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NFC Playoff Picture: Giants-Lions winner can clinch playoff berth, with help

Important NFC games around the league

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

There’s much at stake when the 9-4 New York Giants host the 9-4 Detroit Lions this afternoon at MetLife Stadium, but that goes without saying. The Giants are in the midst of their first meaningful stretch of December-football in years and Detroit is pushing for a return to the playoffs after a disappointing 2015.

Big Blue is a game in front of the Atlanta Falcons, and a half-game in front of the Washington Redskins for the top NFC wild-card spot. They’re two games ahead of Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, who each own the head-to-head tiebreaker against them. The Giants would clinch a playoff berth with a win and losses by the Redskins, Vikings and Packers.

The Lions are fighting to hang on to the NFC North with Green Bay and Minnesota on their heels. Detroit controls their own destiny, but their last three games are tough and the Packers are firing on all cylinders.

Here are the games to watch on Sunday/Monday for Giants’ fans.

Atlanta Falcons(8-5) vs. San Francisco 49ers (1-12)

When: Sun., Dec. 18, 4:05 p.m. ET (FOX)

As hard as it is to believe, the Falcons can still find themselves out of the playoffs. With the Buccaneers threatening for the division and the Giants and Redskins in close contention for a wild-card spot, Atlanta has zero margin for error. They should handle business today against the hapless Niners.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (11-2)

When: Sun., Dec. 18, 8:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

Just a few short weeks ago, the Cowboys were on top of the world. As it stands, they’ve been swept by the Giants this season, there’s a QB-controversy brewing (and we may see Tony Romo take over if Dak Prescott struggles tonight), and winning the NFC East is no longer a foregone conclusion. If the Cowboys lose tonight — a decent possibility against a red-hot Bucs team — and drop either of their final two games, the Giants take the East by winning out. Tampa takes the lead in the NFC South with a win and a Falcons loss.

Washington Redskins (7-5-1) vs. Carolina Panthers (5-8)

When: Mon., Dec. 19, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

A loss against Carolina and Washington is in serious trouble. If the Giants, Falcons and Bucs win, the Skins would have to win out and hope for help. They won’t be taking the Panthers lightly on Monday Night Football.

Minnesota Vikings (7-6) vs. Indianapolis Colts (6-7)

When: Sun., Dec. 18, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

The Vikings need help to catch Detroit in the North. They may have a better shot at a wild-card, but they’ll still need help. Washington holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over them, should it come down to those two teams for the final-seed. A wild-card spot will take at least 9 wins, and probably 10. The Vikings must win at least two of their final three to have a chance.

Green Bay Packers (7-6) @ Chicago Bears (3-10)

When: Sun. Dec. 18, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

Though even with Minnesota, the Packers are in better position to sneak into the postseason. They’re playing their best football of late and get the Vikings and Lions in the next two weeks. With games against New York and Dallas before seeing Green Bay, there’s a possibility Detroit drops their last three and finds themselves sitting home mid-January.