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NFC Playoff picture: There’s a new No. 1 team in the conference

Win out, and the top seed belongs to the Niners.

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Week 14 couldn’t have gone better for the San Francisco 49ers. They took care of business by beating a divisional opponent in the Seattle Seahawks. The Los Angeles Rams lost. So a win and two NFC West foes losing made for a promising start.

Then, for the No. 1 seed, both the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles lost on the road. That matters because both Philadelphia and Detroit have lost twice on the road. The Niners are now the No. 1 seed and control their own destiny. It’s pretty simple: Win out, and you don’t have to play during the first weekend of the playoffs.

That bye week could do wonders for a 49er squad that will need to hit the reset button. They also might need that extra week to get healthy and get a couple of key defensive starters back from injury if the team elects to play it cautious with the likes of Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave, and Charvarius Ward.

Here’s a look at the NFC Standings:

Divisional leaders

1. San Francisco 49ers (10-3)

2. Dallas Cowboys (10-3)

3. Detroit Lions (9-4)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers* (6-7, win percentage in common games over ATL, win over NO)

Wild Card

5. Philadelphia Eagles (10-3)

6. Minnesota Vikings (7-6)

7. Green Bay Packers (6-6) MNF pending

Still alive

8. Los Angeles Rams+ (6-7, wins over SEA, 4-4 NFC)

9. Seattle Seahawks+ (6-7, losses to LAR, 5-4 NFC record)

10. Atlanta Falcons*+ (6-7, lose win percentage in common games vs TB, win over NO, 4-5 NFC)

11. New Orleans Saints*+ (6-7, losses to ATL & TB)

Looking to play spoiler

12. Chicago Bears (5-8)

13. New York Giants (4-8) MNF pending

14. Washington Commanders (4-9)

15. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

16. Carolina Panthers (1-12)

Teams 12 through 15 have legitimate shots to play spoiler during the final month of the season in the NFC. Each team has either enough firepower offensively or can cause enough chaos defensively to pull off an upset.

The Saints beat the Panthers with Derek Carr throwing for 119 yards. The “still alive” group of teams — and I’d swap the Rams and the Vikings — are unserious and do not deserve to make the playoffs.

I’d trust Sean McVay and Matthew Stafford to score against anybody. The Eagles are coming back down to earth a bit, while the Packers have trended in the right direction.

The NFC South is why we should do away with divisions and just let the teams with the best records make the playoffs. If that were the case, here’s how the standings would look:

  1. 49ers
  2. Cowboys
  3. Eagles
  4. Lions
  5. Vikings
  6. Packers
  7. Buccaneers

Tampa Bay would go from hosting a playoff game to traveling to Dallas.

Nonetheless, the 49ers are in the driver’s seat to win the NFC just over one month after they had a 3-game winning streak.