The NFC Playoff Race Heats Up
1. Atlanta Falcons – 11-2
2. San Francisco 49ers – 9-3-1
3. Green Bay Packers – 9-4
4. New York Giants – 8-5
5. *Seattle Seahawks – 8-5
6. Chicago Bears – 8-5
*Seahawks beat the Bears head-to-head to have control of the tiebreaker.
Is this set-up going to be the same in three weeks? If not, here are the teams that could shake up the top 6, in order of least likely to most likely (sorry the Eagles played well for once, Bucs fans):
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 6-7
After Week 14’s last second loss, Tampa Bay is going to need a ton of help in order to find their way into the playoffs. Along with winning all three of their remaining games – which includes Atlanta, New Orleans and St. Louis, all difficult wins – they’ll need a spot to open up for a 9-7 team, while controlling the tiebreaker at the same time. A great rebound season for the Bucs, but a playoff appearance is looking slim.
4. St Louis Rams – 6-6-1
With three straight victories, the Rams are hanging on by a thread in the playoff picture. And now, they’ll really have an opportunity to prove they deserve a spot in the playoffs with three straight games against other teams trying to get in – Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and Seattle in that order. While winning all three is rather unlikely, it may be enough for the team to find their way into the playoffs for the first time since the Isaac Bruce era.
3. Minnesota Vikings – 7-6
The Peterson comeback has been nothing short of remarkable, but it’s hard to believe with Green Bay and Houston still on the schedule, that his 2012 campaign will go longer than 16 games. Along with beating two of the league’s best teams, the Bears will need a win versus St. Louis and some help on the side to have the most realistic chance of making the playoffs. If they drop to 9-7, playoffs are still a possibility, but I don’t even want to start unraveling the “ifs” and “thens” from that puzzle.
2. Dallas Cowboys - 7-6
The next two games – hosting Pittsburgh and New Orleans – will be a big measuring stick for whether the Cowboys will play into January. If they can come away with two victories, a Week 17 showdown in Washington could determine the NFC East or a wildcard spot. But let’s get those first two games out of the way first.
1. Washington Redskins - 7-6
If the Redskins win out – with games against Cleveland, Philadelphia and Dallas – and the Giants drop to either Atlanta, Baltimore or Philadelphia, their better division record will earn them the NFC East title. The RGIII injury leaves for a bit of concern, but asking the team to beat the Browns without him is certainly reasonable and if he can get back on the field versus Philly and Dallas, the NFC East may have a new representative in the playoffs.