The NFC is spoiling football fans.
After a handful of big-time games last weekend, Week 14 features another slate of contests that will each have a big impact on the conference’s playoff picture.
This week features a clash of the top two picks from the 2016 draft, another high-profile battle in the NFC South, the top-seeded team in the conference against a wild-card hopeful, and a trio of clubs all hanging on for dear life.
Here’s the NFC playoff picture heading into Week 14:
If the season ended today…
Wild Card Round
No. 6 Carolina Panthers (8-4) at No. 3 Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
No. 5 Seattle Seahawks (8-4) at No. 4 New Orleans Saints (9-3)
Lowest-seeded wild-card winner at No. 1 Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
Highest-seeded wild-card winner at No. 2 Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
NFC teams still in the hunt
Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
Detroit Lions (6-6)
Green Bay Packers (6-6)
Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
Game of the Week
Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET
Plenty has been made of Philadelphia’s rough outing in Seattle, with many questioning whether the Eagles’ friendly schedule has been the key factor to the team’s success so far this season.
Doug Pederson’s team has a chance to put that talk to bed when they visit the Rams at the Coliseum on Sunday.
Like many of Week 14’s big NFC matchups, this game could have a sweeping impact on the conference: an Eagles win means an NFC East title for Philadelphia and gives the Seahawks the upper hand in the NFC West should they come away with a win in Jacksonville. A Rams victory would see L.A. jump to the No. 2 seed and could push the Eagles down to No. 4 depending on other results.
The Game of the Week also showcases the top two picks of the 2016 draft in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, two of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks and leaders of its top-two offences.
Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns, Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET
With Aaron Rodgers eligible to return from injured reserve as early as Week 15, the Packers are clinging to hope that they’ll still have a chance to make a playoff run by the time their best player returns to the field. That means a victory in Cleveland against the winless Browns is a must.
Despite dropping their 12th straight game in Los Angeles last week and giving up more than 400 yards, the Browns kept things interesting against the Chargers and could be primed to get their first (and likely only) win of the season against the Brett Hundley-led Packers, which would essentially eliminate Green Bay from the NFC playoff picture.
Other games to watch
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons, Thursday 8:25 p.m. ET
On Thursday night, the Falcons kick off a four-game NFC South run that will decide the fate of their season.
In the wake of a tough loss to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend, Atlanta is in dire need of a win to kick off the most important stretch of the 2017 campaign and keep pace in the NFC wild-card race. It won’t come easy against the New Orleans Saints.
Led by the Alvin Kamara-Mark Ingram duo now dubbed “Boom and Zoom,” the Saints are fresh off a season sweep of the Carolina Panthers and can clinch a playoff berth with a win in Atlanta plus some help from around the NFC (see clinching scenarios, above).
Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers, Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET
Grasping to the second wild-card spot, the Panthers will follow up a loss to division rival New Orleans with a home game against the hottest team in the conference. The first-place Vikings have won eight straight on the back of unlikely MVP candidate Case Keenum and a stellar defence, and can clinch the NFC North with a win in Charlotte.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants, Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET
Eli Manning will be back under centre on Sunday against the Giants’ hated division rival, and ending the Cowboys’ playoff hopes would be the perfect way for No. 10 to show up those who decided Big Blue was better off without him at the helm.
For Dak Prescott and company it’s simple: win out and Dallas will give themselves a chance at the post-season.
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday 1:00 p.m. ET
The Bucs are long out of the playoff picture, but like the Browns can play the role of spoiler when they host the Lions, who have lost two in a row and are quickly falling out of playoff relevance.
The good news for Detroit? Matthew Stafford looks like he’ll be a go Sunday after suffering a hand injury in last weekend’s loss to the Ravens.
Seattle Seahawks at Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday 4:25 p.m. ET
Coming off their most impressive win of the season at home against the Eagles, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks face another stiff test in Jacksonville against the stout Jaguars, who have an outside chance of clinching a playoff spot this weekend.
This game features one of the matchups of the weekend: the Jaguars’ top-ranked rushing offence against a leading contender for Defensive Player of the Year in Bobby Wagner.