans Saints 9-2 (NFC South leader)
No. 3 Detroit Lions 6-5 (NFC North leader)
No. 4 Dallas Cowboys 6-5 (NFC East leader)
No. 5 Carolina Panthers 8-3 (Wild Card)
No. 6 Arizona Cardinals 7-4 (Wild Card)

On the outside looking in
1. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
2. Chicago Bears (6-5)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (6-5)
4. Green Bay Packers (5-5-1)
5. St. Louis Rams (5-6)
6. New York Giants (4-7)

Draft pick watch
1. Washington (3-7)
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-8)
3. Minnesota Vikings (2-8-1)
4. Atlanta Falcons (2-9)

The Cardinals win over the Colts gives them a half-game lead on the 49ers. If the 49ers win, they currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker on Arizona. The two teams square off in Week 17 in Glendale, Arizona. Could it be "a thing" come Week 17? Here's how their schedules play out:

SF AZ
Week 13 vs. STL @ PHI
Week 14 vs. SEA vs. STL
Week 15 @ TB @ TEN
Week 16 vs. ATL @ SEA
Week 17 @ AZ vs. SF

Given their recent struggles, the 49ers cannot afford to look past Washington. And given how Arizona is playing right now, the 49ers are going to need every win they can get. Every one of those 49ers games is winnable, but the 49ers need to get it together for these games to count.

Week 13 schedule

Rams @ 49ers - Yea, this has suddenly become kind of a big deal. The Rams are still separated from the last wildcard spot by four different teams. However, the Rams get what could be their last big opportunity to thrust themselves fully into the wildcard race. They are 5-6, two games back of the Cardinals, and a game and a half back of the 49ers. If the 49ers can handle their business next week, it would all but eliminate the Rams from postseason consideration.

Packers @ Lions - All three Thanksgiving games have playoff implications, and two will impact the NFC. Thanks to their tie, the Packers are a half game back of the Lions. The Packers are hoping Aaron Rodgers can play on Thursday, but I wouldn't hold my breath. My guess is they have to wait another week, and if that's the case, they could quickly find themselves a full game and a half back of the Lions. Getting Rodgers back even in Week 14 keeps them firmly in the playoff race, but it will be an uphill battle.

Raiders @ Cowboys - Who would have thought both these teams would be in the playoff chase at this point? The Raiders are 4-7, but they're only a game back in the AFC wildcard race. The Cowboys are 6-5 and hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles thanks to a win at Philly. This is going to be a big one.

Cardinals @ Eagles - Two of the hotter teams in the league square off on Sunday. The Cardinals have won four straight, while the Eagles have won three straight. The Eagles are tied for first in the NFC East, and a game back of Arizona in the wild card race. The NFC East is still amusing to watch, but it's quietly removing itself from joke status. Neither team is out of the race with a loss, but a win would be huge for both teams.

Bears @ Vikings - Normally the Bears would be an easy favorite, but they are likely looking at another week without Jay Cutler. They can do some things with Josh McCown, but this game strikes me as a toss-up. Christian Ponder will likely do Christian Ponder things to cost them, but with Adrian Peterson, they're in this one.

Buccaneers @ Panthers - The Panthers pulled out another win, and have now won seven straight. The Bucs are still not a good team, but they have suddenly won three straight. Maybe they can spring the upset? I'm not holding my breath, but we'll see.

Saints @ Seahawks - The Seahawks find themselves without Walter Thurmond, and with Brandon Browner also on the shelf, the Seahawks could be in trouble against the high-flying Saints passing attack. The winner of this game will be in the driver's seat for home field advantage. The 49ers and Cardinals are both still mathematically in the NFC West race, but at this point, this game is about home field come January.

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