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NFL playoffs 2013: How about them Panthers?

The Carolina Panthers took a step up in the NFC playoff picture following a wild finish against the Patriots. We break it down. New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Streeter Lecka

Monday morning, I took a look at the NFL playoff picture following Sunday's Week 11 action. The Panthers were still to play, but I figured it was worth breaking down before then. It's now the end of the night, and I'd say a quick recap is in order.

That was quite the wild finish as the Carolina Panthers escaped with a 24-20 victory over the New England Patriots. The Panthers might have gotten lucky late as a flag was picked up in the end zone on the final play of the game. Rob Gronkowski was held by Luke Kuechly on the final pass form Tom Brady as it was intercepted. The ESPN official in the booth felt it was uncatchable, but I think that's debatable. However, I believe it was still holding and/or illegal contact, which I don't believe requires a catchable pass. The whole thing was crazy.

More importantly for now, the Panthers improve to 7-3, and have a firm hold on the top wildcard spot. They are a game up on the 49ers, Cardinals and Bears. Carolina beat San Francisco, who beat Arizona, who beat Carolina. However, for three or more tied teams, the first tiebreaker is divisional tiebreakers to leave only the top team in each given division. In this case, that would eliminate Arizona because the 49ers beat them. The 49ers maintain the tiebreaker edge over Chicago by virtue of a better conference record.

For now though, as we head toward Week 12, there is a whole lot of football left to be played. The Lions lead the NFC North, but remain tied with Chicago, so that could flip on a dime. The 49ers have some very winnable games, but have to show some level of consistency. And the Panthers head down to Miami for a winnable game, but still a test for this young team. It's gonna be a wild finish down the stretch.