The Packers (6-3) third straight loss, this time at home to the lowly Lions (2-7) who haven't won in Green Bay since 1991, has cast doubt on the Packers as a contender. Heck they don't even lead the NFC North anymore. That honor now belongs to the upstart Vikings, who at 7-2 are now in the NFC contender conversation.
Out west just when it seemed the Seahawks (4-5) were back on track they lost a home to the Cardinals (7-2) who now lead the NFC West by three games. In the east, things are pretty much still up for grabs as only the Cowboys (2-7) are out of contention. After a narrow loss to the Patriots the Giants (5-5) hold a slim half-half game lead over the Eagles and Redskins (4-5).
So here are the top contenders and the NFC playoff picture after 10 weeks.
1. Carolina Panthers 9-0, 5-0 NFC
The Panthers lead the NFC by two games and the NFC South by three games over the Falcons (6-3). They also hold the head-to-head edge against the Packers and Seahawks, though the Seahawks seem out of contention after their 5th loss. I still don't see the Panthers going 16-0 but to win home field advantage throughout the playoffs would be the bigger win.
2. Arizona Cardinals 7-2, 5-1 NFC
The Cardinals have now won 3 straight and probably match-up the best with the Panthers. They have a solid defense lead by a spectacular secondary that would make it hard for the Panthers WRs to get open. They also run the ball fairly well and have a strong armed QB in Carson Palmer.
3. Minnesota Vikings 7-2, 4-1 NFC
The Vikings are winners of 5 straight and boast a strong running game and stout defense. They could also match-up pretty well with the Panthers if the playoffs.
4. New York Giants 5-5, 4-4 NFC
The Giants suddenly look like one of the toughest games left on the Panthers schedule, especially after they almost took down the Patriots last night. Fortunately that game isn't until week 15 so the implications may not matter as much, for the Panthers anyway.
5. Green Bay Packers
Having now lost 3 straight the Packers find themselves in wildcard territory. They offense looks lost so they better turn things around quick or their season could continue to head south.
6. Atlanta Falcons
There will now be a lot more pressure on the Falcons when they play the Panthers twice in these last 6 weeks as they struggle to secure a wild card. Being three games back it would take monumental tumble by the Panthers to not win the division.
There are no other teams in the NFC with winning records. In wild card contention though at 4-5 are the Redskins, Eagles, Bears, Bucs, Rams and Seahawks. Any one of those teams could over take the Falcons or Packers.
You can find an even more detailed playoff picture including tiebreaker scenarios here.