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Week 16 NFL playoff picture: Getting tight in the NFC West

When the Rams lost to the Packers in Week 12, it looked like the Cardinals might cruise to an NFC West title but things have changed quickly in the NFC West.

The Cardinals have dropped two straight games, including a Week 14 matchup with the Rams, and Los Angeles has a three-game winning streak after toppling the Seahawks on Tuesday night. That leaves both teams at 10-4 and sets up a three-game sprint for the divisional crown. The 49ers could still figure into it by winning out, although it would take them winning out while the other clubs lose multiple times.

The only change among the teams in the mix this week is at the No. 7 seed where the Vikings have supplanted Washington after Washington’s loss to the Eagles. With the Rams and Packers on deck, however, the Vikings seem vulnerable to the teams right below them.

Here’s how the entire playoff picture shapes up:


1. Packers (11-3) The first team officially in the dance has the NFC North in hand and will now try to sew up the top seed.


2. Cowboys (10-4) The offense continues to underwhelm, but the defense has bumped them up the standings.

3. Buccaneers (10-4) A stumble against the Saints is likely to be forgotten after closing out the year with the Panthers twice and the Jets.

4. Cardinals (10-4) They insist this isn’t another second half collapse, but need to win to show that’s the case.

5. Rams (10-4) Winning on Tuesday makes a division title a realistic possibility for the Rams.

6. 49ers (8-6) A quick turnaround for the 49ers this week may not be a bad thing for a team playing its best football of the season.

7. Vikings (7-7) As noted above, the next two weeks are challenging and they’ll likely need at least a split to get to the postseason.

8. Eagles (7-7) The Eagles are in the unlikely position of rooting for the Cowboys to win the next two weeks and rest in a Week 18 that may determine Philly’s fate.

9. Saints (7-7) Back-to-back wins have righted the ship and now they have a hot Dolphins team coming to town on Monday night.

10. Washington (6-8) Missing their top two quarterbacks put them in a tough spot Tuesday and they need to bounce back in Dallas on Sunday night to harbor any real hopes of advancing.

11. Falcons (6-8) Atlanta hasn’t won consecutive games all year and that leaves little reason to think they’ll be able to put together the winning streak they need to have a chance at the playoffs.

12. Panthers (5-9) Offseason questions abound in Carolina.

13. Seahawks (5-9) A run of nine straight winning seasons comes to an end and the Russell Wilson watch will be back on soon.

14. Giants (4-10) With Daniel Jones shut down, attention will shift to how sweeping the offseason changes will be for the Giants.


15. Bears (4-10) They should have won on Monday night, but shot themselves in the foot as they have so many times in recent years.

16. Lions (2-11-1) Authoring the most surprising result of Week 15 puts a feather in their cap.