The final week of NFL games will bring complete closure to the playoff picture, and the marquee games will be the difference between joy and disappointment for a few franchises.
The six AFC playoff teams are set, but all are still jostling for a favorable seed. In the NFC, two postseason spots are still up for grabs and several teams will be fighting for them.
The NFC East title has yet to be decided, and the final wild-card berth has not been earned.
Here are my picks for the games that will decide which teams take these two spots.
Washington Redskins over Dallas Cowboys
This game will be for the NFC East title and no Week 17 matchup has more riding on it than this one. In recent seasons, this has not been the type of scenario in which Tony Romo and the Cowboys have thrived.
It is entirely possible that the Cowboys will lose this game before the Redskins can win it.
But Robert Griffin III has proven to be calm and collected under center this season, but this will be the biggest game of his career. While he is untested in games this important, Griffin has shown that he is a special player.
Griffin’s legend will grow in the game, and he will deliver an impressive performance to lead his team to the postseason, with a little help from a few Dallas mistakes.
Chicago Bears over Detroit Lions
After routing the Tennessee Titans in Week 9 and improving to 7-1, it seemed impossible that the Bears would miss the playoffs.
But after losing five of its last seven games, Chicago no longer controls its own destiny. The Bears need to beat the Lions on Sunday while also hoping for the Minnesota Vikings to lose to the Green Bay Packers.
All of Chicago’s losses this season have come to teams with winning records, and the team will have little problem beating the Lions with so much on the line.
The Lions have been undisciplined and careless all too often this season and have given the ball away 29 times. The Bears will take advantage of their mistakes, and this game will not be close.
New York Giants over Philadelphia Eagles
The Giants need a victory in addition to losses from the Bears and the Vikings, and they will not get the help they need to reach the playoffs.
Still, New York will do what it needs to in order to give itself an outside chance at extending its season.
With its back against the wall, New York will have few problems avenging its Week 4 loss to the Eagles.
Minnesota Vikings over Green Bay Packers
Minnesota just needs a victory and it will reach the playoffs, but that will not be all that easy against the red-hot Packers.
Green Bay is fighting for a first-round bye. If the Packers lose to the Vikings, and the San Francisco 49ers avoid an upset against the Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay will have to play on Wild Card weekend.
While there is clear motivation for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers not to overlook this game, the more desperate team usually finds a way to win in late-season contests.
The Vikings are playing to extend their season, and they will be far more fired up for this showdown. This will allow them to edge out the Packers and set up a rematch with their division rival for the following weekend.
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