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The NFC after Week 17: Playoff picture takes shape

We know what happens next, we just don’t know what happens after that.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL regular season is in the books, and now it’s time to look at the playoff picture in the NFC.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into Week 17, the New Orleans Saints (13-2) had already locked up the NFC South and the #1 seed in the NFC. The Dallas Cowboys (9-6), atop the NFC East, were the only other team to have locked in their position in the NFC playoff picture as the #4 seed in the NFC. The Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears were duking it out for the #2 or #3 seed, and the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) were hoping for a Bears win and a Vikings loss (8-6-1) for the Eagles to boot the Vikings from the #6 seed. The Seattle Seahawks (9-6) were in play as the #5 or #6 seed.

Instead of playing all of the “what if” scenarios, let’s just jump to how it all turned out.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams were able to take care of business against the San Francisco 49ers, with a final score of 48-32. That essentially locked up the #2 seed for the Rams, regardless of what any other team did.

The Chicago Bears couldn’t know that in advance though, so they still played their starters en route to a 24-10 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. The Bears win, coupled with a Eagles shutout victory over the Washington team, knocked the Vikings out of the playoffs and allowed the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) to slip into the postseason as the #6 seed. The Seattle Seahawks beat the Arizona Cardinals, 27-24, to cement their spot as the #5 seed.

That means the #3 seed Chicago Bears will host the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles, and the #4 seed Dallas Cowboys will host the Seattle Seahawks. In no situation could the New Orleans Saints face the Chicago Bears in the divisional round of the playoffs, as the Saints will face the lowest seeded team remaining after the wild card round. That means the Saints will host one of the Cowboys, Eagles, or Seahawks.

But for now, let’s just