When Week 16 began, no NFC teams had clinched spots in the postseason.
By the time it was over, five of the seven tickets had been punched and three of the divisions were decided. Only the NFC West remains in play and the Rams now have the inside track on a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs thanks to surviving three Matthew Stafford interceptions a day after the Cardinals lost at home to the Colts.
The fight for seeding among the division leaders will continue into the final two weeks of the season and the Wild Card race isn’t over either, but the right string of results in Week 17 could leave the entire NFC dance card booked before the final weekend.
Here’s how the entire NFC playoff picture shapes up with two weeks left to play:
1. Packers (12-3) They’ve had to hang on late the last two weeks, but no one will care how they win this weekend if they move closer to clinching the top seed and send the Vikings out of the playoff race.
2. Cowboys (11-4) Sunday’s rout of Washington saw the long-awaited return of the offense and more of the same against the Cardinals will put momentum on their side heading into the postseason.
3. Rams (11-4) Winning in Baltimore is one of the steps to ending the NFC West race ahead of Week 18.
4. Buccaneers (11-4) Injuries are mounting for the defending champs, but they’ll be able to heal up with the division in hand and winnable games in the final two weeks of the season.
5. Cardinals (10-5) This year’s second-half swoon won’t knock them out of the playoffs, but we’re looking for a sign that they won’t be one-and-done.
IN THE HUNT
6. 49ers (8-7) Houston is up next and that should allow them to get back in the win column, although the Chargers were probably thinking the same thing this time last week.
7. Eagles (8-7) While divisional road games are never gimmes, Washington looks like it is running on fumes and the Eagles have won six of their last eight games.
8. Vikings (7-8) They couldn’t take advantage of three Matthew Stafford interceptions, so there’s little reason to think they can win at Lambeau Field.
9. Falcons (7-8) It’s remarkable that they’ve hung around this long, but Sunday’s trip to Buffalo looks like the moment the clock will strike midnight.
10. Saints (7-8) Monday night’s loss with a depleted roster leaves them needing help even if they take down the Panthers and Falcons in the final two weeks of the year.
11. Washington (6-9) When fists are flying on your sideline, the playoffs don’t feel like the most pressing concern.
12. Panthers (5-10) Sam Darnold returned on Sunday, so the two-quarterback rotation looked different while the results remained the same.
13. Bears (5-10) Maybe Nick Foles should have been the quarterback all along.
14. Seahawks (5-10) Pete Carroll doesn’t think the Seahawks need a reboot, but one may still be coming this offseason.
15. Giants (4-11) They may have lost 34-10 to the Eagles, but it would have been 34-3 if they weren’t so inspired by news of Joe Judge’s 2022 return that they scored with four minutes to play in the game.
16. Lions (2-12-1) If the Packers are resting players in Week 17, winning two straight and finishing ahead of the Giants doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch.