NFL playoff scenarios are plentiful entering today's slate of games.
Right now, only Atlanta, Chicago, New England and Pittsburgh have clinched playoff spots. Seven of eight divisions are yet to be decided, and two teams—Indianapolis and Jacksonville—are tied for first in the AFC South with two weeks remaining.
If the playoffs were to begin today, AFC Wild Card games would have the New York Jets and Kansas City playing, along with Baltimore facing Indianapolis. New England and Pittsburgh would get byes. In the NFC, the Giants and Eagles would face off for the third time, while the Saints and Rams play. Atlanta and Chicago would get byes.
There is still plenty to be decided, and some teams can't relax. Here are those who can't rest their starters:
Games remaining: vs. San Francisco, at Seattle
The Rams are atop the NFC West, but can't let up, with Seattle (6-8) lurking right behind. St. Louis already defeated the Seahawks 20-3, and lost to the 49ers, 23-20 in overtime. Seattle plays at Tampa Bay (8-6), one of two other teams in the playoff hunt.
Prediction: The Rams win out and continue to lay the foundation for a bright future. Sam Bradford should win Rookie of the Year honors, but St. Louis is still a few years off from reaching contender status.
Games remaining: at Atlanta, vs. Tampa Bay
There's plenty on the line today when the Saints face the Falcons. Atlanta (12-2) won the first meeting 27-24 in overtime on Sept.26. A division title is still up for grabs, and New Orleans could spoil Atlanta's shot at homefield advantage in the NFC. A loss today plus a Tampa Bay win, and next week's finale will potentially be for the final NFC Wild Card spot.
Prediction: New Orleans goes 1-1, and grabs the final playoff spot.
Games remaining: at Green Bay, at Washington
At one time, New York looked like one of the best teams in the NFL, but have lost to Dallas and lost both meetings to Philadelphia. Today's game with the Packers had the makings of a big game months ago, and could gain even greater significance with the possibility of Tom Coughlin coaching for his job.
Prediction: 0-2. The Packers jump into their spot, and grab the other Wild Card spot.
Games remaining: vs. New York Giants, vs. Chicago
The Packers can't catch Chicago, which has clinched the division. On top of fighting for its playoff lives, Green Bay has extra pressure to face, since Tampa Bay (8-6) is also right there with them. Today is a must-win, and Green Bay should have quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who sat out last week with a concussion. He practiced Thursday and Friday and is probable for today.
Prediction: 2-0. Green Bay snaps out of its recent skid and lands the final Wild Card berth in the NFC. The Packers have shocking losses (Washington, Detroit) but wins over Philadelphia and the New York Jets prove they can play with the NFL's best.
Games remaining: vs. Seattle, at New Orleans
The Bucs need to win today and could get help with a Falcons win over New Orleans. They could also be helped with a Giants win over Green Bay (8-6). Tampa Bay's record is misleading: Only two of their losses this year have been blowouts.
Prediction: 1-1. This team has a bright future ahead of it, but will miss out on the postseason.
Games remaining: vs. Tennessee, vs. Oakland
The Chiefs sit atop the AFC West, but can't exhale just yet, with San Diego (8-6) lurking. The two teams split their games, but Kansas City has some extra security with its 42-20 win over Jacksonville on Oct.24. The Jaguars (8-6) are also in the playoff hunt.
Prediction: 2-0. The Chiefs will have no problem with the Titans, but then pull out a tough win over an improved Raiders team.
Games remaining: at Oakland, vs. Tennessee
Jacksonville (8-6) could have clinched the AFC South last week, but the Colts came away with a key 34-24 victory. Both teams have now split and have identical division records (3-2). Pay attention to today's game between Jacksonville and Washington. The third tiebreaker is best won-loss-tied percentage in common games: Indianapolis has already beat Washington 27-24, and is 3-3 in common games. Jacksonville is 2-3.
Prediction: 2-0. Indianapolis wins out, and gets help with Washington upsetting Jacksonville.
Games remaining: at Cleveland, vs. Cincinnati
Baltimore and the New York Jets are in place to win the two Wild Card berths entering today's games. The Ravens did beat the Jets, 10-9 in their season opener. Their last four games have been dogfights, and Baltimore is coming off a big win over New Orleans. The Ravens should have no problem with these last two games.
Prediction: 2-0. Do they have a real shot at knocking off New England? Call your shots now.
Games remaining: at Chicago, vs. Buffalo
The Jets got back on track with a 22-17 win over Pittsburgh last week. This team had Super Bowl aspirations to begin the year, and have shown their potential but have also shown plenty of weaknesses as well. Question is: Which Jets team will show up?
Prediction: 2-0. Let's just see if New York can go a week without some bizarre off-the-field drama.
Games remaining: at Cincinnati, at Denver
The Chargers need to win out, and could be helped with a loss by either Baltimore or the Jets. San Diego has split against Kansas City, and both have 2-3 division records. The pressure is only greater, since Jacksonville (8-6) is also in the playoff hunt as well.
Prediction: 2-0. Baltimore and the Jets will also win, but San Diego will be left out of the postseason.
Games remaining: vs. Washington, at Houston
Jacksonville is 4-2 so far in the second half of the season, and tied with Indianapolis (8-6) in the AFC South. The Jaguars already beat Houston, 31-24, but lost to San Diego (8-6) in Week 2, 38-13. None of that will really matter, though, if Jacksonville loses to Washington today.
Prediction: 1-1. Jacksonville will miss out on the playoffs.