NFL Playoffs: State of Play in the NFC
NFL Week 14 has come and gone in the NFC. It was a pivotal week in the conference as teams look to make their final playoff push. It was also a critical week regarding the all-important one seed.
By Tayyib Abu.
There are only three weeks left in the regular season; there is no turning back. Two teams have clinched their playoff spots, but it is a battle royale for the remaining five places. The NFC West and East might go to Week 17. The NFC is incredibly tight; the final three weeks can change circumstances for so many teams. Here is the current playoff picture in the conference.
1. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
The Packers have reclaimed top spot in the NFC. A 31-24 win over the battling Detroit Lions was enough to see the Pack win the division. It took them to 10-3, and because they hold the tiebreaker against New Orleans, they are now the number one seed in the NFC. That is vital for Green Bay; teams will not want to visit Lambeau Field in January. Rodgers and Devante Adams are in superb form.
Adams had another game with over 100 yards receiving which included an insane touchdown. Meanwhile, Jaire Alexander is enjoying an All-Pro year. Up next for Green Bay is a home game against the Panthers, the Pack will be desperate to tighten their grip on the top seed.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3)
The Saints' win streak came to a shuddering halt on Sunday. Defeat to Philadelphia saw New Orleans drop to the second seed in the NFC. The Saints left it far too late to start performing, and it is a massive blow to a team in a Super Bowl or bust year. New Orleans needs the bye week, as well as home advantage. It was a bad day for a team that has not had any bad days since September. Now, New Orleans must regroup and stay in the fight. They welcome the Chiefs to the Big Easy in Week 15, and it is a must-win game.
3. L.A. Rams (9-4)
Weirdly, nobody is talking about the L.A. Rams. Los Angeles won 24-3 on Thursday night against the Patriots. The Rams are playing defense to a superb level. Aaron Donald should be in the MVP race, while Jalen Ramsey is enjoying the best year of his career. L.A. has lost one of its last five games and they have already beaten Arizona and Seattle earlier this season. With Sean McVay showing he is still an elite play-caller, the Rams are quietly surging. However, the Rams still have work to do; the division is not over. Week 15 sees Los Angeles play the hopeless Jets, and they should win. Then L.A. finishes with games at Seattle and home to Arizona. The NFC West could come down to the most bruising of conclusions in 2020.
4. Washington Football Team (6-7)
Here comes Riverboat Ron and the Football Team. Washington is paddling furiously across the Potomac River and is now in first place in the NFC East. Alex Smith has brought a calm presence to the offense. It will never be the Greatest Show on Turf, nevertheless with Smith under center, they have been fine. Plus, Scary Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson are enjoying fine seasons.
All this has seen Washington rip off four wins in a row. Smith went out of Sunday's with a calf strain, and it'll be crucial for him to come back. They can’t rely on Dwayne Haskins.
Conversely, they can rely on that defense. It is the best pass defense in the NFL, and it will keep them in the mix regardless of Smith's injury. Washington is hitting form at the perfect time. Week 15 sees Washington take on Seattle in a massive game.
5. Seattle Seahawks (9-4)
The Seahawks had the pleasure of having the bye week that is the New York Jets. Seattle crushed New York, and it was the perfect boost after a listless loss to the Giants. Seattle's path to the division title is trickier due to having lost to the Rams in November. The Seahawks are still not back to their September form, and that is concerning. They go cross country this week to FedEx Field and that ferocious defense that the Football Team has. It will be a stern test for Seattle, and it is one they must win. The Rams are enjoying the Jets bye week. This Sunday, Seattle has to keep themselves in the race. They finish the season welcoming L.A. and travelling to play San Francisco.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
The Bucs bounced back from the bye with an important win over the Vikings. Tampa Bay looks set for a wildcard spot. It is almost impossible for them to catch New Orleans and they lost the head to head to the Saints. The Bucs have a comfortable schedule to close out the season, and they should win their final three games. Tampa takes on Atlanta this week, and it is one they should win. Brady and the Bucs will be sufficient for the rest of the regular season, although the crucible that is the postseason is a different proposition.
7. Arizona Cardinals (7-6)
Arizona has its hands on the final playoff position. Their win over the Giants has breathed new life into their season. Arizona had lost its last three before the win in Week 14. At 7-6, Arizona's fate is in its hands, win out and they are in the playoffs. However, it will not be easy; the Cards have to play the Jalen Hurts led Eagles, the 49ers and then finish the season against the Rams. Arizona could lose two of those three games, and that could open the door to the outsiders.
The Outsiders: Still in the Hunt
Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
At 6-7, the Vikings have a chance. Two of their final three games are against the Bears and Lions. Those are winnable games for the Vikings. The real test will be on Christmas day as they head to New Orleans. Minnesota will not fear going to the Superdome; they can beat the Saints. There is a path to the playoffs for Minnesota.
New York Giants (5-8)
The Giants are still in the mix to win the division. They are one game back from Washington; however, the Giants schedule finishes with some challenging games. Big Blue has the Browns and Ravens left on the slate, the Giants are playing well overall, but they will need help to win the division.
Chicago Bears (6-7)
Finally, the Bears have won a game. They have snapped that miserable losing streak that has seen them sink like a stone. Nonetheless, Chicago is still alive for a wildcard spot. A critical divisional game against Minnesota will be the litmus test. Win and they have a chance. With the Jaguars to play in Week 16, Chicago must win against the Vikings. That could set up a win and you are in game against the Packers in Week 17.
Let us know who you think will make the NFC Playoffs @GridironXtra on Twitter. Who will get a first round bye? Who will make the Wild Card spots? Follow Tayyib on Twitter: @TayyibAbu1