There are only two weeks left in the 2019 NFL regular season, and teams are dropping like flies in the NFC playoff picture. The Bears were eliminated from contention in Week 15, leaving the Rams as the only team with a chance to unseat the Vikings for the second wild card spot.
The field is all but officially decided heading into Week 16. There are still a couple of spots up for grabs, but other than that, the final two weeks will be all about seeding. With that said, let’s take a look at which games matter to the playoff race this week.
Games That Matter to the NFC Playoff Picture: Week 16
Rams (8-6) @ 49ers (11-3) — Saturday Night Football, 8:15 p.m.
Why It Matters: This is a big one for both teams. For the visiting Rams, this game is their season. They need wins in their final two games to even have a shot at sneaking into a wild card spot. Not only do they need to win out, but the Vikings will need to lose out as well. So, if they lose Saturday, obviously nothing else will matter. It’s been a weird year for the defending NFC champs.
The 49ers are looking to bounce back from their upset loss to the Falcons last week. Despite being 11-3, they head into Saturday as the NFC’s No. 5 seed. A win against the Rams combined with a Seahawks win will set up an NFC West championship game in Week 17. Plus, they would keep pace for a first-round bye and potentially home-field advantage. They’ve already clinched a playoff spot regardless, but a loss would put them at a disadvantage for the division crown heading into their final game.
Why It Matters: New Orleans won the NFC South long ago, so the final two games will be all about playing for a first-round bye and potentially home-field throughout the playoffs. The Saints, at 11-3, are currently in possession of the No. 3 seed. That means they may need some help over the final couple of weeks to get a top two seed, but they can start helping themselves by winning in Tennessee.
Why It Matters: If the NFC East wasn’t such a dumpster fire, this game wouldn’t matter. But alas, here we are. The Cowboys can clinch the division with a win. Even if they get the victory and then lose in Week 17, they’ll win the East... at 8-8. A loss wouldn’t eliminate them, but it would put their backs against the wall heading into the final weekend of 2019.
The Eagles don’t quite clinch the division with a victory in this one, but it would set up a “win and they’re in” situation next week. And next week, the opponent is *checks notes* ... the Giants. So, on second thought, a win over the Cowboys this week does clinch the division for Philadelphia. All kidding aside, a victory for Carson Wentz and company would put them in great position to win the East and host a first-round playoff game come January.
Cardinals (4-9-1) @ Seahawks (11-3) — Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
Why It Matters: The Seahawks are currently the top seed in the NFC, but they share the same record as the Packers, Saints, and 49ers. That means they obviously need to keep winning to stay in position for home-field advantage and a first-round bye. Plus, the NFC West is still up for grabs. With a home matchup against San Francisco looming in Week 17, picking up a win against the very beatable Cardinals is a must.
Packers (11-3) @ Vikings (10-4) — Monday Night Football, 8:15 p.m.
Why It Matters: This is one of the bigger games of the week, and it comes in prime time on Christmas Eve Eve. The Packers can clinch the NFC North and stay in the mix for home-field with a road win over the Vikings, who they beat 21-16 at home back in Week 2.
A Minnesota win, though, would make things very interesting with one week to go. Both teams would be 11-4 with the division still up for grabs. And it would officially clinch a playoff spot for the Vikings, eliminating the Rams from contention.