It took a little longer than expected, but the Seattle Seahawks clinched home-field advantage in the NFC.
And it took a little longer than expected, but the Arizona Cardinals were eliminated from the playoff race.
The NFC playoff picture took shape, aside from the NFC East champion, during the late games on Sunday. The Packers, who beat the Bears to win the NFC North, will host the 49ers next weekend, and the Saints will travel to the winner of Sunday night's Eagles-Cowboys game. Seattle is the No. 1 seed and Carolina is the No. 2 seed.
The Seahawks' defense, dominant for most of the season, overwhelmed the Rams in a 27-9 win. Seattle got an interception return for a touchdown from linebacker Malcolm Smith in the first quarter, and that set the tone for what was to come. The Seahawks are the No. 1 seed in the NFC, and the Broncos' 34-14 win over Oakland Sunday makes them the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
The 49ers needed the Seahawks to lose to win the NFC West, but the Seahawks' win didn't stop San Francisco from winning 23-20 at Arizona on a Phil Dawson field goal on the final play.
The Cardinals battled to stay alive in the race, even becoming the first team in two seasons to win at Seattle last week. They needed to beat San Francisco and have the Saints lose, but New Orleans didn't cooperate. The Saints beat the Buccaneers pretty easily, by a 42-17 score. New Orleans will have to go on the road next weekend as a wild-card team, but at least they are in the playoffs. The Cardinals won 10 games this season but can make vacation plans now that their season is over.
The 49ers and Saints are the two NFC wild-card teams, and both will be tough opponents in round one. The 49ers are the No. 5 seed and the Saints are the sixth seed in the NFC. But the most important outcome on Sunday probably happened in Seattle. The Seahawks are two home wins away from going to the Super Bowl, and they're going to be tough to beat at home.
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