To make the playoffs in the NFL, you have to earn it. However, there are just some teams that are faltering late in the season and as a result, are playing themselves right out of the playoffs.
Before we check out which teams are guilty of this same letdown, let's see where each team stands in the NFL playoff picture in both the NFC and AFC as the Houston Texans and New England Patriots prepare for battle on Monday Night Football.
|1||Atlanta||11||2||0||.846||3-2||7-2-0||.391||.399||NFC South Champ|
|2||San Francisco||9||3||1||.731||2-1-1||6-3-1||.485||.461||NFC West Champ|
|3||Green Bay||9||4||0||.692||4-0||7-3-0||.512||.444||NFC North Champ|
|4||NY Giants||8||5||0||.615||2-3||7-3-0||.497||.500||NFC East Champ|
|5||Seattle||8||5||0||.615||1-3||6-4-0||.494||.520||Wild Card No. 1|
|6||Chicago||8||5||0||.615||2-2||5-4-0||.524||.422||Wild Card No. 2|
|1||Houston||11||2||0||.846||4-0||9-1-0||.462||.413||AFC South Champ|
|2||New England||10||3||0||.769||5-0||9-1-0||.524||.519||AFC Eest Champ|
|3||Denver||10||3||0||.769||5-0||7-2-0||.467||.362||AFC West Champ|
|4||Baltimore||9||4||0||.692||4-1||8-2-0||.473||.431||AFC North Champ|
|5||Indianapolis||9||4||0||.692||3-1||6-3-0||.416||.383||Wild Card No. 1|
|6||Pittsburgh||7||6||0||.538||2-2||4-6-0||.467||.473||Wild Card No. 2|
No team in the NFL has had a worse past five weeks than the Bears. Not only did they lose the leader of their defense, Brian Urlacher, but Chicago also began losing games.
The Bears started out 7-1, but since are just 1-4 and sliding quickly out of playoff contention. After Sunday's brutal loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Bears are only one game up, clinging to the last playoff spot.
A tough schedule can certainly be blamed for such ineptitude, but it isn't the whole reason. The Bears have lost their last four games to teams like Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Minnesota.
Against the former two teams, the Bears scored just six and seven points while the against the latter two teams, Chicago has scored a combined total of 31 points. It doesn't matter how much defense an NFL team plays; they still have to score points and what the Bears are supplying simply isn't enough.
Next week is a huge game at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. If the Bears lose, they could find themselves out of a playoff spot after Week 15 with the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions left.
And if Jay Cutler misses any of those games as a result of injury, consider that full-blown panic mode, my friend.
To say that Pittsburgh is lucky to still be in a playoff spot after Week 14 is the understatement of the century. After a brutal loss to one of the league's inferior teams, the San Diego Chargers, the Steelers could have been passed by the Cincinnati Bengals.
But they weren't and instead, the Bengals do what they normally do in a big spot: lose. Cincy dropped their match up with the Dallas Cowboys thanks to a last-second field goal that sealed the deal.
So, Mike Tomlin's squad has been saved and lives to see its playoff spot for another week. After all, Pittsburgh got into this mess by losing its last three of four games, one of which was against division rival Baltimore.
While the first two losses can be blamed on not having Big Ben behind center thanks to injury, Sunday's loss to the Chargers was inexcusable. Pittsburgh had a chance to finally grab the bull by the horns with the Bengals and Ravens losing, but instead failed itself on both sides of the ball.
The Steelers have three tough games left to play in order to make their playoff hopes a reality. Certainly Pittsburgh is capable of beating the Cowboys, Bengals and Browns, but that will all depend on which Steelers team shows up: the champs, or the chumps.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has had a tough schedule to play through during the 2012 season, but were still in position to make the playoffs. However, you can pretty much scrap that thought process after the Bucs dropped a game at home to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles.
Just how lowly are the Eagles, you ask? They came into this game having lost eight straight games. If you wanted to make yourself feel better as fan of a team who didn't show up with playoff aspirations on the line, maybe the Eagles were just due.
No matter the reasoning, that loss has put the Bucs into deeper despair in regards to the postseason and it won't get any easier from here.
Next up for the Bucs is Cincy, followed by Washington and the Giants.
My only question is: if Tampa Bay can't beat a horrible team with nothing to play for, how is it going to defeat three good teams who have everything to play for?
Simple answer: the Bucs won't.