Looking under the Christmas tree of the 2012-13 NFL playoffs, it's easy to tell which conference wrapped which gift.
The AFC did a wonderful job wrapping things up in Week 16, while the NFC heads into the final week of the regular season with two playoff spots up for grabs.
With five teams battling for those spots, every contender enters Week 17 with a "win at all costs" mentality.
Yet someone has to lose.
Who's going to rise to the occasion?
Let's take a look.
Chicago travels to Ford Field to take on the Detroit Lions (4-11), a team that Chicago has already beaten once this season. The Bears won 13-7 at Soldier Field back in Week 7.
While the Bears' offensive line remains an issue, their defense is stout. Detroit has a dynamic passing attack with QB Matthew Stafford and record-setting WR Calvin Johnson, but that's really the extent of the Lions offense.
Stafford and Johnson will rack up the yardage (because that's what they do), but the duo will fail to connect in the end zone. That, coupled with Detroit's lack of a running game and porous secondary, will be just enough of an edge for Bears QB Jay Cutler to lead his team to victory.
A win by the Bears isn't enough for them to reach the postseason, though. Their future rests on the outcome of the other NFC North divisional matchup going on in Week 17: Green Bay at Minnesota.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay already withstood an all-out assault by Adrian Peterson once this season, beating the Minnesota Vikings 23-14 in Week 13 despite Peterson's touchdown and 210 rushing yards on the day.
While the locations have changed—that game was in Lambeau Field while this one is at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis—the outcome will be the same.
Unlike the previous meeting, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has one of his primary weapons back in WR Greg Jennings. Also, the return of RB Ryan Grant has given a major boost to a previously non-existent running attack.
With this victory, Green Bay accomplishes two things.
First, it assures the Packers of a first-round bye and home-field advantage. Second, it clears a path for the Chicago Bears to sneak into the playoffs as a Wild-Card team.
It's the final regular-season game of the year and it's being played between hated rivals with the fate of the NFC East hanging in the balance.
When last they met in Week 12, the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 38-31 behind Robert Griffin III's 311 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
Tony Romo is playing some of the best football of his career under center for the Cowboys, and he'll be facing a Washington pass defense that is one of the worst in the NFL, one that allows nearly 290 passing yards per game to the opposition.
But Dallas' defense has been decimated by injuries, and Romo's most explosive weapon (WR Dez Bryant) is essentially playing with one hand. Meanwhile, RGIII continues to exude a calm, cool demeanor under pressure, which is uncanny for a rookie, much less one facing such lofty expectations.
Playing in the comforts of FedEx Field, the Redskins will sweep the season series, clinching the NFC East for the first time since 1999, when Brad Johnson and Stephen Davis played the parts of RGIII and Alfred Morris.
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)|
Rick Weiner is a member of B/R's Breaking News Team
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