The NFL regular season is days away from wrapping up and the playoff pictures in both conferences are still quite grey. Every single NFC division crown will be awarded in Week 17 and the AFC Wild Card picture is a mess to say the least. In an effort to deliver some clarity, here are three playoff hopefuls sure to fumble away their chances in their regular season finale.
The Cowboys find themselves in familiar territory in the season's final week, playing for the NFC East crown once again. Dallas was in this scenario the last two seasons, losing to the Giants and Washington respectively.
Cowboys playing 8th win-or-go-home game in Week 17 or playoffs with Tony Romo as starting QB. They're 1-6 in past 7 games, 0-3 in week 17.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 23, 2013
Unfortunately for head coach Jason Garrett, this season will prove to be a repeat of the previous two he has endured calling the shots. The Cowboys will lose to Philadelphia at home and settle for their third straight 8-8 record.
The Eagles just finished pummeling a Chicago Bears team that routed Dallas 45-28 in Week 14. Philadelphia has won six of its last seven games after falling to the Giants and Cowboys in Weeks 7 and 8.
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is confident his team will take down Dallas.
"They didn't see the best of us, but they will this Sunday, so it'll be a different story," he told Reuben Frank of CSN Philly.
The Cowboys' defense has allowed seven teams to score 30 or more points on it this season. Dallas is just two weeks removed from blowing a 23-point lead at home to the Green Bay Packers with Matt Flynn under center.
There's just something about how the Eagles have played as of late that has playoffs written all over them.
The Cardinals have been one of the biggest surprises in the NFC this season and just took down Seattle on the road in Week 16. Arizona has raised plenty of eyebrows with its 10-5 record but it will end its season on a low note against San Francisco.
The Cards have won seven of their last eight games but their divisional rival has been on a hot streak as well. San Francisco has lost just two games since Week 3 and defeated Arizona 32-20 in Week 6.
Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer threw two interceptions in that loss to San Francisco and he threw four in Week 16 against Seattle. It's improbable that his team was able to overcome his mistakes against the Seahawks as ESPN.com's Mike Sando pointed out on Twitter.
Carson Palmer: 1 TD pass, 4 INT, 17-10 lead, 2:13 left. Last QB to win with 1 TD and 4 INT: Jake Delhomme in 2008, CAR at OAK.— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) December 23, 2013
NFL teams around the league must now consider the Cardinals a legit playoff threat but not in 2013. The 49ers didn't allow the Cards to score more than a touchdown in a single quarter back in Week 6.
The only team to score 20 points on San Francisco since Week 6 when Arizona did so is the New Orleans Saints in Week 11. There is plenty to like about this Cardinals team but their offense won't be able to overcome a stingy San Francisco defense that ranks No. 2 in the league.
Chicago just got lit up by the Eagles in Week 16 and barely beat Cleveland the week prior.
Quarterback Jay Cutler is back under center for the Bears but has thrown three interceptions since returning against the Browns. He completed just 57 percent of his passes in Chicago's 54-11 loss to the Eagles.
Which of these teams will definitely miss the playoffs?
Cutler no doubt is still getting back into the swing of things considering he was sidelined from Week 10-15 due to injury. Unfortunately for Cutler, the Bears don't have time for him to shake off the rust with Green Bay coming to town.
Whether or not Aaron Rodgers suits up in Week 17, Chicago will fall to its arch rival. The Packers have started to gain confidence under Matt Flynn, winning two close battles with Atlanta and Dallas recently.
The Pack did fall to the Steelers 38-31 in Week 16 but that was another game that went down to the wire.
Chicago might have its offensive leader back but the team has looked almost more vulnerable since Cutler's return.
It's hard to have confidence in a team when it just laid an egg when the division title was in its grasp. Expect the Packers to find their way into the playoffs with or without the likes of Rodgers.