Week 12 is behind us as the 49ers kept the New Orleans Saints out of the end zone for a shutout victory. We’ll continue to update the playoff race each Wednesday. For the Niners and the NFC playoff picture in general, not a whole lot has changed since last week. Let’s look at how the conference standings look after 12 weeks.
#1 Seed - Philadelphia Eagles (10-1, NFC East leader)
If you were hoping the Packers would give the Niners a hand as San Francisco looks to gain ground on the top seed, Aaron Rodgers threw multiple interceptions, and that game got out of hand early on Sunday night.
Philly remains three games up in the loss column to San Francisco. And judging by their next three games, it’s unlikely they will stumble in the coming weeks.
Next three opponents: Titans, Giants, Bears
#2 Seed - Minnesota Vikings (9-2, NFC North leader)
The Vikings were fortunate to beat an average Patriots squad on Thanksgiving. That was their eighth one-score victory of the season. But, as we know, that type of variance doesn’t last in football. Minnesota has a chance to clinch a playoff spot this week.
It looks as though they’re locked into winning the division. I was convinced on them being a threat early in the season, but as the weeks go by, that confidence wains in a Vikings squad that counts on Kirk Cousins at the end of the day.
Next three opponents: Jets, Lions, Colts
#3 Seed - San Francisco 49ers (7-4, NFC West leader)
The new “nobody wants to play them” team has surfaced, and it’s the Niners. If the playoffs began today, the 49ers would host the Giants. And in the divisional round, they’d face the Vikings at home. If you knew that was the path to the NFC Championship prior to the season, you’d be giddy. However, the next three weeks won’t be easy.
If San Francisco reels off another three victories in a row, you’d have a hard time convincing even the most pessimistic fan that the Niners aren’t the team to beat.
#4 Seed - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6, NFC South leader)
This division is disgusting, and we don’t have to pretend otherwise. Tampa Bay just fell to Jacoby Brissett in overtime. Yet, remain in first place in the NFC South despite having a losing record.
I keep thinking Tampa Bay will turn it on, but that hasn’t happened yet. Their struggles during the regular season will only make it more hilarious when they beat the 5-seed. But when you look at their schedule, it’s not a foregone conclusion Tampa Bay makes the dance.
Next three opponents: Saints, 49ers, Bengals
#5 Seed - Dallas Cowboys (8-3, NFC East #2)
The Cowboys are the fifth seed in the conference despite owning the third-best record. Based on them not owning the tiebreaker against the Eagles, there’s a slim chance there will be a home playoff game at Jerry’s World. If it comes down to it, I’ll take Tom Brady over Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy in a big spot.
Next three opponents: Colts, Texans, Jaguars
#6 Seed - New York Giants (7-4, NFC East #3)
Brian Daboll is on the podium for Coach of the Year. What they’ve done with Daniel Jones under center and the lack of a perimeter threat is nothing short of a miracle. A strong early season start and other teams slipping up have the Giants in contention to make the playoffs, and it looks like they are a lock to make it, barring a free-for-all.
They’ll have to fend off a feisty Commanders squad in December.
Next three opponents: Commanders, Eagles, Commanders
#7 Seed - Washington Commanders (7-5, NFC East #4)
This is not a typo. As of today, the entire NFC East would make the playoffs. That’s advantage, 49ers. Washington has to be kicking themselves for not rolling with Taylor Heinicke all season. Who knows how much higher they’d be in the standings, but they wouldn’t be 7-5. Washington and Seattle, along with New York, are fighting for the final two spots.
Next three opponents: Giants, Bye, Giants