The excitement continues to build as we near the end of the NFL season. Although many teams have already clinched playoff spots, there are still a few action-packed races going on, particularly in the NFC, where several teams are clumped together, hoping to pull away at the last game of the season. We are seeing some teams run hard to the finish line, while others are limping across. Here are a few of the big headlines that defined week 15 in case you missed it and which teams you should count in for the postseason.
Packers Clinch NFC North
I don’t mean to brag, but as I predicted weeks ago, the Bears continued to slide this week, while the Packers stayed hot, winning their eighth game in the last nine against Chicago this week by a final of 21-13. At 10-4, the Packers will likely by the number two seed in the NFC and will earn a first round bye, giving them home field advantage against whichever team comes out of the wild card round to meet them.
Meanwhile, the Bears slipped to 8-6. They’ve lost five of the last six after starting 7-1 and will benefit from an easy schedule the rest of the way, but without Brian Urlacher, I see them only winning one more game, which probably won’t be good enough for a playoff spot. Count the Bears out.
49ers Clinch Playoff Berth
San Francisco also locked up a spot with an impressive win over the Patriots on Sunday night. Although San Fran is playing great at the moment and are in second place in the NFC, they have a tougher final two games than GB, including a road game against Seattle, which is unbeaten at home. I like Seattle in that game, but for San Fran to hold on and win the West by a half game, giving them the third seed in the NFC.
Bengals Win, Take Lead for Second AFC Wild Card
The only real big playoff race news in the AFC involved the final wild card spot, which Cincinnati took a big step towards after beating Philadelphia and seeing Pittsburgh lose to Dallas. The Bengals have the edge, but two tough games coming up, including one at Pittsburgh next week. A Steelers win would put them back in the driver’s seat and although they aren’t playing particularly well at the moment, this is the time of the year the experienced Steelers step up. However, I’ve liked the Bengals all year and I think youth will serve them well this year against the worn down and beat-up Steelers. Look for Cincy to make the postseason.
Three-Way Tie Atop the NFC East
Of course, the tightest and most thrilling race left is in the NFC East, which just got even tighter. In fact it got as tight as it possibly could with New York losing and Dallas and Washington both winning, creating a three-way tie for first with just two games left. All three teams are also tied with Minnesota and Chicago for the remaining wild card spot, so these remaining games will be ever-so intense and meaningful.
The division may come down to the last week of the season, which features a showdown between Washington and Dallas, a match-up that Washington won earlier this season. The Redskins are the hotter team right now, but Dallas is a bit more experienced and let’s not forget, the defending champs are way more experienced and have thrived in recent years down the stretch. That’s why I can’t go against the Giants here. I like New York to win the division, but the winner of the Dallas-Washington game to win the wild card.