NFL Playoffs 2014 Picture: 49ers Look to Unseat Seahawks From NFC Top Spot While Eagles-Cowboys & Packers-Bears Battle For Division Titles
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Unlike the AFC, the playoff picture in the NFC is far from settled as the National Football League (NFL) rolls into the last week of the season. Here is a look at the NFC playoff picture:
Dallas Cowboys QB Kyle Orton (L-#18) & Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles (R-#9)
(Credits: REUTERS/Aaron Josefczk (L) & USA TODAY Sports/Tommy Gilligan (R))
The Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) will cap off the 2013 NFL season on Sunday Night Football, playing the Dallas Cowboys (8-7) in a winner-take-all game with the NFC East title and a playoff spot on the line. The Eagles, who crushed the Chicago Bears last week 54-11, could have avoided this scenario had they not stumbled against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 15, but will face a Cowboys team that may be without starting QB Tony Romo, who is suffering from a herniated disc injury that may require season-ending surgery pending current non-surgical treatment he has opted for in an attempt to play Week 17.
"He's certainly in a situation where he's trying to do everything he can to get himself back with the rehab process and treatment process, like any injured player would. He's a tough guy, as we saw the other day," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. "We'll make our best medical decision, and we'll make our best football decision."
The Cowboys will likely start backup Kyle Orton and signed former Dallas Cowboy Jon Kitna to back up Orton should Romo be ruled out for Sunday.
Green Bay Packer Matt Flynn (L-#10) & Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler (R-#6)
(Credits: USA TODAY Sports/Jeff Hanisch (L) & Howard Smith (R))
The Chicago Bears (8-7) could have taken control of the NFC North division last weekend but failed to show up against the Philadelphia Eagles getting smacked by a score of 54-11. The Bears have been trying to fend off the Detroit Lions (7-8), who were eliminated by the New York Giants last weekend, and the Green Bay Packers (7-7-1), who blew an opportunity losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week 38-31, setting up Sunday's game for the division title.
The Packers have been without starting QB Aaron Rodgers, who fractured his left collar bone seven weeks ago and has not been cleared to play yet. With the season riding on one game, Rodgers is itching to play, with an announcement on his status set for Thursday.
"Obviously I want to be out there. I know what's at stake," said Rodgers. "This is an important week for us. We're somehow back in this position to be able to get into the playoffs. What a better way to do that than against the Chicago Bears?"
(Credits: USA TODAY Sports/Bob Donnan (L) & Jeremy Brevard (R))
The Carolina Panthers (11-4) pulled off a huge victory against the New Orleans Saints (10-5), who yet again struggled outside the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Panthers defense sacked Saints QB Drew Brees six times and picked him twice in their 17-13 win last weekend. The Panthers clinched their first playoff berth since 2008 and can lock up the NFC South title, a first-round bye, and a home game in the postseason with a win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 17.
The Saints are holding on to the second wild-card spot but have a chance to win the NFC South if the Panthers stumble against the Falcons and New Orleans takes care of business against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
"At the end of the day, we want to be in the playoffs," said Saints LB Curtis Lofton to Nola.com. "But we lost and don't control what happens next with the two seed or not. But moving forward, whether we're the two seed or the wild-card seed or whatever, we'll be fine."
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (L-#7), Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (C-#3), and
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (R-#11)
(Credits: USA TODAY Sports/Kelley L Cox (L), Jim O'Connor (C), & Howard Smith (R))
The Seattle Seahawks (12-3) saw their 14-game home-game winning streaked snapped last weekend after losing to the Arizona Cardinals (10-5) by a score of 17-10, with the Cardinals desperately needing the win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Seahawks had the best record in the NFL prior to their Week 16 loss and could give up the top seed and home-field advantage if they stumble at home again against the St. Louis Rams this Sunday.
The Cardinals' season hinged on that victory at CenturyLink Field, facing elimination had they lost to the Seahawks and need for New Orleans Saints to lose this weekend against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are hanging on to the second wild-card spot, as well as beat the San Francisco 49ers this weekend.
The 49ers clinched a playoff spot last weekend, beating the Atlanta Falcons in a thrilling game that saw LB NaVorro Bowman return an 89-yard interception for a touchdown with 1:10 left in the game to win 34-24 on Monday Night Football and still have a lot to play for in Arizona this weekend. The 49ers could still win the NFC West division if the Seahawks lose on Sunday and can take the top seed in the playoffs with a Seattle loss along with Carolina falling to the Falcons this weekend.
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