NFC playoff picture: Bears, Cowboys try to clinch divisions
The NFC playoff picture is a tale of two unexpected teams. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers were supposed to be fighting for the NFC North crown. Turns out, the Chicago Bears have something to say about that.
Chicago has cruised to a 9-4 record, already eliminating the Packers from divisional contention. Now, Green Bay comes to Soldier Field with the Bears having a chance to clinch the North for the first time since 2010.
The Bears have gotten to this point thanks to a stifling defense led by Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks. With that dynamic duo up front, Chicago has allowed its offense to come along throughout the campaign. First-year head coach Matt Nagy should garner serious consideration for NFL Coach of the Year, helping turn Mitchell Trubisky into a promising quarterback while designing one of the more innovative offenses in the league.
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As for the Cowboys, they share the same position as Chicago. A win would be the clincher in the NFC East, although Dallas has to go on the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts. The Cowboys can also clinch should the Washington Redskins lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Philadelphia Eagles to the Los Angeles Rams.
In short, Dallas should be locking up a spot one way or the other by the end of the night.
Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks as we enter Week 15:
1. New Orleans Saints (11-2)
2. Los Angeles Rams (11-2)
3. Chicago Bears (9-4)
4. Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
6. Minnesota Vikings (6-6-1)
The Carolina Panthers, Redskins and Eagles are all trying to pull upsets, all sitting at 6-7 and a half-game out of the playoff picture. Carolina might have the best chance, albeit playing against the Saints on Monday night. The Panthers are at home and with Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey, has the firepower to make a move.
Minnesota will try to either stay a half-game ahead or widen the gap against the Miami Dolphins at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings are coming off a hideous shutout loss to the Seahawks last Monday night, dropping them down to .500.
Finally, the Rams and Saints are both vying for the top seed. Los Angeles is a double-digit favorite at home against the Eagles, who are missing Carson Wentz due to a broken vertebrae. Nick Foles will get the start in his stead, hoping to keep any faint Philadelphia hopes alive. New Orleans will play the aforementioned Monday night game in Carolina, trying to finish off the Panthers once and for all.
To this point, the Rams and Saints are the only two teams guaranteed a playoff berth. Seattle can also clinch a spot this Sunday by beating the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’ Stadium.