Ranking NFC teams fighting for wild-card spots: 49ers find their groove; Rams continue to struggle

With 12 weeks of NFL football in the books, the 2021 playoff picture is starting to take shape. And the NFC, in particular, is set to play host to a circus of a wild-card race, with nearly a dozen teams potentially fighting over three postseason berths. With Week 13 approaching, which teams look the most formidable in the race? We’re taking stock of the entire pool of them.

Below, find current NFC division leaders, as well as our rankings of the current wild card contenders:

Current NFC division leaders

These can obviously change from now until the end of the season, but at the moment, they’re locked in:

Cardinals (9-2)Packers (9-3)Buccaneers (8-3)Cowboys (7-4)

NFC wild card contenders, ranked

This is how we’d sort the obvious candidates, but keep in mind only three of these can actually make the playoffs:

1. Rams (7-4)

Remaining schedule: vs. Jaguars, at Cardinals, vs. Seahawks, at Vikings, at Ravens, vs. 49ers  

It’s officially OK to be concerned about them, particularly under center, where Matthew Stafford has now repeatedly reminded everyone of the shortcomings that plagued him in Detroit. But the talent is still too apparent here to write them off. These are the Wild Card candidates, remember, not contenders for the No. 1 seed. And Sean McVay’s squad can still be a tough out come January.

2. 49ers (6-5)

Remaining schedule: at Seahawks, at Bengals, vs. Falcons, at Titans, vs. Texans, at Rams  

Left for dead after their four-game slide before Halloween, they’ve quickly turned things around thanks to Kyle Shanahan leaning more on the creative ground game and less on Jimmy Garoppolo’s arm. Deebo Samuel and Fred Warner going down may limit their ceiling over the next few weeks, but Jimmy G has at least been here before. They feel pretty darn scrappy right now.

3. Vikings (5-6)

Remaining schedule: at Lions, vs. Steelers, at Bears, vs. Rams, at Packers, vs. Bears  

Yes, Mike…

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