NFC Playoff Picture 2013: Projections for Teams in Postseason Contention

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NFC Playoff Picture 2013: Projections for Teams in Postseason Contention
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The NFC playoff picture is nearly set, but there are still a few teams in postseason contention that can sneak into the playoffs with a few things happening at the end of the regular season.

Surprisingly, only two teams in the NFC have clinched playoff spots, and all four division titles are still technically up for grabs.  This is completely different from the AFC, as all four divisional titles have been clinched, along with one of the two wild-card spots.

Let's take a look at a few teams in the NFC that are currently out of the playoff picture and what they must do in order to grab a spot in the postseason, followed by a prediction of whether or not they will be playing in January.

 

Green Bay Packers (7-7-1)

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It's been an incredibly rough stretch for the Green Bay Packers since losing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a broken collarbone.  Including the game in Week 9 when Rodgers went down, the Packers have gone just 2-5-1.

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But somehow, the NFC North title is still up for grabs.  The Detroit Lions had an epic collapse, going 1-5 over their past six games to be eliminated from the playoff race.  The Chicago Bears had a chance to take the division title on Sunday Night Football, but they were blown out by the Philadelphia Eagles to keep the Packers in the hunt.

Now, it all comes down to the Week 17 matchup between the Packers and Bears.  The winner will advance, and the Packers are hoping that they can sneak in despite not having their star quarterback for almost half of the season.

This game will all depend on whether or not Rodgers is ready to play, and that seems to be a very big mystery right now.  Before Sunday's game, ESPN's Chris Mortensen tweeted that Rodgers' fractured collarbone was still an "extraordinary risk."

While it's no guarantee, there's still a chance that Rodgers plays, and you can bet that he will be doing whatever it takes to suit up for the Packers in Week 17.  If he can play, he should be able to lead his team to another division title.

Verdict: In

 

Dallas Cowboys (8-7)

Is Tony Romo still not clutch?

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With just over a minute remaining and the Dallas Cowboys facing 4th-and-goal, Romo was able to extend the play and find DeMarco Murray for the game-winning touchdown pass to keep his team's postseason hopes alive.  

Now, the Cowboys are 8-7, and as long as they can win in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles, then they'll be the NFC East champions and head to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

But that will be no easy task for the Cowboys.  They have one of the worst defenses in the league, while the Eagles have the league's best rushing attack along with a terrific young quarterback in Nick Foles.  While Romo has plenty of weapons of his own, including Dez Bryant and Murray, their defense just won't be able to keep them in this one.

I just can't see the Cowboys beating the Eagles with how both teams are playing right now.  Look for the Cowboys to fall once again and have their third consecutive 8-8 season.

Verdict: Out

 

Arizona Cardinals (10-5)

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The NFC West is easily the best division in the NFL right now, and it has three teams still in the playoff race now.  The Arizona Cardinals are one of the best teams in the league, but they have to hope for some late-season magic in order to sneak into the playoffs.

That big win over the Seattle Seahawks this week keeps the Cardinals in the playoff race at 10-5, but they need some other things to happen to grab a wild-card spot.  First, which is the most obvious, is that they will have to beat the San Francisco 49ers this week, and even that isn't a guarantee with how well the 49ers have been playing recently.

After that, one of two things can happen.  First, the Cardinals can hope that the 49ers lose this week on Monday Night Football against the Atlanta Falcons.  That could be a potential trap game for the 49ers, but considering it's the last game ever at Candlestick Park, the 49ers will make sure to stay focused and give the fans an entertaining win.

That leaves the Cardinals with one other option.  The New Orleans Saints are playing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and if they lose while the Cardinals win, they'll be out of the playoffs while Arizona takes the second wild-card spot, giving the NFC West three playoff teams.

This is a tough situation for the Cardinals to be in.  They have one of the best teams in the league, but without a reliable offensive line or a consistent quarterback, the Cardinals might not even win against the 49ers, and it's highly unlikely either of the situations to get them into the playoffs unfold if they do win.

Verdict: Out

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