Here’s how the NFC playoff picture looks at the moment:
1. Eagles: At 9-1, the Eagles are the best team in the conference and among the best in the league. Philly hosts the Bears on Sunday. ‘Nuff said.
2. Vikings: The 8-2 Vikings lead the NFC North by two games, a lead that would shrink to one if they lose on Thanksgiving Day to Detroit. The Lions, winners of three in a row, hold the tiebreaker. Minnesota has won six in a row. Last year, the Lions pulled out a 16-13 victory over the Vikings on Thanksgiving.
3. Saints: The Saints overcame a hobbled Washington Redskins team in overtime, winning their eighth game in a row after an 0-2 start. New Orleans uses whatever it takes to win: a running game, the soon-to-be 39-year-old arm of Drew Brees or a strong defense. The Saints play the Rams in Los Angeles on Sunday.
4. Rams: Speaking of whom, the Rams are 7-3, but a 24-7 loss to Minnesota this past weekend could cost the Rams a playoff bye.
5. Panthers: At 7-3, the Panthers lead the rest of the wild-card field by a game and have an important NFC South game against New Orleans looming Dec. 3. The Saints won the teams’ earlier game, 34-13, in Carolina. First, the Panthers play at the New York Jets on Sunday.
6. Falcons: Now 6-4, Atlanta has won two games in a row and hosts Tampa Bay on Sunday. For the third straight season, the Falcons are 6-4 after 10 games, for what that’s worth.
7. Lions: If the Lions are going to strike in the NFC North, Thanksgiving is the day against the division-leading Vikings to do so. They start Turkey Day at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time.
8. Seahawks: The Seahawks may be 6-4, but injuries are mounting, especially on defense. A game Sunday against the 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., may be just what they need.
9. Packers: Minus Aaron Rodgers, it may be all the 5-5 Packers can do to lurk in the NFC North. The question is whether they can lurk long enough to warrant him trying to return for the Dec. 17 game, provided his broken collarbone has mended. The answer, judging by their Sunday shutout loss to Baltimore at Lambeau Field, is probably not. On Sunday night, they play the AFC’s 8-2 Steelers, winners of five in a row, in Pittsburgh. The schedule is, briefly, a little more forgiving after that, with games against the Browns and Buccaneers.
10. Cowboys: Jerry Jones thinks left tackle Tyron Smith, who missed Sunday’s loss to the Eagles with groin and back injuries, may not be able to play Thursday. Which would be unfortunate for the 5-5, Ezekiel Elliott-less ‘Boys. Linebacker Sean Lee is likely to miss the 4:30 p.m. game against the 4-6 Chargers.
11. Washington: Injuries have been especially devastating for the 4-6 Redskins, who lost running back Chris Thompson in the game against New Orleans. They’ll play on the next two Thursday nights, at 8:30 on Thanksgiving in a home game against the New York Giants, and on Nov. 30 at the Cowboys.
12. Cardinals: It doesn’t feel like anything is happening for the 4-6 Cardinals, with Blaine Gabbert now the quarterback. The 7-3 Jaguars, winners of four in a row, play in the desert Sunday.
13. Buccaneers: No Jameis Winston means that 4-6 Tampa Bay is slipping fast, with Grumors abounding about the job security of Coach Dirk Koetter. They’ll play the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday in a game the Falcons need to win.
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