Kind of a surprise considering two teams in the AFC are considered locks, but no team in the NFC can rest easy just yet. Nobody has clinched a spot and everyone can slip and miss the playoffs with a string of losses. This will most likely change after this weekend as 3 teams should emerge as locks for the playoffs as long as they win their respective games. Until then however, this category remains empty.
Sitting Pretty: Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants
Atlanta has the top record so obviously they’re sitting pretty. They can afford to lose 2 games and should still make the playoffs easy and are close to clinching. They’ve played great all season long and always find ways to win. As for the Saints, they are 1 game behind the Falcons and on their heels. They have a tough schedule as they play Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and Baltimore. They should be fine with 1 win, but should aim for 2 to get a better seed. If they land the 5th seed, they’ll get the gift of destroying the NFC West Champions. The Eagles and the Giants are in good position as they are both tied for first in the NFC East. They both play each other this week which should determine who’s in good position to win the division and who should aim for the wild card spot. Philly finishes the season with Minnesota and Dallas so their road isn’t incredibly tumultuous. The Giants have to still play at Lambeau Field against a Packers team that must win and at Washington. While they have some tough battles, they control their own destiny.
In The Hunt: St Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears
Here’s where things get interesting. The five teams above are still in the playoff race, but need to play flawless football. St Louis and Seattle is an interesting battle. If either team loses 2 games San Francisco enters the picture if they can win out. Seattle plays two teams with winning records while St Louis plays Kansas City. To make things real interesting (something the NFC West hasn’t seen in ages) they also play each other the final week of the season which could be a winner take all situation. Tama Bay has had a great season thus far and yet is still a game behind the final playoff team. Out of their final games, the only real challenge is New Orleans week 17. However, they will need some help in the form of either of NFC East team losing at least 2 games. For right now they need to win at least 2. The Packers and Bears will be the most interesting playoff race out of them all. Green Bay has one hell of a final stretch as they play 3 playoff teams in the Patriots, Giants, and the Bear at home. It could get real interesting if they beat the Giants and the Giants lose against the Eagles next week which could be the easiest road to the playoffs for the Packers. The Bears on the other hand play the Vikings, Jets, and Packers. They’ve played well enough to win lately, but they’re still the Bears and could choke away a few games to slip away.
Barely Alive: San Francisco 49ers
Much like their bay area counterparts, the San Francisco 49ers are on the outside looking in. However, they still have a shot to make the playoffs. First off, they need to win out which includes a division game against St Louis and a tough road test against San Diego. They also need both St Louis and Seattle to lose at least 2 games each which is possible as St Louis plays Kansas City and San Francisco while the Seahawks play Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and St Louis. Nobody has an easy road in the NFC West and it will come down to who can win when it counts (which has been nobody this season).
Eliminated: Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys
The above teams have no chance at all and are already looking forward to next season. The Panthers haven’t been ready to play all season and had a serious down year with some bad play at the QB position. They are most likely going to pick first in the NFL draft and should take Andrew Luck. The Cardinals have fallen hard as well for a slew of reasons which is sad as 3 of the NFC West teams are still in contention with losing records. Detroit is still Detroit, although they’ve shown improvement. They just seem to always get bad breaks (Calvin Johnson no TD, Stafford injury, etc). They still have some building blocks to work with and are slowing turning everything around. Minnesota has been a hot topic because of Brett Favre but more importantly because they went from the NFC Championship game to eliminated by week 14. Leslie Frazier has done well so far, but there’s a lot of work left to be done. As for the Redskins, they’ve only made the playoffs once with Dan Snyder as owner so it’s to be expected. They overpay undeserving players drastically and trade away all their draft picks. Lastly, the Dallas Cowboys. I could talk for days how Romo let them down, or their sense of entitlement got to the heads, or how Wade Phillips should of been fired last season; instead I’ll just say they’ve been a disappointment.
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles
NFC North: Chicago Bears
NFC South: Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: St Louis Rams
Wild Card: New Orleans Saints
Wild Card: Green Bay Packers