Coming into the season, there weren’t many teams in the NFC that you could rule out of the playoffs. Rookie quarterbacks in Washington and Seattle? They’re in the think of things. The Saints with Drew Brees, coming off of a 5,000 yard passing season? Well, they’re out of it. Who would’ve guessed it. It’s time to look into the NFC playoff picture as we wind down to the end of the season with just four games left.
Note: Divisional Leaders (X = a playoff berth clinched, Y = division clinched, Z = home field advantage clinched)
NFC East – New York Giants (7-5)
Not as if it matters, because this is the worst division in the NFC, but this division will be the closest in the NFC. The Cowboys, are well, the Cowboys, and now they’re likely to get their late season blues. The Giants have lost three of their last four, including a loss to the Washington Redskins on Monday Night Football in Week 13. Washington is exciting. Their defense has recovered drastically after losing defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo early in the season. They certainly are still lacking in the pass rush department, but if their offense takes care of business when they have to, I think they take this division home.
Notable remaining games: New York finishes with the Saints in Week 14, the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, and the Ravens on their own turf. The game against the Ravens stands out, both teams will likely need a win to remain on top of their division. Dallas visiting Washington in Week 17 is also ultra exciting, they played one hell of a game on Thanksgiving day, and I certain won’t be complaining if the division comes down to that Week 17 matchup, and it certainly could if New York continues their December blues of recent years. Giants have to get a win against New Orleans this week if they want to remain competitive.
If the playoffs started today…:The Giants would be in the playoffs and would take on Chicago in a 4-5 seed matchup. It ultimately comes down to whether New York can play like they did early in October, where they claimed four of their seven victories. If they fail to do that, Washington and Dallas will make them pay, but more than likely it will be Washington, who hasn’t lost since their Week 10 bye.
NFC North – Green Bay Packers (8-4)
The Packers have won six of their last seven and may just be the hottest team in the NFL right now, despite a 38-10 loss to the Giants in Week 12. They finish with three division games against Minnesota, Detroit, and, most importantly, Chicago in Week 15. Chicago is on the Packers’ tail, though, also at 8-4. They wrap up with Minnesota, Green Bay (as mentioned), Arizona, Detroit. Ultimately, I see both teams winning out in this scenario, and the division should come down to the Week 15 showdown between the two teams. Minnesota made an early case for the division, but they are an average team with two other powerhouses in their division. Sorry, Vikings fan(s).
Notable remaining games: The only game with real significance will be Green Bay vs Chicago in Week 15. Other than that, both teams, as noted above, should win out fairly easily. The only game I may be concerned about is Minnesota vs Chicago, but I think Chicago pulls it out. Minnesota likes to play close games, they just don’t always win.
If the playoffs started today… Packers would be taking on the No. 6 seed, Seattle, for a spot in the divisional playoffs, and the Bears would be going to play the Giants in New York. Thoas spots can easily flip-flop if the Bears can get a win in Week 15 and then win out.
NFC South – Atlanta Falcons (11-1) Y
It’s hard to believe that the Falcons are 11-1. If I watched this team on any given Sunday, where they continue to barely edge teams time and time again, I’d think that they were 8-4 at best. However, the Falcons have taken the season one game at a time and they continue to win football games. The South is also, by far, the best division in football right now. I believe that Tampa Bay would be in a posistion for a Wild Card in the AFC, but in the NFC, playing tougher opponents week-to-week, the Bucs are ninth in the conference. The Saints record doesn’t exactly show how competitive they are, but with Drew Brees under center, a game can go from 24-21, to 42-24 in no time. The Saints aren’t mathematically eliminated, but it’s unlikely they make their way back into it at 5-7. The Bucs have lost games against team that they’re competing for a playoff spot against, and that’s a no-no. Until they win the big game, they won’t be in the playoffs. It looks like the Falcons will be the only ones coming out of this division for now.
Notable remaining games: Atlanta has essentially wrapped up the No. 1 seed. Not much debating that. The Bucs still have a chance, but still have tough games in the Georgia Dome and the Superdome coming up.
If the playoffs started today… The Falcons would be the No. 1 seed in the NFC and favorites to win the conference. I still feel uneasy about this team heading into the playoffs. They just don’t have “it”. You true football fans know what I mean. The Giants, seemed last in their two most recent Super Bowl wins had “it”, so did the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers. Falcons just don’t give me those same vibes. I don’t see that changing in the coming weeks.
NFC West – San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1)
I picked the Seattle Seahawks to win the division, and I’m standing by that, despite being down (essentially) two games, because of the 49ers tie. The 49ers haven’t been as exciting as of late, and it become more clear against the Rams, which they also struggled against in Week 10, when they suffered a draw. I still think that the 49ers will be heading to the NFC Championship at the end of the year, but I don’t think that Colin Kaepernick will be the quarterback at that point. Last week marked a downhill streak with the sophomore quarterback. If the 49ers couldn’t take down the Rams, I’m certainly not taking them over New England in Week 15 or in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks, coming off a big victory in Chicago. This division is going to be a deadlock, but I think the Seahawks beat the 49ers in Week 16 behind that all-mighty 12th man.
Notable remaining games: See above. The game between Seattle and San Francisco in Seattle, home of the 12th man, is the best game remaining this regular season. Should be an even better game to watch. I love both team’s chances heading into the playoffs. We talked about it before: I just think they have that “it”.
If the playoffs started today…: The 49ers squeak by Green Bay for the No. 2 seed in the NFC, and the Seahawks are stuck in the Wild Card to take on Green Ba, whom both the 49ers and the Seahawks have defeated earlier in the season. If the Seahawks do end up winning the division as I predicted, or end up in a Wild Card spot, how important has that controversial touchdown on Monday Night against Green Bay just become? It’s huge, and it’s going to be exciting to be exciting to see how this division pans out.
We’re in for an exciting final weeks. The end of the season is near, and the final weeks is where we, as football fans, are torn. We can’t wait for Super Bowl Sunday, but afterwards, there is a football drought. Football droughts are, to me, hell… on Earth. Well, let’s enjoy it while we can, at least.
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Down and Distance Columnist - Christian Hardy @TheFFaddictThe post The Push for the Playoffs (NFC) – Week 14 Edition appeared first on DOWN & DISTANCE.