Another week of see-saw games in a parity-driven NFC field sees the NFC wild card picture shaken up once again. Another loss for the Falcons sees them drop again, while wins for Seattle, Philadelphia and New York moves them up. Tampa Bay and Minnesota both lost, jeopardising their positions at the head of the chasing pack. So who has the advantage heading into Week 15?
5th seed: Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
Seattle are virtually locked into the NFC’s fifth seed and are the most dangerous team in the league. As the fifth seed, the Seahawks would face the sacrificial lamb winner of the NFC East. Russell Wilson has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions over the last four weeks and has the offense rolling. The defense is back to its best and even losing Thomas Rawls for the season might not slow the defending NFC champions down.
6th seed: Minnesota Vikings (8-5)
The Vikings could be in trouble with a banged up defense and the Giants and the Packers still to come. Minnesota could fall to 9-7 and be in danger of losing their sixth seed. The offense hasn’t been able to generate much beyond Adrian Peterson over the past few weeks, but they hold a tiebreaker over the Falcons. And with the rest of the chasing pack still two games behind, the Vikings should sneak into the playoffs.
7th seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7)
The Buccaneers still have Carolina on the docket and which could see them struggle to better an 8-8 record, which probably won’t be enough to overhaul the Vikings. Jameis Winston has been impressive in a pretty strong offense, while Lovie Smith’s defense has also improved. The Bucs may not make the playoffs, but they have to be optimistic about next season.
8th seed: Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
Multiple problems mean Atlanta will likely finish with a losing record after starting 5-0. All of their remaining games are tough, as the Falcons must travel to Jacksonville before hosting Carolina and New Orleans. Unable to run the ball, pressure opposing quarterbacks, or get Matt Ryan comfortable in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, the Falcons have virtually no hope of making the playoffs.
9th and 10th seeds: Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) and New York Giants (6-7)
Lumped together with the Redskins atop the dismal NFC East, the Eagles and Giants are still technically in NFC wild card contention. However, only one NFC East team will make the playoffs, and that will be the divisional champion. All of the NFC East teams have difficult remaining schedules and will likely have a winner with a losing record. Philly have been the best of the NFC East teams recently, but face Arizona this week. The Giants face both Carolina and Minnesota, then Philadelphia to end the season.