Can you believe the final quarter of the 2019 NFL season is already here? Thirteen weeks have come and gone. The playoffs are right around the corner. And in the NFC, the playoff races are heating up. From the No. 1 seed to the second wild card spot, there is plenty of intrigue. So, let’s see which games matter in the NFC this week.
Games That Matter to the NFC Playoff Picture: Week 14
Why It Mattered: Being that it’s Saturday, this game already happened. But it mattered a great deal to the playoff picture on a number of fronts. The victors, the Chicago Bears, improved to 7-6 and kept themselves in the hunt for a wild card spot, for which they are now 1.5 games out of. They still have plenty of ground to make up, but the win kept them in the conversation.
The Dallas Cowboys fell to 6-7 and somehow have a better chance to crash the postseason than the Bears do. Why? Because the NFC East is trash. Dallas, AT SIX AND SEVEN still holds the division lead by half a game. What the loss really did was open up another opportunity for the Eagles to pull into a first-place tie... with a record of SIX AND SEVEN.
Why It Matters: It barely does. The Panthers went from 5-3 to 5-7 in the blink of an eye, with their latest loss coming to the disaster that is the football team that plays in the nation’s capital. So, to even have even a slight chance at a playoff appearance, Carolina will have to win out by beating the Falcons, Seahawks, Colts and Saints. The Panthers lost at home to Atlanta just a few weeks ago, and if history repeats itself this Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it will spell the end of their already-slim playoff hopes.
Why It Matters: Washington, at 3-9, is only 2.5 games back of the NFC East lead with four games to go. That ridiculousness aside, the importance of this game has far more to do with Green Bay. The Packers are 9-3, which currently has them in position for the NFC’s No. 3 seed. But they only lead the NFC North by one game over the Vikings, so every game the rest of the way will factor into whether they get a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Plus, with a strong finish to the year and some help along the way, Green Bay could find itself in position for a first-round bye.
Lions (3-8-1) @ Vikings (8-4) — Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Why It Matters: Speaking of the Vikings, they have a chance to strengthen their grip on a playoff spot with a home win over the Lions. They currently hold the No. 6 seed with a record of 8-4 and they still have a chance to play their way into a first-round home game. A win would put them at 9-4, which means an upset loss for the Packers would lead to a tie atop the NFC North. On a note that hits closer here at Bucs Nation, a Minnesota victory over Detroit would eliminate Tampa Bay from playoff contention.
49ers (10-2) @ Saints (10-2) — Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Why It Matters: This is the biggest game of the week for the NFC. The Saints have already clinched the NFC South with four weeks to go, but they’re also fighting for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. They currently own the No. 1 seed, but the Seahawks are on their heels with an identical 10-2 record. A win over San Francisco would give New Orleans another week with the top seed and further strengthen its hold on a first-round bye at the very least.
For the 49ers, this one is perhaps even bigger. They came into last week’s game with a 10-1 record, but a loss to the Ravens combined with a Seahawks win knocked them from the top of the NFC to a wild card spot. Of course, they’re still 10-2, so whether or not they will make the playoffs isn’t the question. The question is more about where they’ll be. They could certainly win the NFC West and get a first-round home game or even a first-round bye. And they’re still tied for the best record (with the Saints and Seahawks), which means they’re very much in play for home-field throughout the postseason.
Colts (6-6) @ Buccaneers (5-7) — Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET
Why It Matters: As crazy as it sounds, the 5-7 Bucs are still in contention for a playoff spot. They obviously give themselves the best chance to make it by winning out and finishing at 9-7, but they’d still need some help along the way. For starters, they need Detroit to beat Minnesota this week. If that happens, we’ll go from there. If it doesn’t, well, Tampa Bay won’t be on this list of games that matter next week.
Seahawks (10-2) @ Rams (7-5) — Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
Why It Matters: The game between the 49ers and Saints is the biggest game of the week, but this one is a close second. For the visiting Seahawks, they need to keep winning to beat out the 49ers for the NFC West title, a first-round bye and potentially home-field advantage. A loss for Seattle combined with a San Francisco win would flip the two teams, with the Seahawks falling into a wild card spot at 10-3 and the 49ers moving up at 11-2.
Things are even more serious for the Rams, who are fighting for their playoff lives. They haven’t been the same team that won the NFC last year, but they still have a chance to sneak their way into a wild card spot. They trail the Vikings by one game with four games to go, but they are the No. 7 team right now at 7-5. The teams immediately behind them are the Bears (7-6), Bucs (5-7) and Eagles (5-7). So, if they can get a win Sunday and get rolling the rest of the way, they’ll be in a good spot come playoff time.
Giants (2-10) @ Eagles (5-7) — Monday Night Football, 8:15 p.m. ET
Why It Matters: The 2-10 Giants are only 3.5 games out of the division lead with four games to go because NFC East gonna NFC East. Now, they are mathematically eliminated. But the fact that they’re somehow that close despite having lost eight games in a row tells you all you need to know about that division.
As for the Eagles, they are very much still alive in that dumpster fire of a division. They could’ve pulled themselves into a tie with the Cowboys at the top last week, but instead lost to the Miami Dolphins. Yeah. But because no one wants to win the East, that didn’t do much to their chances. With Dallas’ loss on Thursday, Philadelphia gets another chance to get that tie atop the division. And all the Eagles need is a win over a team that is headed for a top-five pick. Sound familiar?
Have a great Week 14!