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    NFC playoff picture: Bears, Redskins trying to surprise

    By Matt Verderame
    Redskins, Jay Gruden

    The NFC playoff picture is starting to take shape. The Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints are the two best teams in the NFC, and that’s not up for debate.

    However, what is up for debate is whether anybody else in the NFC can challenge them. In an odd twist, few believe that either of the other current division leaders could do it, with the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins being vastly overlooked.

    But is that dismissive nature fair towards the two contenders? It might be, if only because Drew Brees and Jared Goff lead offenses that are simply on another level than what Chicago and Washington an produce. The Bears have a frightening defense when Khalil Mack is healthy, but can Mitchell Trubisky go to Los Angeles or New Orleans and handle business? The same can be asked of Alex Smith, a 34-year-old who has enjoyed a fine career, but a man who also is incredibly risk-averse.

     

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    As we head toward the weekend of Week 10 — the Thursday night game is now in the books — lets look at the NFC playoff picture.

    1. Los Angeles Rams (8-1)
    2. New Orleans Saints (7-1)
    3. Chicago Bears (5-3)
    4. Washington Redskins (5-3)
    5. Carolina Panthers (6-3)
    6. Minnesota Vikings (4-3-1)

    7. Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
    8. Seattle Seahawks (4-4)
    9. Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
    10. Green Bay Packers (3-4-1)

    Off the top, the Panthers were blown out to start the slate of games by the Pittsburgh Steelers, losing 52-21. Carolina now sits 6-3 and is guaranteed to stay in the fifth slot going into Week 11.

     

    Read: Art Rooney II Expects Le’Veon Bell to Join Steelers Next Week

     

    As for the Rams, they take on the Seahawks at home in what could be a huge game for Seattle. The Seahawks lost last weekend to the Los Angeles Chargers, and with a tough slate ahead that includes the Vikings, Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, Russell Wilson and Co. need to find wins whenever they can. As for Los Angeles, it needs to put a quick end to any notion of a losing streak.

    The Saints go on the road to take on the Cincinnati Bengals, who will be without A.J. Green. Cincinnati ranks dead last in yards allowed and passing yardage surrendered, making this a brutal matchup for it.

    In Chicago, the Bears take on the Detroit Lions, who are sinking after falling to 3-5 and trading away Golden Tate. If Trubisky and his teammates are going too stay ahead in the NFC North, these are the kinds of games they must win.

    For the Redskins, they get the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road. Washington will need to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and that high-flying passing attack in check, something that has proven difficult for contenders like Philadelphia and New Orleans.

    Finally, the Vikings are on their bye week, while the Falcons visit the Cleveland Browns, the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys and the Packers wait for the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field. All three are favored in their bouts, and really, it would be stunning if any of the trio lost.