NFL Playoff Picture 2012: Week 16 Games with Most Postseason Significance

Ben Chodos@bchodosCorrespondent IIDecember 20, 2012

The most wonderful time of year is upon us, and it has nothing to do with Christmas. The NFL postseason has nearly arrived, and the playoff picture in both conferences is coming into focus.

While any game involving a team in the hunt for a playoff spot has implications for which franchises will be smiling in January, a few matchups are hugely important.

The games in which two teams fighting for the postseason are involved will be the ones that fans should clear their schedules for.

Here are the Week 16 games with the most playoff significance.


Minnesota Vikings vs. Houston Texans 

The Vikings are truly unfortunate to play so many quality opponents at the end of its schedule, and the tough matchups continue in Week 16 against the Texans.

Adrian Peterson will need to continue playing at a superhuman level, as Minnesota is a one-dimensional team while Houston has one of the most balanced rosters in the NFL. 

The Vikings need this victory to stay in the wild-card race and they are certainly the more desperate team. But the Texans have the Denver Broncos threatening to take home-field advantage away from them if they slip up, and this will provide enough motivation for the team to play well.

With a home crowd behind it, Houston is a comfortable favorite in this game.


Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

No game has more on the line than this one.

The Bengals can wrap up a postseason berth with a win, while the Steelers need a victory to stay alive.

While the Miami Dolphins are technically still in the hunt, the AFC’s final wild-card spot will almost certainly come down to these two teams, and the winner will have the inside track towards the playoffs.

The Steelers are playing at home and have one of league’s most clutch quarterbacks, and this gives them an advantage is this exciting matchup.


New York Giants vs. Baltimore Ravens

Both the Giants and the Ravens have struggled recently, but Baltimore is fortunate enough to have built enough of a cushion to seal a playoff spot.

New York has not been as lucky, and they will need to win on the road in order to keep pace with the other NFC playoff hopefuls. After a 34-0 loss to the Atlanta Falcons last week, it will be difficult to head into this matchup with confidence.

While this matchup is clearly more important to the Giants, the Ravens have a vested interest in playing well. A win may not improve their seed, but heading into the postseason on a lengthy losing streak is not a recipe for success.

Still, the more desperate team usually wins matchups this late in the season, and this gives the edge to the Giants. 


San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle Seahawks

The 49ers may be playing better than any team in the NFL, but they have not won their division just yet.

In addition to an NFC West title, San Francisco will also be fighting to hold on to the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. This will provide more than enough motivation for the team to leave everything on the field against Seattle. 

But the Seahawks will face a sticky situation if they are unable to get a victory, and could be tied with a number of NFC teams.

Seattle is certainly the more desperate team in this matchup, but San Francisco is too talented and playing too well to lose this game. 



 No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South
 No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth
 No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-4) Clinched NFC North
 No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East


 No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)


 Chicago Bears (8-6)
 Dallas Cowboys (8-6)
 New York Giants (8-6)
 St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)
 New Orleans Saints (6-8)



 No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South
 No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West
 No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East
 No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC North; Clinched Playoff Berth


 No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)
 No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)


 Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)
 Miami Dolphins (6-8)




Atlanta: vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago

San Francisco: at Seattle, vs. Arizona

Green Bay: vs. Tennessee, at Minnesota

Washington: at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas

Seattle: vs. San Francisco, vs. St. Louis

Minnesota: at Houston, vs. Green Bay

Chicago: at Arizona, vs. Detroit

Dallas: vs. New Orleans, at Washington

New York: at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia

St. Louis: at Tampa Bay, at Seattle

New Orleans: at Dallas, vs. Carolina



Houston: vs. Minnesota, at Indianapolis

Denver: vs. Cleveland, vs. Kansas City

New England: at Jacksonville, vs. Miami

Baltimore: vs. New York Giants, at Cincinnati

Indianapolis: at Kansas City, vs. Houston

Cincinnati: at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore

Pittsburgh: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Cleveland

Miami: vs. Buffalo, at New England




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