NFL Playoffs 2014 Picture : Seattle Seahawks Look To Super Bowl, New Orleans Saints Battling Carolina Panthers
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With the 2013-2014 NFL Playoffs set to begin in three weeks, here is a look at the NFC playoff picture:
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The Philadelphia Eagles (8-6) are in the drivers seat of the division, a game ahead of the Dallas Cowboys (7-7) after the Cowboys imploded Week 15 against the Green Bay Packers. The Eagles have a huge Sunday Night Football game this weekend against the Chicago Bears, who are also trying to lock down their division title.
The Cowboys, who hold the tiebreaker over the Eagles, need to beat the struggling Washington Redskins this week in order to force a huge showdown for the NFC East title with the Eagles at AT&T Stadium on the last week of the season.
The Chicago Bears (8-6) are barely holding on to the division with a one game lead, fending off the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) and the Detroit Lions (7-7) going into Week 16, and have to travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Sunday Night Football. The Bears welcomed back Jay Cutler last weekend, who was out for four weeks with a high ankle sprain, beating the Cleveland Browns 38-31 on the road.
The Packers are riding high after stunning the Cowboys in Dallas, coming back from 26-3 deficit at halftime to defeat Dallas, 37-36. The Packers have been playing without QB Aaron Rodgers, who has missed the last six games with a fractured left collar bone, and will likely start Matt Flynn this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers with Rodgers not cleared to play. A win over Pittsburgh could make their Week 17 match-up against the Bears a winner-take-all affair, with the NFC North division title and a playoff berth on the line.
The Lions, who have failed to take advantage of Rodgers' and Cutler's injury, are looking to bounce back against the New York Giants after a heartbreaking loss to the Baltimore Ravens last week, watching Ravens kicker Justin Tucker nail a 61-yard field goal at the end of the game to hand them their fourth loss in five game. Detroit, who had the division lead five weeks ago, will be eliminated from postseason contention if both the Packers and the Bears win this Sunday.
The upstart Carolina Panthers (10-4) are tied for the division lead with the New Orleans Saints (10-4) but the Saints hold the tiebreaker over the Panthers in Week 14. The Saints missed a golden opportunity to extend their lead over the Panthers last week, losing to the St. Louis Rams 27-16, once again struggling on the road. New Orleans has lost four consecutive road games, and need to defeat the Panthers in Carolina this weekend if they hope to earn a first round playoff bye and a home game in the postseason.
The Panthers want payback after getting embarrassed by the Saints in New Orleans two weeks ago, losing 31-13 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. A win at home over the Saints and a win next week against the Atlanta Falcons will give the Panthers their first postseason berth since 2008, as well as bye and a home game in the NFC playoffs.
Sporting the best record in the NFL, the Seattle Seahawks (12-2) are looking to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks are undefeated at home this season, with QB Russell Wilson notching a 119.2 passer rating with and 29 touchdowns to only six interceptions at home over the last two seasons, in the confines of CenturyLink Field.
The Seahawks can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win over the Arizona Cardinals (9-5) this Sunday, who travel to Seattle fighting for their playoff lives, one game out of the last NFC wild-card spot. A loss at CenturyLink Field will eliminate the Cardinals from playoff contention.
Holding on to the last playoff wild card spot, the San Francisco 49ers are hoping their bitter rivals in the Emerald City can eliminate the Cardinals, who are a game ahead of Arizona in the wild card standings, though they would maintain a mathematical probability of catching the Seahawks for the NFC West title with a Cardinals win. The 49ers, who made the Super Bowl last season only to narrowly lose to the Baltimore Ravens, close out the season at home against the Atlanta Falcons and on the road against Arizona.
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