The AFC playoff picture might be all but figured out, but it's still a "Wild West" mentality in the NFC. The last two NFC teams that will earn playoff spots in Week 17 will be Dallas and Chicago. Both teams have had roller coaster-type years but will seize their final opportunity to make the postseason.
The Cowboys have the easier way in between these two; all they have to do is beat the Washington Redskins on the road. That is a bit of a tall task when you consider the 'Skins' six-game winning streak and No. 1 ranked rushing attack.
Dallas has won five of its last seven games, however, and has not been swept by an NFC East rival this season. The Cowboys swept the lowly Eagles, split their series with the Giants and will do the same with Washington when all is said and done.
Head coach Jason Garrett's offense has seen revitalization with wide receiver Dez Bryant scoring almost at will as of late. Quarterback Tony Romo has also been getting a bit more time to make decisions in the pocket with his offensive line playing well in the last two contests.
Having seen the Redskins' offense at its finest back on Thanksgiving Day, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan knows what needs to be done to stop Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris and that offense.
It's going to take flawless execution by the Dallas defense and no sputters from the offense, but the Cowboys will end 2012 as NFC East champions.
The Bears have a bit harder of a situation to be postseason bound, needing to beat the Lions and have Minnesota lose to Green Bay.
The Packers just laid a 55-7 shellacking on the Titans in Week 16 and have won nine of their last 10 games. Part of that impressive string of success was a 23-14 win in Week 13 against the Vikings.
Chicago has not been as dominant through the latter part of the regular season, but they still have a top-10 passing and rushing defense to their name.
Detroit's season is over, which was helped in part by the Week 7 loss against the Bears at Soldier Field. The Bears defense hasn't surrendered more than 23 points since Week 12, and the Lions haven't won since Week 9. This sounds like a recipe for a Chicago win in Week 17.
The Packers will take down their arch rival in the Vikings this week, and Chicago will capitalize on its way to a playoff berth.
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)|