Breaking Down the 2012 NFC Playoff Picture After Week 13

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The Chicago Bears left Soldier Field on Sunday having squandered their NFC North division lead, albeit for one week. The loss to Seattle coupled with a Green Bay victory sent Chicago backwards in the standings, but with an identical record to the Packers, they nearly control their own destiny (unless Green Bay wins out).

Seattle solidified themselves as a playoff contender with their victory over Chicago, but they also gained some separation from other wild card contenders. The Seahawks are holding onto the last wild card playoff spot and hold a one game lead over the 7th seed Redskins. With a late season slip by either the Bears or Packers the Seahawks could be in position to snag the 5th playoff seed in the NFC. The Seahawks are looking like the team to beat for the final NFC playoff spot.

Minnesota’s loss to Green Bay may represent the dying off of the Vikings’ last hope. The Vikings fell to 6-6 and currently hold the 10th seed in the NFC. They are behind other 6-6 teams Tampa Bay, Washington, and Dallas, and all of those teams appear to have an easier schedule and significantly higher playoff chances.

The Packers continue to survive amidst a slew of close games but they have to be feeling good about their slim lead in the division. Green Bay’s success in recent years seems to give them higher expectations; an 8-4 record in one of the harder divisions in a tough conference is certainly admirable, but the Packers are not winning effortlessly. Defensive shortcomings and a disturbing trend of not protecting Aaron Rodgers may be weaknesses that are hard to overcome in the postseason.

As for the Lions, any slim, minuscule playoff chances were squashed by the monumental choke-job at home on Sunday against the Colts. Leave it to the Lions to pick off a rookie QB three times, led by 11 with 3 minutes left, and still find a way to blow it. Detroit has gone from fighting for a playoff spot to fighting off a complete collapse. The Lions are getting worse at the end of games and team morale appears to be going down the tube (see Young, SR., Titus). With every passing week the Lions are proving themselves to be more of a mess. I’ll talk about Sunday’s predictably pathetic finish in tomorrow’s column.