Mickles: NFC playoff race is a jumble

When the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins meet Monday night, every team in the NFL will have played 11 games with only five remaining in the regular season.

So with the 9-2 New Orleans Saints in the hunt for the NFC’s first or second seed — and a first-round playoff bye that goes with them — it’s time to take a look at how things shape up heading down the stretch.

Regardless of what happens Monday night, the Saints will still be sitting in the No. 2 spot in the NFC at the start of Week 13, which will be capped by their clash with the currently top-seeded Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 2.

A Saints win would tie them with the 10-1 Seahawks, and most important, give them the tie-breaker if they were to finish the season with identical records.

Beyond that, the playoff picture is getting muddier by the minute with 11 teams having at least five wins.

So here’s how they stand:

1. Seattle (10-1): The Seahawks lead the NFC West by 31/2 games over San Francisco and are coasting to the division title. Unless they collapse, the only question is whether they get a bye.

Remaining: New Orleans, at San Francisco, at N.Y. Giants, Arizona, St. Louis.

2. New Orleans (9-2): The Saints are looking to their showdown in Seattle but must keep an eye on the Carolina Panthers. Winners of seven straight, the Panthers are just one game back in the NFC South.

Remaining: at Seattle, Carolina, at St. Louis, at Carolina, Tampa Bay.

3. Detroit (6-5): The Lions dropped their second game in a row Sunday and are tied with the Chicago Bears in the NFC North but get this spot on a tiebreaker.

Remaining: Green Bay, at Philadelphia, Baltimore, N.Y. Giants, at Minnesota.

4. Dallas (6-5): After an off week, that win against the Giants in the freezing cold Sunday might be the jump-start the Cowboys have been needing.

Remaining: Oakland, at Chicago, Green Bay, at Washington, Philadelphia.

5. Carolina (8-3): Three weeks ago, you wondered if the Panthers were for real. Since then, they’ve made a statement by beating San Francisco, New England and Miami.

Remaining: Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, N.Y. Jets, New Orleans, at Atlanta.

6. Arizona (7-4): The Cardinals were 1-2 on Sept. 22 after a 31-7 loss to the Saints, but they’ve won six of eight — and four in a row.

Remaining: at Philadelphia, St. Louis, at Tennessee, at Seattle, San Francisco.

7. San Francisco (6-4): The 49ers can climb back into the sixth and final playoff spot with a victory over the Redskins but still have a lot of work to do.

Remaining: at Washington, St. Louis, Seattle, at Tampa Bay, Atlanta, at Arizona.

8. Philadelphia (6-5): The Eagles have won three in a row and are starting to make some noise, but a big game looms Sunday against surging Arizona.

Remaining: Arizona, Detroit, at Minnesota, Chicago, at Dallas.

9. Chicago (6-5): Once 3-0, the Bears have been up and down since losing to the Saints on Oct. 6. They missed an opportunity to take the lead in the NFC North in falling to St. Louis.

Remaining: at Minnesota, Dallas, at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, Green Bay.

10. Green Bay (5-5-1): With Aaron Rodgers out, the Packers haven’t been the same with three losses and a tie. Will it be too late by the time he gets back?

Remaining: at Detroit, Atlanta, at Dallas, Pittsburgh, at Chicago.

11. St. Louis (5-6): The Rams looked to be out of it three weeks ago when they fell to 3-6. But they’re not finished yet after back-to-back wins, although they have a tough schedule left.

Remaining: at San Francisco, at Arizona, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, at Seattle.