NFL Playoff Picture in the NFC: Packers Close in on One Seed
After another pivotal week in the NFL, the playoff picture is becoming clearer. The NFC is incredibly tight; the final two weeks can change circumstances for so many teams. Here is the current NFL playoff picture in the conference.
By Tayyib Abu.
1. Green Bay Packers (11-3)
The Green Bay Packers are unconvincingly closing in on the one seed in the NFC. Aaron Jones' 145 yards rushing led the Pack to a fourth straight win. Rodgers had a quiet game by his standards; he only threw for 143 yards while getting sacked five times. Green Bay is now one win away from sealing the number one seed as well as getting the bye. The Packers are doing what they did last year; they are winning games in unconvincing fashion.
Nevertheless, at this point of the season, it does not matter. Only winning matters. The Packers can see the number one seed; it is tantalisingly close. Unfortunately for them, there is one bulldozer shaped hurdle standing in their way. Week 16 sees the Packers welcome Derrick Henry's Tennessee Titans. That is a monumentally big game.
2. New Orleans Saints (10-3)
The Saints have lost more ground in the NFC one seed race. New Orleans lost a close game to Kansas City, in a game that signalled the return of Drew Brees. He looked understandably shaky in his first game back after breaking 11 ribs. The Saints offense didn't click all game, yet they still only lost by two points to the reigning champions.
They should have won when you consider Alex Anzalone should've secured the touchdown in the end zone that was ruled as a safety. The Saints defense played a heck of a game, but now New Orleans needs to win the division on Christmas day against the Vikings. New Orleans must not look too far ahead of themselves: take care of the division, then move on.
Furthermore, New Orleans needs to get healthy. Tre'Quan Smith, Andrus Peat and superstar Michael Thomas are all hurt. The Saints need them back ASAP; New Orleans may well be the best team in the NFC but unfortunately, they have hardly had the chance to get their best team on the field together. The Saints need to take care of business against Minnesota and then let the situation play out.
3. Seattle Seahawks (10-4)
There is a new clubhouse leader in the NFC West. Seattle is now on top. The Seahawks edged a tough win over Washington in Week 15. The 'Hawks still don't look to be at their very best; the offense is still stuttering. Russell Wilson threw for 121 yards, that is very low by his standards.
The Washington defense is legitimately good; this was a trap game for Seattle. By hook or by crook, the Seahawks have negotiated this difficult road game. Yes, Seattle had help from Dwayne Haskins; nonetheless, they still had to execute. Week 16 sees Seattle host the Rams in a pivotal game. Seattle has set themselves up for a shot at the division if they win that game.
4. Washington Football Team (6-8)
Washington lost to Seattle, yet they are still atop the NFC East. Ron Rivera's team played fantastic defense. The problem Washington had was that Dwayne Haskins was playing at quarterback. Haskins threw two back-breaking interceptions which proved vital in the outcome of this game.
The Washington defense will keep them in all games; their offense must look after the ball and be efficient. The Football Team is in a strong position; however, they will need Alex Smith back from injury.
Washington can't rely on Haskins, and they shouldn't rely on other teams doing them favours. Washington takes on Carolina in Week 16; it is must-win.
5. L.A. Rams (9-5)
The L.A. Rams are now a pub quiz answer. Why? L.A. is the team that lost to the hapless New York Jets. Although calling the Jets hapless in this game is unfair, New York outplayed the Rams in every facet of play, they deservedly won.
It was another day where the L.A. offense did not work. Sean McVay called a bad game; the Rams could not get the run game rolling, when that happens Jared Goff is not good enough to compensate. Goff felt the pressure all game whilst Quinnen Williams had himself a fabulous day as he pressured Goff relentlessly.
The defense dropped off slightly and Sam Darnold played a clean game under center for the Jets. Darnold displayed all his ability and Aaron Donald was quiet whereas players such as Michael Brockers and Samson Ebukam were off colour. Yes, the defense dropped off, it wasn't that much of a drop off though. L.A. held the Jets to 23 points; the Rams offense let them down. There is still no Plan B in Los Angeles. Sean McVay needs to find one before the huge Week 16 trip to Seattle.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5)
Tom Brady broke Falcon hearts yet again. Brady came back on Atlanta after Matt Ryan's team raced into a big lead. Not that that matters in Atlanta. The Falcons resemble a house of cards or a dire Jenga tower. One pull of a block and the Falcons will collapse. It was Brady at his Patriot best as he dismantled the Falcons defense. Mike Evans had himself an excellent day.
Furthermore, Antonio Brown finally came to life as he connected with Brady on a deep ball.
The Bucs defense still looks woefully naive, plus the offense can't continue to wait until the second half to get started. Tampa could climb to fifth with a win next week as well as other results breaking for them. Ultimately, this team looks set for a wildcard berth. Brady's Bucs travel on Boxing Day to Detroit.
7. Arizona Cardinals (8-6)
Arizona hung on for a dramatic win over the Eagles. The Cardinals are clinging on despite how chaotic their performances are. The Cardinals are playing a wild, unpredictable brand of football. It is leading to mistakes. Kyler Murray threw an awful interception in the RedZone, that should've cost his team. If the Cardinals keep making mistakes, better teams will punish them. Luckily for them, they play the depleted 49ers in Week 16, then they visit LA in Week 17. Arizona still has its fate in its own hands; however, they might need to win out.
The Outsiders: Still in the Hunt
Chicago Bears (7-7)
Mitch Trubisky is saving himself in Chicago. He might be saving Matt Nagy as well. From somewhere, the Bears have found an offense. Trubisky is starting to throw the ball with confidence; meanwhile, he is also using his legs to excellent use. Against a well-coached defense, Trubisky threw for over 200 yards and threw one interception. It is significant progress from Trubisky.
The Bears defense will make life terrible for opposition offenses therefore if Trubisky can stay consistent, the Bears have a chance. There is a clear path to 9-7, which might be good enough. Chicago plays Jacksonville in Week 16, they should win. That could set up a Week 17 finale at home to the Green Bay Packers. The wind is starting to pick up in Chi Town.
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?
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