The final week of the NFL regular season will feature a handful of games with massive playoff implications. The AFC playoff teams are set; only the seeding is yet to be determined. The NFC is still a wild scene with three teams wrestling for the final wild-card spot.
The Seattle Seahawks clinched their spot by beating the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night.
The NFC East champion will be decided in an epic showdown between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. It's going to be a great week of football.
Here are my predictions for the final playoff spots and the results of the NFC games that will dictate the seedings.
1. Atlanta Falcons: NFC South champion (home-field advantage through playoffs and first-round bye)
2. Green Bay Packers: NFC North champion (first-round bye)
3. San Francisco 49ers: NFC West champion
4. Washington Redskins: NFC East champion
5. Seattle Seahawks: Wild Card 1
6. Chicago Bears: Wild Card 2
1. Houston Texans: AFC South champion (home-field advantage through playoffs and first-round bye)
2. Denver Broncos: AFC West champion (first-round bye)
3. New England Patriots: AFC East champion
4. Baltimore Ravens: AFC North champion
5. Indianapolis Colts: Wild Card 1
6. Cincinnati Bengals: Wild Card 2
Here is how I see this shaking out.
Green Bay Knocks Off the Minnesota Vikings
The Packers dealt the Vikings a 23-14 loss in Week 13. This game will take place in Minnesota, but the Packers are a battle-tested group with the NFL's best quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. The experience of the Packers along with solid QB play from Rodgers will keep the result the same.
With a first-round bye on the line for the Packers, Rodgers will have his team performing at a high level.
In their first matchup, Adrian Peterson ran for 210 yards and a touchdown. The Packers will gladly allow AP to go off again if the end result is another victory.
Christian Ponder and the Vikings pass offense haven't shown enough consistency to win a huge game like this against a team like Green Bay. The Packers defense has been holding opponents to an average of 13.5 points per game in the last four weeks.
That includes the Week 13 win over the Vikings.
Expect another solid performance from the defense and another stellar showing from Rodgers. The Packers will win and clinch the second seed in the NFC playoffs.
With the Packers win, the 49ers will automatically settle into the third spot, and the NFC East winner will take the fourth spot.
Washington Will Be the Beast of the East
The Redskins have to be the team that no team wants to face. They have one of the NFL's most versatile quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III, a solid running game with rookie Alfred Morris and an improving defense.
The Cowboys have shown great resiliency this season, but their inability to step up on the defensive end will kill them in this game. The Boys have surrendered an average of 429 yards per game over their last five contests.
That includes the 437 yards they allowed the Redskins in their Week 12 loss in Arlington. At some point, the Cowboys defense has to get stops, and it hasn't been able to do that. The team continues to hope to win wild shootouts.
The Redskins will grind out a victory at home to claim the division and send the Cowboys home for the winter.
Chicago Will Sneak in by Defeating Detroit
It shouldn't have come to this, but I'm sure Lovie Smith and the Chicago Bears will take it if this is how it plays out. The Bears started the season 7-1, but they have to win and get help from the Packers—of all teams—just to get in the playoffs.
As I mentioned above, the Packers will defeat the Vikings, but the Bears will also knock off the Lions.
Detroit is a mess on the offensive end, and things are not much better on defense. Aside from Calvin Johnson, there isn't much to be excited about with the Lions attack.
Megatron broke the single-season receiving yards record on Saturday, but Matthew Stafford couldn't find the end zone, and he threw his 16th interception of the season.
In his last three games, he has thrown five picks and only one touchdown pass. Turning the ball over at that clip plays right into the Bears' hands. Chicago forced three more turnovers against Arizona on Sunday, running their season total for takeaways to 40.
The Bears harassed the Lions into four turnovers in their Week 7 matchup, and this will likely be the biggest factor in this meeting. Chicago's offense has been nothing to write home about, but the Lions defense may be the cure for what ails it.
The same Cardinals offense that looked inept against the Bears scored three touchdowns against the Lions in Week 15.
Lovie's guys will edge their way into the postseason to claim the final NFC wild-card spot.
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