After Sunday, only twelve of the thirty-two NFL teams will still have hope alive. For the most part, these twelve already know who they are.
In the NFC, Green Bay, San Francisco and New Orleans have all clinched their respective divisions. Detroit and Atlanta have filled in the Wild Card spots.
The only open slot is going to be filled by the NFC East Champ – either the New York Giants or the Dallas Cowboys. They face off in the Meadowlands on Sunday – the loser goes home with a long offseason of tough questions to answer.
The odds makers have the Giants favored by a field goal, which basically means they think it is a toss up and are giving the Giants the edge due to the home field advantage. Both teams need the win. Both were expected to be playoff teams prior to the beginning of the season. Both have shown signs of brilliance, as well as moments of mediocrity, throughout the season. Both their quarterbacks have looked unstoppable at times and then later make you scratch your head and wonder if you are really watching players who get paid to throw the ball and read defenses.
But let’s be honest. Eli Manning has already showed he can come up huge in the clutch. Tony Romo has showed almost the complete opposite, finding a myriad of new and crazy ways to implode when the pressure hits. He’s got to want this one bad. The question is, especially with his bruised hand – will it be enough?
The AFC picture is a bit murkier. New England and Houston, who have won their divisions, are in. The Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers have clinched at least a Wild Card spot – the other one will end up as the AFC North Champ. It’s the Ravens for the taking if they can beat the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
By the way, Cincinnati can still clinch a Wild Card spot even with a loss to the Ravens if either one of the following occur: the Jets and Raiders both lose or the Jets and Denver both lose. How’s that for backing into the playoffs?
As for the wild, wild, AFC West, the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders are tied at 8-7, with the Broncos hosting Kansas City and the Raiders at home for San Diego next Sunday. Denver has the tiebreaker, so win and they are in – it’s that easy. But with Tim Tebow having by far his worst game as a professional still fresh in his head and the Denver defense suddenly being in disarray, a win might not be all that easy at all.
The Raiders can still make it to the final twelve even if Denver wins assuming Oakland wins AND one of the following two options occur: Cincinnati and Tennessee lose or Cincinnati loses and the NJ Jets win.
Kind of makes your head hurt, huh? Certainly does mine.
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