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NFL Playoff Scenarios: Analyzing the Playoff Chances of Each NFC Bubble Team

Derek GerberichCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2012

NFL Playoff Scenarios: Analyzing the Playoff Chances of Each NFC Bubble Team

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    It's about that time of year again.  NFL playoff time. 

    And as with every mention of the NFL playoffs, there comes the traditional Christmas list of teams fighting for their playoff lives.

    In the NFC, we find ourselves with a plethora of candidates, most of whom are the usual suspects. 

    The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Chicago Bears, and Seattle Seahawks are accustomed to being one the proverbial bubble—and this year they are accompanied by some fresh faces—namely, the Washington Redskins, Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    All of these teams still have visions of the playoffs dancing in their heads, but for some, that vision is more realistic than for others.

    Let's take a look at the current playoff scenarios for each of the NFC's bubble teams.

1. New York Giants

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    Where They Stand Now

    After back-to-back wins over the Redskins and the Cowboys in Weeks 7 and 8, the Giants were seemingly in the driver's seat of the NFC East at 6-2.  Since then, the G-Men have dropped three of their last five games, and have watched the Cowboys and Redskins each claw to within a game of the NFC East division lead.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    The schedule doesn't get any easier for Tom Coughlin's squad.  First up is a visit to the Georgia Dome, a place where the Falcons have proved to be nearly unbeatable.  Week 16 provides another road test in Baltimore, before the Giants close out the season with the Eagles at the Meadowlands.

     

    Bottom Line

    A playoff spot in some fashion seems likely, just because Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have figured out how to win in December.  However, the schedule does them no favors.

    Playoff Odds: 4 to 3


2. Seattle Seahawks

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    Where They Stand Now

    Will the dreadful replacement referee call become one of the most talked-about issues during the season's waning days?  Either way, the extra win has certainly helped pad the Seahawks' playoff positioning, as they stand at 8-5 with wild-card berth in hand, and a division crown still within the realm of possibility.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    The Seahawks first must take care of business on the road at Buffalo this weekend before thinking about their possible NFC West division title game against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.  Taking care of business on the road hasn't exactly been the Seahawks' calling card as of late—as evidenced by their 2-5 road record.

     

    Bottom Line

    The relatively easy remaining schedule makes a playoff spot theirs to lose.

    Playoff Odds: 3 to 2


3. Chicago Bears

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    Where They Stand Now

    After looking nearly invincible at 7-1 just five short games ago, the Bears have taken a severe turn for the worse—dropping four of their last five games.  At 8-5, they still cling to the second wild-card spot at the moment, but their playoff position has become ever so precarious.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    The Green Bay Packers are next on tap for the sliding Bears, which is certainly not the most welcome sight for sore eyes. 

    A loss this weekend not only ends any remote chance at the NFC North title, but would also set them back in a potential wild-card tiebreaker—evening their conference record at 5-5.  The Bears are then slated to finish their season on the road at Arizona and Minnesota.


    Bottom Line

    A loss to the Packers seems imminent, but the winnable two games which follow should give them hope for nabbing the final wild-card spot at 10-6. 

    Playoff Odds: 5 to 2


4. Washington Redskins

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    Where They Stand Now

    Is there a hotter team in the NFL right now than the Washington Redskins?  Provided Robert Griffin III can stay healthy, this is a team that no one is looking forward to facing down the stretch.  The Redskins are winners of four straight, including a pair of impressive home victories over the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    About as reasonable a schedule as one could hope for.  The Redskins take to the road against the upstart Browns in Week 15, and then will travel to Philadelphia for their second meeting with the Eagles the following week.  The winner of the Week 17 finale between the Redskins and Cowboys will most likely be assured of a playoff spot. 


    Bottom Line

    If RGIII stays healthy, what's not to like?

    Playoff Odds: 3 to 2


5. Dallas Cowboys

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    Where They Stand Now

    The Cowboys have flip-flopped between the left for dead and just barely alive stages all season long.  After a heart-stopping road victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14, Tony Romo's boys sit at 7-6 and are squarely back in their just barely alive stage.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    A virtual elimination game against the Steelers is the first priority in Week 15, but the schedule doesn't stop there.  The Saints make the journey to Cowboys Stadium in Week 16, and a revenge game with playoff berths on the line await the Cowboys in their Week 17 matchup against the Redskins. 


    Bottom Line

    Because of the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys need to win out to feel secure about their playoff chances.

    Playoff Odds: 4 to 1


6. Minnesota Vikings

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    Where They Stand Now

    A mildly surprising victory over the Bears in Week 14 kept the Vikings' playoff hopes alive, but at 7-6 there is still work left to do.  Adrian Peterson has an outside chance to set the all-time single-season rushing record, and as long as defenses can't figure out a way to stop him, the Vikings will live to see another day.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    A must-win game at St. Louis looms in Week 15, but that's only the beginning of the story.  A road trip to Houston and a season finale against the Packers seemingly nullify any kind of playoff hope the Vikings might have built up. 


    Bottom Line

    Adrian Peterson is a monster, but back-to-back games against the Texans and Packers might be too much to overcome.

    Playoff Odds: 25 to 1


7. St. Louis Rams

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    Where They Stand Now

    Winners of three straight, Jeff Fisher's bunch has scraped and clawed their way into the outskirts of the playoff picture.  Standing at 6-6-1, the Rams need to keep winning and get some help from teams above them if they want to see the postseason.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    Three winnable games, against three fellow bubble teams.  An elimination game against the Vikings starts things off this weekend, and the Buccaneers and Seahawks follow.  The Rams have to be considering all three games as must-wins at this point. 


    Bottom Line

    It's not impossible, but does anyone really believe the Rams will finish this season on a six-game winning streak?

    Playoff Odds: 35 to 1


8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Where They Stand Now

    The Buccaneers are like your favorite pair of old sneakers that you just don't want to throw away.  No matter how much you wish they could return to form, the reality is, they just aren't coming back to life.  At 6-7 and coming off of three straight heartbreaking losses, the Buccaneers' playoff hopes are in the intensive care unit.

     

    What Lies Ahead

    Two visits to domes (Georgia Dome and the Superdome), and a home date against the Rams.  All three are obviously must-wins, and the Bucs would still need some help. 


    Bottom Line

    While Tampa Bay is still mathematically alive in the playoff race, it would take pretty darn good mathematician to figure it out.

    Playoff Odds: 50 to 1


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