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NFC playoff picture: New York Giants are almost there

Big Blue on the verge of first playoff berth since 2011

Detroit Lions v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Giants got another big win Sunday against the Detroit Lions and the defense was, again, the story. A week after shutting down the Dallas Cowboys, they were dominant once more as they kept the Lions out of the end zone en route to a 17-6 victory.

Since losing Jason Pierre-Paul for the remainder of the season, the Giants have allowed just 13 points in two games and haven’t surrendered a touchdown in seven quarters. Their last two opponents were a combined 20-5 entering play. For context, the 1-13 San Francisco 49ers average two touchdowns per game.

Time will tell whether or not the Giants’ defense can sustain this elite level, but count Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford as a believer.

“They’re a really good secondary, probably the best we played all year. They’ve also got a really good defensive line. We knew it was going to be a challenge. We just didn’t make enough plays. It’s on me and it’s on everybody.”

The Giants break out their Color Rush uniforms this Thursday when they travel to Philadelphia to meet the Eagles. They’ll clinch a playoff berth with a win. Let’s take a look at the latest NFC playoff picture after Week 15.

1. Dallas Cowboys (12-2)

Remaining schedule: vs. Detroit Lions, @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Cowboys are still in the driver’s seat in the NFC after a huge bounce-back win over the surging Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday night. Dallas would have to lose out and the Giants would have to win out in order for New York to claim the NFC East. Calls for Tony Romo have been silenced. ... at least for the moment.

2. Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Arizona Cardinals, @ San Francisco 49ers

The Seahawks clinched their playoff-berth by beating the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday. The only question left is what seed Seattle goes in as. Win out and they’ll hold onto the two-seed and the first-round bye that comes with it. The Lions and Atlanta Falcons are both a half-game behind Seattle, so seeds two through four will probably come down to Week 17.

3. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)

Remaining schedule: @ Carolina Panthers, vs. New Orleans Saints

Thanks to Dallas’ victory against the Bucs, Atlanta is in sole-possession of first-place in the NFC South. They control their own destiny as far as the South goes and with the Panthers and Saints remaining, the Falcons are a safe bet.

4. Detroit Lions (9-5)

Remaining schedule: @ Dallas Cowboys, vs. Green Bay Packers

Detroit’s five-game winning streak is a wrap and the Packers are gaining ground, but if they win they’re in. Only, they have the toughest road ahead among playoff hopefuls. If the Packers lose once more and Detroit gets their 10th victory, they’re in. Week 17’s Lions vs. Packers matchup is a playoff game for all intents and purposes, loser (likely) goes home.

5. New York Giants (10-4)

Remaining schedule: @ Philadelphia Eagles, @ Washington Redskins

The Giants can clinch a playoff berth with a win Thursday over the Eagles, but they’d also clinch with a loss and losses by the Redskins, Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

6. Washington Redskins (7-5-1)

Remaining schedule: vs. Carolina Panthers, @ Chicago Bears, vs. New York Giants

Washington has crept back into the top six courtesy of Dallas knocking off Tampa on Sunday Night Football. Should they lose tonight, the Redskins would be back outside looking in. The way the postseason is shaping up, Week 17’s game may mean much more to the Redskins than to the Giants. The Bucs and Packers are within striking distance and the Lions and Falcons are also in play if they lose their divisions.

Outside Looking In

As the dust begins to settle, the Buccaneers (8-6) and Packers (8-6) appear to be the only legitimate outside threats. The Vikings loss on Sunday ensures they’ll need plenty of help to get into the playoffs. The best they can do is nine wins. The Bucs slide back into the sixth-seed if Washington loses to Carolina on Monday Night Football. The Packers hold the tiebreaker over the division-leading Lions and Giants. They’re the hottest team in the league and have two ways into the playoffs.