NFC Playoff Picture 2013: Highlighting Most Important Week 16 Matchups

Alex KayCorrespondent IDecember 23, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18:  Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins eludes the tackle Cullen Jenkins #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field on November 18, 2012 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The NFC playoff race is shaping up to give us some of the most thrilling late-season NFL action in years.

There are a number of teams that still direly need to win in order to get in—three alone in the NFC East—and we’re sure to see some exciting action these next two Sundays.

Let’s take a look at the current playoff picture across the NFC and highlight some of the top conference matchups in Week 16.


New Orleans Saints at Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys are on the outside looking in and cannot afford to drop this contest to the Saints.

Fortunately, without coach Sean Payton, New Orleans has been one of the most wildly inconsistent teams in the league. The Saints certainly still pose a threat for Dallas, but playing in Cowboys Stadium will give a boost to the home team.

We expect this to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth shootout that will come down to turnovers. Whichever QB makes fewer of them (Tony Romo or Drew Brees) will likely be celebrating after 60 minutes of play.


Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles

The ‘Skins, currently first place in the NFC East, are looking to shut down the Eagles and further extend their short over the division.

Robert Griffin III is likely going to be back in action after a one-week hiatus, and the timing couldn’t be better.

While Kirk Cousins was able to make his first start under center in a win against the Browns last week, RGIII’s return will boost Washington and greatly help overcome a lowly divisional foe.

With nothing to lose, Philly coach Andy Reid could dial up some dangerous plays for Nick Foles and the rest of the offense, which would make this one interesting.

However, we’re betting the Eagles fade late and lose by at least a touchdown.


Minnesota Vikings at Houston Texans

The Vikings likely have to win these last two games in order to get a shot at securing a wild-card position in the playoffs.

Superstar tailback Adrian Peterson is running like a man possessed and is closing in on Eric Dickerson’s long-standing single-season rushing record. He’s definitely motivated and should have no problem running on a suddenly vulnerable Texans front seven.

Houston has allowed 124 yards and 130 yards in the past two weeks to the Colts and Patriots, respectively. Neither team is known for an elite ground game.

We imagine AD is going to go off in this one. It should make for an exciting football contest with a lot on the line.


NFC Playoff Picture

Division Leaders

 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South

 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth

 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-4) Clinched NFC North

 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East


Wild Card Leaders

 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)

 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)


In the Hunt

 Chicago Bears (8-6)

 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

 New York Giants (8-6)

 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)

 New Orleans Saints (6-8)