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NFL playoff picture: NFC West rules, NFC South drools

Week 10 of the 2014 NFL season is almost a wrap, and the Packers and 49ers remain the two teams on the outside looking in for wild card spots. Oh, and the NFC South is a trainwreck.

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Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers may very well have saved their season on Sunday with their wild 27-24 win over the New Orleans Saints. Well, they saved it for at least one week. There is a lot of football left, but a loss would have dropped them to 4-5, and considering how they could have lost that game, it might have been a dagger. In spite of late game struggles, the 49ers managed the overtime win, and remain a game back in the wild card.

Week 10 comes to a close with a big Monday Night Football game featuring the Philadelphia Eagles and Carolina Panthers, but in the meantime, here is a breakdown of the pertinent NFC action, with an AFC bonus. We'll have a Monday Night Football thread late in the afternoon.

49ers can't buy a break in the NFC West

For the first half of both the Cardinals-Rams and Seahawks-Giants, it really looked like the 49ers might get everything bouncing their way. Both the Cardinals and Seahawks struggled through the first half, looking very beatable. And then, both teams righted the ship and pulled away big in the fourth quarter. Arizona improved to 8-1, while Seattle improved to 6-3.

The 49ers get a combination of those two teams three more times this season, so they have some opportunities to pick up ground.

Of course...

Injuries, one in particular, could entirely re-shape the NFC West race

Carson Palmer suffered a knee injury against St. Louis, and was carted off the field. He will undergo an MRI today, but every report has it as a torn ACL. Drew Stanton has been better than competent in place of Palmer this season. He was the starting quarterback in a 2-1 stretch without Palmer earlier this year, with the loss coming at Denver. He came on in relief on Sunday, and put together what proved to be the game-winning touchdown drive. The Cardinals will remain plenty competitive without Palmer, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the final seven games of the season.

Another notable injury on Sunday saw Brandon Mebane suffered a hamstring injury in the second quarter. He was ruled out for the rest of the game, and his status will be in doubt for Sunday's Week 11 matchup at the Kansas City Chiefs. With Jamaal Charles coming at the Seahawks defensive line, this could be a pretty significant injury.

Stick a fork in the Bears

The Green Bay Packers absolutely thrashed the Chicago Bears. Green Bay jumped out to a 45-0 lead, dropping 42 in the first half. It was never close and I find myself wondering what Bears team it was that knocked off the 49ers in Week 2. I figured the Packers would win this one, but what the heck was that?

Lions keep rolling

Detroit has now won four straight, and sit at 7-2 on the season. They are going to need every last win to hold off the Packers, but they are in a strong position to take one of the six playoff spots. Of course, they also have a tough stretch coming up. They will travel to Arizona and New England the next two weeks. If they can survive that, they then have a three-game run at home against the Bears, Bucs and Vikings. The Lions could slip back to the pack at some point, but if they can split the next two, they are in good shape coming down the stretch.

Cowboys handle their business

Their was some AM chatter about 20 Cowboys missing their Friday curfew. After the game, Dez Bryant admitted he and others stayed out late, but did not think it impacted their focus on the game. If the Cowboys had lost, I'm pretty sure this story would have been all over ESPN this morning. Instead, the Cowboys took care of business, and it will be forgotten....for now. Be forewarned Cowboys, drop a couple games, and you'll hear about this again in the media!

NFC South...

The Saints lost and dropped to 4-5 on the season. For now, they hold a mathematical edge on the Panthers in the division. The 3-5-1 Panthers travel to face Philadelphia tonight, and there is a good chance they lose and the Saints maintain their division lead.

The Falcons finally managed a win on Sunday, snapping their 5-game losing streak. If we listed out records based entirely on tiebreakers, the Falcons would be No. 15 of the 16 NFC teams. And yet they are only one game back of the Saints for the division lead. I don't see Atlanta winning this division, but I included them in more work to do because they somehow still have a chance. They have a huge game this Sunday when they head to Carolina. They close out the season with games at New Orleans and at home against Carolina. There season is far from over.

AFC Bonus

The Cleveland Browns are in first place in the AFC North, holding a half game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don't even know what to think anymore!

NFC standings

1. Arizona Cardinals (8-1)
2. Detroit Lions (7-2)
3. Philadelphia Eagles (6-2)
4. New Orleans Saints (4-5)

5. Dallas Cowboys (7-3)
6. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

Just outside, looking in

7. Green Bay Packers (6-3)
8. San Francisco 49ers (5-4)

More work to do

9. Minnesota Vikings (4-5)
10. Carolina Panthers (3-5-1)
11. Atlanta Falcons (3-6)

Draft prep

12. New York Giants (3-6)
13. Chicago Bears (3-6)
14. St. Louis Rams (3-6)
15. Washington (3-6)
16. Tampa Bay (1-8)

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