The San Francisco 49ers were formally eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday. It’s sad news I realize, but I think we’ll all survive. The elimination actually came before they even completed their own game. Wins by the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers officially eliminated the 49ers, and the loss to the Seattle Seahawks just put a cherry on top.
That being said, most of us will be watching the playoffs come January. Some will have self-created rooting interests, while others will simply look to enjoy some potentially high quality football after the 49ers season comes to an end. With that in mind, I thought we’d start tracking how the playoff picture is looking coming down the home stretch of the season. Week 13 gets going on Thursday, but the bulk of the week’s action will take place once the calendar flips to December.
NFC playoff picture
1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
2. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
3. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)
4. New Orleans Saints (8-3)
5. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
6. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
In the hunt: Seattle Seahawks (7-4), Detroit Lions (6-5)
The big game in Week 12 saw the Rams edge out the Saints 26-20. Alvin Kamara had a huge day for the Saints, but the Wade Phillips-led defense otherwise contained the Saints. It is worth noting New Orleans was without their two starting cornerbacks. It’s still a big win for the Rams, but I am curious how this matchup would have played out with a fully healthy Saints defense.
The Philadelphia Eagles blew out the Chicago Bears on Sunday, and while they only hold a one-game lead on the Minnesota Vikings, they seem to be the clear-cut best team in the NFC. They will get a chance to prove it over the next three weeks. They face a gauntlet that will see them travel to Seattle, Los Angeles (Rams), and New Jersey (Giants). The Giants are trash, but a divisional game can often surprise a team in terms of difficulty.
The wild card race technically has all the 5-6 teams in the mix, but for the time being, I am keeping them out of the “in the hunt” section. I would not be surprised if one of them climbed back into this thing, but for now, the Seahawks and Lions are the two most notable competitors to the Falcons and Panthers’ playoff berths.
Notable Week 13 matchups
Washington (5-6) vs. Dallas Cowboys (5-6): This strikes me as effectively a wild card elimination game.
Minnesota Vikings (9-2) vs. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
Carolina Panthers (8-3) vs. New Orleans Saints (8-3)
Philadelphia Eagles (10-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
All three of these are kind of a huge deal. The Eagles clinch the division with a win, and could clinch with a Washington win over Dallas as well. Seattle is the only one of these six teams on the outside looking in, and these three matchups could either solidify the current standings, or shake them up if Seattle can spring an upset of Philly.
Detroit Lions (6-5) vs. Baltimore Ravens (5-5): Lions fans will be watching the three games above intently, but they’ll need to handle their business.
AFC playoff picture
1. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
2. New England Patriots (9-2)
3. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
6. Buffalo Bills (6-5)
In the hunt: Baltimore Ravens (5-5), Cincinnati Bengals (5-6), Los Angeles Chargers (5-6), Oakland Raiders (5-6), Houston Texans (4-6)
The AFC is more of a jumbled mess with a whole bunch of .500 and just under .500 teams hanging around in the hunt. The Chiefs are in the midst of a collapse, and now are only a game up on the Chargers and Raiders. They are an absolute disaster right now, losing three straight, and now heading to face an occasionally feisty New York Jets team. They follow that up with home games against the Raiders and Chargers, which could either lock up the division, or finalize their collapse.
Notable Week 13 matchups
New England Patriots (9-2) vs. Buffalo Bills (6-5)
Houston Texans (4-6) vs. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
Kansas City Chiefs (6-5) vs. New York Jets (4-7)
Indianapolis Colts (3-8) vs. Jacksonville Jaguars 7-4)
Cleveland Browns (0-11) vs. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
New York Giants (2-9) vs. Oakland Raiders (5-6)
Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2) vs. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)