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NFC Playoff Picture: The 49ers received a Christmas gift from the Eagles

The No. 1 seed just became far more attainable for the Niners

Philadelphia Eagles v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Jane Gershovich/Getty Images

We are 15 weeks through the NFL season. By now, we have a good grasp about who is who. Or do we? It’s not crazy to think that the NFC West could have three playoff teams when it’s all said and done. If Week 15 taught us anything, it’s expect the unexpected.

On Monday night, we saw the Seattle Seahawks come back and beat the Philadelphia Eagles. On Sunday, the Buffalo Bills all but ended any hopes for Dak Prescott to win the MVP. The results during the previous couple of weeks in the NFC couldn’t have been better for the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers conference record now sits at 9-1. If the 49ers lose to Baltimore next week, they can still earn the No. 1 seed by beating the Commanders and the Rams in the final two weeks of the season.

Let’s play the hypothetical game and say the Ravens get the best of a 49ers team that is once again short-handed along the defensive front. We’ll also simulate the rest of the season and act as if each of the top four teams in the NFC finished the season with four losses.

The Niners already own the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Cowboys and the Eagles since the 49ers were victorious over the two. But if San Francisco’s record is the same as Detroit’s, the Niners would own the better conference record, therefore remain the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Lions currently have three losses to NFC teams.

Here’s a look at the NFC standings through Week 15:

Divisional leaders

1. z- San Francisco 49ers (11-3)

2. x-Dallas Cowboys (10-4, 4-1 NFCE, 7-3 NFC)

3. Detroit Lions (10-4, 6-3 NFC)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-7, win over NO)

Wild Card

5. x-Philadelphia Eagles (10-4, 3-1 NFCE)

6. Minnesota Vikings (7-7, win over GB, 6-3 NFC)

7. Los Angeles Rams* (7-7, sweep of SEA, 5-4 NFC)

Need some help

8. Seattle Seahawks* (7-7, losses to LAR, 6-5 NFC)

9. New Orleans Saints (7-7, loss to TB, 4-5 NFC)

Hanging on by a thread

10. Atlanta Falcons (6-8, win over GB)

11. Green Bay Packers (6-8, loss to ATL)

12. New York Giants (5-9, win percentage in common games > CHI)

13. Chicago Bears (5-9, win percentage in common games < NYG)

Playing the spoiler role

14. Washington Commanders (4-10)

15. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)

16. Carolina Panthers (1-12)

The bottom three teams have been eliminated from playoff competition. But each team showed that they’re more than capable of playing the spoiler role.

The margin for error is slim for every team ranked six and lower. Nick Mullens will go against the Vikings twice and the Packers on primetime to determine whether the Vikings make the playoffs.

There’s a reason I’ve been picking Jordan Love to make the playoffs. Green Bay finishes the season at Carolina and Minnesota, before hosting the Bears. It’s more process of elimination than anything.

There are six teams playing for two spots. The Saints would probably need to sweep the Rams, Bucs, and Falcons. Not happening. So let’s draw a red line through New Orleans.

The Rams swept the Seahawks. Seattle gets the Titans, Steelers, and Cardinals. Three very winnable games. While the Rams still have the 49ers after they face the Saints and the Giants. Seattle needs to have the better record than Los Angeles, but I think they will fall flat on their face on the road against Mike Vrabel and the Titans next week.

The Packers and the Rams are in the best spot to earn the final two Wild Card spots.

We saw the low point for both of the Cowboys and the Eagles this past week. The 49ers are bound to play one if not both teams again at some point during the playoffs. I don’t think either team is anywhere near as bad as they showed. Winning on the road in the NFL is hard. Ask the Falcons. Which makes what the 49ers are doing even more impressive.

Dallas and Philadelphia have clinched a playoff berth. The 49ers are the only team to have already clinched their division.