There are six NFC teams in the thick of the race for playoff spots, and the bottom three seeds are far from certain at this point in the season.
The AFC wild-card race is not nearly as complicated and there are far fewer participants. The Indianapolis Colts are likely to grab the No. 5 seed while the AFC North runner-up will almost certainly earn the final postseason spot.
But there are countless scenarios that could play out in the NFC, and the final two weeks of the season will feature plenty of twists and turns.
Here is how each team’s path to playoffs looks at this point.
Washington Redskins (8-6)
The Redskins’ road to the playoffs could not be simpler. If they win against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys—two teams they have already beat—they will win the NFC East.
Robert Griffin III’s ability to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of the team’s win over the Cleveland Browns will be a key factor in each remaining game. If he plays, Washington has an excellent chance to win out.
But two more victories would not provide many answers in the wild-card race, as the Redskins would likely end up with the No. 4 seed in this scenario. The other five teams in this mess will have to battle for the final two spots.
New York Giants (8-6)
An embarrassing 34-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons knocked the Giants off the top of the NFC East, but the team can still grab a wild-card spot.
New York is one of four 8-6 teams that are not currently leading its division, and it will have to battle with these teams to keep its hopes for a second straight Super Bowl victory alive.
But the Giants face a difficult matchup next week as they travel to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The G-men face the frightening prospect of dropping to 2-5 in the second half of the season, and a loss would severely damage their chances to reach the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
With another huge offensive performance, the Seahawks have reached 50 points for the second consecutive week after blowing out the Buffalo Bills. Now, Seattle must keep its momentum rolling, as there are other NFC teams nipping at its heels.
An NFC West showdown with the San Francisco 49ers will have a huge impact on the playoff picture. If the Seahawks win, they will drag the Niners into the wild-card race, while a loss would open the door for other teams to knock Seattle out of the playoffs.
Next week’s game will be the most important contest of Russell Wilson’s life, and he will need to perform in order to take down San Francisco and keep Seattle in a favorable position to reach the playoffs.
Minnesota Vikings (8-6)
Coming off their bye week, the Vikings faced an incredibly difficult schedule, and it started the home stretch with losses to the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. But Minnesota has bounced back and won two games in a row.
Still, the road forward will not get any easier as the team will finish its schedule against the Houston Texans and the Packers. Both these teams will likely be fighting for a first-round bye when they take on the Vikings.
Adrian Peterson has been amazing late in the season, and he will need to keep running at the same level in order for Minnesota to compensate for Percy Harvin’s absence and put the team in the playoffs.
Chicago Bears (8-6)
After starting the season with a 7-1 record, the Bears have gone into a tailspin and lost five of their last six games. The 21-13 defeat to the Packers this week handed Green Bay the division.
Fortunately for Chicago, the team has the easiest schedule of any of the teams in the wild-card hunt. The Bears will finish the season against the Arizona Cardinals and the Detroit Lions.
All six of Chicago’s losses this year are against teams with winning records. In all likelihood, the Bears will still finish 10-6 and this should be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
A thrilling overtime victory kept Dallas neck-and-neck with the other teams in the NFC wild-card race. The NFC East is now the most interesting division in football.
The Cowboys have won five of their last six games, and their only loss during this stretch came against the Washington Redskins. The team faces New Orleans at home next week, and then will have to play the Redskins on the road.
The Week 17 showdown will likely have incredibly high stakes and may determine which NFC East team or teams will be playing in January.
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