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If the season were to end today the Arizona Cardinals would receive the number one overall spot in the NFC. They currently are 9-3 but have lost two straight games to the Seahawks and Falcons. This team is currently playing with Drew Stanton as its starting quarterback. Arizona is on the hot seat. They were 9-1 and sitting in a pretty ideal position two weeks ago. But things have changed dramatically. The Cardinals only managed a field goal in the game against Seattle and only had eleven offensive points against the Falcons (a field goal, touchdown and two-point conversions). Stanton has thrown one touchdown pass and three interceptions in those two games. Arizona’s remaining games are against Kansas City, at St. Louis, against Seattle, and at the 49ers. Realistically, the Cardinals will go 2-2 or worse 1-3. Arizona is in a dangerous position and may miss the playoffs. A record of 10-6 may not be good enough this year.

 

The team who would get the other bye in the NFC playoffs is the Green Bay Packers. The Pack have been unstoppable of late. Green Bay has won 8 of the last 9 games and are undefeated at home. The team’s most recent game was a win at home against the New England Patriots. It was the first matchup between Rodgers and Brady and it lived up to the hype. This could be a Super Bowl preview. With how the Packers have been playing lately, it seems almost inevitable that they will get the first overall spot and if that happens, it’s all over. In the team’s six home games, Aaron Rodgers has thrown for 20 touchdown passes and 0 interceptions. Green Bay is averaging to score 40.83 points per game at Lambeau Field. If this team gets home field advantage, Green Bay would be the favorite to reach the Super Bowl.


 

The team that currently resides in third place in the NFC is the Philadelphia Eagles and they have the same record as the teams ahead of them, 9-3. One of Philly’s losses came against Arizona in a close game where the Birds’ defensive gave up a big play late. Another one of their losses came on the road at Lambeau Field against the Packers. This game wasn’t close at all. The Eagles most impressive win on the season came on Thanksgiving down in Dallas. Philly controlled the game from start to finish. On the offensive side of the ball, the O-line created large gaps for LeSean McCoy. He ran the ball well amounting for 159 yards. The run game set up the play-action pass, which is what Mark Sanchez does best. Sanchez ran for a touchdown and threw one too. The Eagles toughest games still lie ahead of them though. This week they will take on the Seattle Seahawks at home and then the Cowboys at home as well. Both of these games are critical to Philadelphia playoff seeding and to proving that they are a legitimate contender.

 

The Atlanta Falcons currently sit in fourth place in the conference with a record of 5-7, by default because the NFC South is that bad. The Falcons are currently tied for first in the division with the New Orleans Saints, but they own the tiebreaker. The 2-10 Tampa Bay Buccaneers are only three games behind the Falcons and Saints. The Falcons were 2-6 at one point in the season before winning 3 of the team’s past four games. Yes this team is playing better, but it’s an embarrassment that a 5-7 team is in first place of their division. The team’s remaining games are at Green Bay, home vs. Pittsburgh, on the road at New Orleans and lastly, at home against the Panthers. That game against New Orleans in week 16 will realistically determine which team will win the division with a record of 7-9.


 

Now here comes the wildcard drama:

The first wildcard spot belongs to the defending Super Bowl champions. Seattle’s record is 8-4. They have won two straight games, one against Arizona and one against San Francisco by a score of 19-3 in both games. The defense has not been the same as it was last year, but it certainly played well lately. The offense has also been playing well around mobile quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson, who is only in his third year, has played exceptionally well. Their remaining schedule is difficult though. The Seahawks play in Philadelphia this week, at home against San Francisco, at Arizona and finish up with a home game against St. Louis. Seattle’s schedule is tough, but they are playing their best football at a good time. Seattle will win at least two of these games and realistically will end up winning NFC West.

 

The Detroit Lions currently sit in the sixth and final playoff spot. In recent years, Detroit has been known for its offense, but not this year. The offense has struggled. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has not played well in comparison to past seasons. Calvin Johnson, the best wide receiver in the league, has been hampered down by numerous injuries, but finally had his first good game last week. The defense is giving up the fewest rushing yards per game. The front seven is arguably the best in the league. The Lions have a fairly easy schedule remaining. They will play Tampa Bay and Minnesota at home before going on the road to face Chicago and Green Bay on the road. The combined records of TB, MINN, and CHI are 12-24. If Detroit wins the games it is supposed to, then it’ll all come down to the last week of the season. The Lions have already beaten the Packers once and they are currently one game behind Green Bay, so if they win the game, the Lions will win the tiebreaker if they end the year with the same record.


 

The Dallas Cowboys are currently on the outside looking in as they sit in the seventh spot in the conference with a record of 8-4. The Cowboys have been a surprise team this season. The defense has been surprisingly good. The offense has weapons. Running back DeMarco Murray has been playing out of this world. He has been held under 100 yards only twice this season, one of which was last week against Philadelphia. The Cowboys have played well but their only victory against a team with an above .500 record is when they beat the Seahawks in Seattle, which isn’t an easy task. This team has finished 8-8 the past three seasons. This season is setting up for them to repeat history. Dallas faces Chicago, Philadelphia, Indianapolis and then Washington. They will probably get a win, but won’t get a playoff spot this year. Sorry Jerry, bye Jason.


 

The San Francisco 49ers are in trouble. They are eighth in the conference with a record of 7-5. They have not played well in the past three weeks. The offense has been stagnant. They beat the New York Giants 16-10, but Eli Manning threw five interceptions and they still had a shot to win the game at the end. Colin Kaepernick threw 193 yards and one touchdown. The next game, the 49ers beat the Redskins at home 17-13. This time Kaepernick threw for 246 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Last week, on Thanksgiving the Niners took on the Seahawks at home. The game wasn’t close. Kaepernick looked uncomfortable in the pocket and was missing simple throws. He only totaled 100 throwing yards and two interceptions. The 49ers remaining schedule is difficult. This week they have an easy game against the Raiders but that’s it. Then they take on Seattle away, San Diego at home, and Arizona at home. This team is falling apart at the wrong time and it looks like missing the playoffs may cost Jim Harbaugh his job.


So this is how I see the NFC picture playing out…
1) Green Bay Packers (13-3)
2) Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)
3) Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
4) New Orleans Saints (8-8)
5) Detroit Lions (11-5)
6) Arizona Cardinals (10-6)

 

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