With 5 games left to play in the NFL regular season, we have 6 teams fighting for one single playoff spot. It seems the 49ers, Falcons and Giants have their divisions wrapped up with the Bears and Packers battling for the NFC North. Both Green Bay and Chicago should make the playoffs, it's just a matter of seeding at this point. So that leaves one slot open with half of the conference in playoff contention. Let's take a look at the legit contenders for the 6th seed in the NFC.
Seahawks (6-5): Seattle's remaining schedule (@Bears, Cardinals, @Bills, 49ers, Rams). They should be able to win 3 out of their last 5 games and get to 9 wins on the season. Will that be enough? They do have head to head wins over two other NFC contenders (Cowboys & Vikings) so that should certainly help. A big issue for the Hawks right now is the availability of their two top rated corners (Sherman & Browner) who are now both possibly facing 4 game suspensions for violating the NFL's policy on PED's.
Speaking of at, Seattle is not a good road team but may be one of the best at home. If they can beat the Niners at home than the Seahawks may find themselves back in the post season. They play playoff style football by running the ball and playing solid defense. This is not a team that anyone wants to play in the Pacific Northwest, but away from home this team can be beat.
Vikings (6-5): Minnesota's remaining schedule (@Packers, Bears, @Rams, @Texans, Packers). One word describes the Vikings final five games. Brutal! They just got cremated by the Bears and have to play them again. Then the Pack twice and the Texans in Houston. Forget about it!
The Vikes have given us a few fun surprises this season. Christian Ponder actually looked like a quarterback for a bit and Adrian Peterson looks like he never suffered an injury a day in his life. They have played pretty solid defense for the most part and have got to 6 wins which is about 3 more than most people projected. Matt Kalil has proven to be a great draft pick along with Harrison Smith in the secondary. The future may be bright in Minnesota but the lights will be shut off after week 17.
Saints (5-6): New Orleans remaining schedule (@Falcons, @Giants, Bucs, @Cowboys, Panthers). This is not an easy last few weeks of the season either for the Saints. They needed that win badly at home against San Fran because every team left on their schedule are playoff contenders except for Carolina. I knew the absence of Sean Payton would hurt this team so I left them out of the post season. But it's been more of the defense being the cause of their fatality rather than coaching.
Or then again maybe it is coaching. Steve Spagnuolo came to New Orleans to fix this much maligned defense but has been extremely unsuccessful. They're in the bottom of the league in many defensive categories and with high powered offenses coming up, the Saints may be done. At best they'll finish at .500 for the season.
Redskins (5-6): Washington's remaining schedule (Giants, Ravens, @Browns, @Eagles, Cowboys). The Skins may have the easiest final five. They gave the Giants all they could handle before the defense blew coverage and the game on a Victor Cruz 70 yard touchdown reception with 2 minutes left. They destroyed the Cowboys and Eagles in recent weeks and play all 3 teams again.
The way RGIII and fellow rookie Alfred Morris are playing, I wouldn't be shocked if they slipped in the 6th spot. This will be very difficult at (5-6) as they will have to win at least 4 of their last 5 games. It is possible but highly improbable. Although they do have head to head wins against the Bucs, Saints and Vikings who are all playing for that last spot. That may be the difference when the NFL goes to tie breakers to determine the final playoff teams. This is why a victory in week 1 is just as important as a victory in week 17. You never know what factor may contribute to a teams playoff chances.
Cowboys (5-6): Dallas remaining schedule (Eagles, @Bengals, Steelers, Saints, @Redskins). I'm not even a fan of this team and they just frustrate the heck out of me. I've said it a million times already, Jason Garret has got to go. A team with this much talent should be a winning team that's in contention for the Super Bowl every season.
Romo takes most of the heat and he deserves some of it, no doubt. But the offensive line is a terrible unit, they can't stay healthy at running back or wide receiver and the defensive line continues to disappoint on a weekly basis. The rest of their schedule isn't easy at all. Looking at their final five games, I just don't see them being able to win 4 games. They'll need at least 9 wins to get in so they better get it together now or this season will be over before Christmas.
Bucs (6-5): Tampa Bay's remaining schedule (@Denver, Eagles, @Saints, Rams, @Falcons). I love this offense and the mindset that first year coach Greg Schiano has installed in Tampa. They have their issues on defense, especially against the pass but they are improving.
Bucs are in better shape than most of the other contenders with their 6 wins and two gimmes on the schedule against the Eagles and Rams. Or at least I think so. If they can pull out a victory in Denver or New Orleans, than I believe the
Bucs will get the last playoff spot. The last game on their schedule is Atlanta who may have nothing to play for and rest their starters going into the post season. I see Tampa possibly getting to 10 wins which would all but guarantee a playoff birth.
One thing we can all say for sure. This will be exciting and interesting to see during the final month of the season. Tie breakers will no doubt come into play as 2 of these teams will most likely have identical records. I for one can't wait to see it.
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