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NFL Playoff Picture: 4 Teams Fighting For 2 Spots in the NFC and AFC

Sunday was a bloodbath for teams that are near the cutoff for a playoff spot. In the NFC, Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit all came into the day tied at 7-4 for the wildcard spots, while the Giants, at 6-5, were one game back of those teams and the Cowboys in the NFC East. All five of those teams lost.

The result is that the top of the NFC got some separation, but no one looks willing to take hold of the remaining spots. The Packers officially clinched the NFC North with their late win over the Giants in New Jersey. The 49ers dominated the Rams and also clinched the NFC West. The Saints didn’t clinch a playoff spot, but remained in the chase for a bye, one game behind San Francisco.

Division leaders:
Packers 12-0
49ers 10-2
Saints 9-3
Cowboys 7-5

After that, it’s a mess. Chicago looked absolutely dreadful on offense, and is now 0-2 since Jay Cutler’s injury. The loss of Forte now just means the offense becomes that much more pedestrian. Chicago will be lucky to scrape two wins out over the final month. Detroit, meanwhile, can be forgiven for losing at New Orleans. The penalties, though, are killing this team, and they committed numerous dumb errors that eliminated the chances of a comeback. Atlanta looks to be in the best position, but cannot afford to lose games like it did on Sunday.

Wild Cards (4 teams for two spots):
Chicago
Atlanta
Detroit
NY Giants

The Giants, meanwhile, escaped the weekend about as well as they could have hoped, this side of ending Green Bay’s perfect season. They lost ground on no one while crossing the hardest game off their schedule. They lost no ground on Dallas, which squandered a lead, and then an opportunity to win at Arizona, before losing in overtime.

Philadelphia squandered their opportunities, and as it turned out, the rest of the conference would have come back to them if they could have righted matters. The teams who are now suddenly looking at a sliver of hope? Would you believe Seattle and Arizona? They still have to win out, but it’s looking more like 10 wins gets you in for sure in the NFC, while 9 wins has you praying for the tiebreakers to go your way.

Meanwhile, in the AFC, the Jets benefited as the Bengals lost. The Titans also shot up, basically eliminating Buffalo. Coupled with Denver’s come-from-behind win, and Oakland’s loss at Miami, the bottom of the AFC playoff picture is also a little less clear than it appeared a week ago.

[photo via Getty]

 

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