NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Who Won't Hold on for Playoff Spot?

Stephen FenechCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 16: Christian Ponder #7 of the Minnesota Vikings looks to pass the ball against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on December 16, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The NFL playoff picture is on the verge of being solidified, but a couple of the postseason spots are still being hotly contested. 

In the AFC, the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens have already clinched playoff spots. 

The Indianapolis Colts are a victory away from securing a spot in the postseason. The 9-5 Colts are set to travel to Arrowhead Stadium in Week 16 to face off against the lackluster Kansas City Chiefs. 

The Colts have the inside track for the fifth seed in the conference, which is remarkable, considering that they were the worst team in the NFL this time last year. 

The sixth spot in the AFC will go to either the Pittsburgh Steelers or Cincinnati Bengals, with those bitter rivals meeting in Week 16 in what is essentially a playoff game for both teams. 

The playoff fight in the NFC is far more wild than the one in the AFC, as two divisions and the final wild-card slot are yet to be decided. 

The Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers have each clinched playoff berths, and the Seattle Seahawks are on the verge of doing the same. 

The NFC East is the most competitive division in football, as the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys are all 8-6 with two games remaining on the schedule. The two teams that fail to win the division will still be in contention for the final wild-card slot. 

The last two weeks of the season promise to be entertaining and exciting, although the fans of the following teams will be bitterly disappointed when they lose hold of their current playoff spot. 

Minnesota Vikings 

The Vikings have jumped upon the back of Adrian Peterson, as their talented workhorse is in the midst of one of the most impressive individual seasons in recent memory. Peterson has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in each of the past eight games, as the knee injury that he suffered during Week 16 last year is now a distant memory.

The Vikings will lose their playoff spot despite Peterson's brilliance due to poor play from second-year quarterback Christian Ponder. Minnesota is ranked dead last in the league in terms of passing yards, which makes Peterson's extraordinary season even more remarkable.

Ponder has showed few signs of real progression and has struggled mightily during the second half the season.  The Florida State alumnus has compiled a quarterback rating of 45, which has him ranked 27th in the league. 

The Vikings have surprised many by being in contention this late in the season, but they will falter down the stretch because of poor quarterback play.

In the next two weeks, the Vikings will travel to Houston to play the Texans before returning home to host the Packers to cap off the regular season. 

The Vikings will have to hold off the Chicago Bears and the two teams that fail to win the NFC East to qualify for the playoffs, and I just don't see that happening with Ponder under center.


Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are in control of their destiny, as they have a game lead over the Steelers for the final wild-card slot. Those two teams will face off this weekend, and a Bengals victory would secure their second playoff berth in as many years. 

While the Bengals have the inside track, it's hard to have confidence in them because of their track record. The Bengals have beaten only two teams with winning records this season, with both of those victories coming against NFC East opponents. 

The Steelers have dominated the Bengals recently, as they have beaten them five straight times. Ben Roethlisberger lives for crucial games like this one, and he will definitely bring his "A" game. 

If the Steelers beat the Bengals this weekend, then a victory over the Cleveland Browns at home would earn Pittsburgh its third straight postseason berth.