Five teams are fighting over two playoff spots in the NFC, setting up several Week 17 games that are loaded with postseason implications.
The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings all control their own destines. A win on Sunday and they're in.
Unfortunately, it's not that simple for the Chicago Bears and New York Giants. Both teams need to win and get some help in order to make the postseason.
All five teams have had moments of glory this season, but I'm expecting the following three to go home unhappy.
The Cowboys' luck finally ran out in Week 16, as their attempt to notch a fourth-straight comeback victory was denied by the New Orleans Saints. Tony Romo tossed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the game into overtime, but the Saints ultimately prevailed 34-31.
The whole situation was very similar to the Cowboys first meeting with the Redskins this season. In that game, the Cowboys got down early and came roaring back behind two fourth-quarter Romo touchdown passes before eventually falling short.
If they get down early again, you can expect another loss from the Cowboys. The Redskins have the best rushing attack in the league (162.3 points per game), and they will be able to control the clock if they get ahead early.
Dallas also doesn't have a great track record in games like these. In 2008 and 2011, they were in must-win Week 17 games. They were blown out both times.
New York Giants
Thanks to back-to-back horrible games, the Giants need a ton of help on Sunday. They can only make the playoffs if they beat Philadelphia and if Dallas, Minnesota and Chicago all lose.
Granted, that scenario is certainly possible. The Eagles are simply terrible, and the other three teams are all playing divisional opponents that range from "decent" to "very good."
Unfortunately for the defending champs, I don't think they'll be invited to the postseason party. I'm expecting the Vikings to roll past the Packers on the back of Adrian Peterson, which would eliminate New York from contention.
And if the Vikings win, that means the Bears would be eliminated as well.
It really is an unfortunate situation for a team that started the season 7-1. They looked like Super Bowl contenders halfway through the year, but after losing five of their last seven, they don't even control their own postseason destiny.
It should be even more upsetting for Bears fans when they consider that they have a very beatable opponent this week. Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in football, but the Detroit Lions have lost seven straight games heading into their meeting with Chicago.
I'm expecting the Bears to win, but I doubt it will be enough.
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)|