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Six games Falcons fans need to keep an eye on


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Falcons kicked off Week 14 with a bang on Thursday night, earning a 20-17 victory over New Orleans. With the win, Atlanta kept pace in the playoff picture and in the NFC South race.


The Falcons (8-5) may have the weekend off to recover from a hard-fought win, but that does not mean there isn't football to watch.

As we head down the final stretch of the season, we'll keep you informed on the key games each weekend that have playoff implications in the NFC. Here are six Week 14 matchups that Falcons fans should pay attention to:

Vikings (10-2) at Panthers (8-4) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (CBS)

Minnesota stays within the NFC South for another big matchup with the Carolina Panthers. If the Vikings beat or tie the Panthers, they will clinch the NFC North and earn a spot in the postseason. They could also win the North if the Lions lose or tie and the Packers also lose or tie. The Panthers, meanwhile, are fighting to remain inside of the projected field. Because they currently hold a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Falcons, a loss wouldn't drop the Panthers out of a projected seed this weekend, but it would eliminate any margin for error.

Packers (6-6) at Browns (0-12) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

While this game won't likely contain much entertainment value, there is still a reason to for Falcons fans to watch. The Packers remain on the fringe of the playoff picture, and Aaron Rodgers is inching close to a possible return as long as the postseason is a possibility for Green Bay. Next weekend is seen as the most likely time Rodgers will return, which sets him up to play against the Panthers.

Cowboys (6-6) at Giants (2-10) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

With the Falcons' win on Thursday night, the Cowboys' playoff hopes are up against the ropes. Because Atlanta holds a head-to-head with against Dallas, the Cowboys need to essentially win out and hope for several different scenarios to fall their way. The Cowboys are at currently at arm's length in the playoff race, but a loss against the Giants could be a knockout punch.

Lions (6-6) at Buccaneers (4-8) Time:Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)

The Lions are in pretty much the same situation laid out for the Cowboys, above.

Seahawks (8-4) at Jaguars (8-4) Time:Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

One of the best games of the weekend also has arguably the biggest implications for the Falcons. The Seahawks remain a half-game ahead of the Falcons in the NFC playoff race, and because Atlanta owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, a Seattle loss would put the Falcons back into the projected playoff field as a wild card. Since the Seahawks are playing against the Jaguars, an AFC team, there should be no question who fans should root for.

Eagles (10-2) at Rams (9-3) Time:Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET (FOX)

In another enticing, late-afternoon NFC showdown, the Eagles take on the Rams. There are arguments to make for wanting either team to emerge victoriously, but the Eagles may be the best option. Atlanta owns a tiebreaker against Seattle because of its direct head-to-head victory, but the Falcons also own a tiebreaker over the Rams due to their better conference record. Reaching the Eagles at this point seems a tall task, so keeping as many teams within striking distance of the Falcons as possible could prove helpful for seeding purposes down the road.

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