In the pre-season no one was talking about these teams getting into the playoffs, especially the Vikings, but thanks to the performances of rookie QB Russell Wilson, and bionic man Adrian Peterson here they are. On the verge of getting into the final dance.
But sitting right behind them, ready to pounce are Chicago, Dallas, Washington and New York, all at 8-6 and all capable of putting a run together and ruining the party. So who gets in, and who goes home?
Seattle Seahawks (9-5) Remaining Schedule: Vs. San Francisco, Vs. St. Louis
With their win over New England last week, San Francisco have practically sealed their second NFC West title in a row. Even if they lose to Seattle then their week 17 game at home to Arizona should still see them home. However, I expect they will take care of business this weekend in Seattle. Fortunately for the Seahawks, they only need to get one win from their remaining games to secure a playoff spot and their red-hot form suggests they they should be capable of finding that win, even if it's in the last week against St. Louis. They're in.
Minnesota Vikings (8-6) Remaining Schedule: @ Houston, Vs. Green Bay
Thanks to a week 9 loss to Seattle, Minnesota don't have a shot at the 5th seed, and due to what looks on paper like an incredibly tough remaining slate, they might not have much of a shot at the 6th. Houston still require one win to seal home field advantage throughout the playoffs and will be expected to come out firing on all cylinders, while Green Bay will still be in the hunt for the 2nd seed in the NFC and wanting to win. All of this means that Adrian Peterson might actually have to take his game up another notch. If Minnesota win out then Chicago can't catch them, which leaves us with the 3 NFC East teams....
Chicago Bears (8-6) Remaining Schedule: @ Arizona, @ Detroit
Chicago's 1-5 run has seen them get shuffled to the back of this wildcard race and in serious trouble. Not only with the Bears have to win-out (possible thanks to a weak remaining schedule) but they would need Minnesota to lose a game in order to pass them in the division, and then have 2 of the NFC East teams slip up as well. With key injuries on defense, and an imploding offense, it would appear that yet again Chicago are going to just miss out.
- NFC East Mess
Washington Redskin (8-6) Remaining Schedule: @ Philadelphia, Vs. Dallas
Dallas Cowboys (8-6) Remaining Schedule: Vs. New Orleans, @ Washington
New York Giants (8-6) Remaining Schedule: @ Baltimore, Vs. Philadelphia
If both Dallas and Washington win their week 16 games then the Giants will only be playing for the wildcard, and the winner of the battle in Washington in week 17 would take the divisional crown. With the way these teams, and their opponents, are currently playing I can easily see the division coming down to Dallas @ Washington, in a huge "Loser Goes Home" game (Unless Seattle & Chicago go 0-2 and Minnesota go 1-1, in which case both can still get in).
New York also have their destiny in their own hands, just not for the division. They travel to a struggling Ravens team and then host an injury ravaged and rookie-lead Eagles. 2 wins, no matter what anyone else does, will see New York take a wildcard spot (5 if Seattle go 1-1, 6 if Seattle go 2-0).
- My Prediction
I see this ending with the Giants as the 5th seed and Seattle at 6.
Despite Seattle's hot streak and playing at home San Francisco will prove too much for them. Their offense is much improved with Colin Kaepernick under centre, and Seattle are expected to be without both their top corners as Richard Sherman should join Brandon Browner on suspension after his appeal on friday. That loss should be followed up by a win against St. Louis and Russell Wilson joining fellow rookie Andrew Luck in the playoffs.
Baltimore are in a tailspin at the moment and are ripe for the beating by a Giants team who tend to thrive with their backs to the wall. And even though they haven't won back to back games since October, a chance to put the knife into the Andy Reid era won't get passed up. As much as Adrian Peterson's play might deserve a playoff berth, Minnesota need too much to happen to get in even if they can overcome the toughest part of their schedule.
Whatever happens, week 16 should be a nervous, and exciting time, so make sure you've got your christmas shopping done and got the family locked away so you can fully enjoy what is normally one of the wildest, and tensest weeks of the season!
- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)
- The Pulling Linemen