With the 2012 NFL regular season just a week from wrapping up, the talk of the playoff picture and which teams will sneak into the postseason has the football world abuzz.
The AFC may have all of its teams locked in, but the NFC is shaping up for a Week 17 battle that will not only crown a NFC East division winner, but also cement the wild-card race.
The last week of the regular season is always better when there are serious implications, and Week 17 is full of intriguing storylines that will shake up the playoff picture.
The NFC East
While the Washington Redskins (9-6) are leading the NFC East right now, the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) and New York Giants (8-7) are not out of the equation yet.
With the Giants playing the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17—a game New York should win—and the Cowboys facing the Redskins to finish the regular season, there are so many ways the final week of NFC East action could shake out.
Washington is playing well right now, so as long as it performs as strongly as it has been with rookie Robert Griffin III under center against Dallas Sunday, it will win the division outright.
As for the remaining NFC wild-card spot, that depends on what happens in the North.
The NFC North
The Minnesota Vikings (9-6) and Chicago Bears (9-6) are fighting hard for a spot in the postseason, but tough Week 17 matchups for each will make getting to the Promised Land even tougher.
The Bears will take on the Detroit Lions, but the test will be harder for the Vikings, who must take on the red-hot Green Bay Packers.
With so many divisional games—not just in the NFC North, but in the NFC East and across the league—teams will not only be looking to win the game; they’ll also be looking to play spoilers.
Add in the fact that five teams are in contention for two spots, and this is a Week 17 playoff race that will be too great to miss.
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (13-2) Clinched NFC South & Home-Field Advantage|
|No. 2 Seed Green Bay Packers (11-4) Clinched NFC North|
|No. 3 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-4-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (9-6) Lead NFC East|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (9-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (9-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-7)|
|New York Giants (8-7)|
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-3) Clinched AFC South|
|No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (12-3) Clinched AFC West|
|No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (11-4) Clinched AFC East|
| No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (10-5) Clinched AFC North|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-5); Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (9-6); Clinched Playoff Berth|
Atlanta: vs. Chicago
San Francisco: vs. Arizona
Green Bay: at Minnesota
Washington: vs. Dallas
Seattle: vs. St. Louis
Minnesota: vs. Green Bay
Chicago: vs. Detroit
New York: vs. Philadelphia
Houston: at Indianapolis
Denver: vs. Kansas City
New England: vs. Miami
Baltimore: at Cincinnati
Indianapolis: vs. Houston
Cincinnati: vs. Baltimore
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