We missed the playoff picture last week because of the short turnaround but we're back in action this week. Two straight losses have kept the Arizona Cardinals from clinching the NFC West but there's not much changed in their playoff seeding. Here's how the playoffs would look if the season ended today and some commentary on the teams' remaining schedules.
1. New York Giants (11-1): What can you say? The Giants are the best team in the NFL and the second place team needs binoculars just to find them. Distractions are swirling but this is New York and they're probably used to them. They're remaining schedule is still tough though with every opponent boasting a winning record and two of them are on the road. They've got Philly at home before traveling to Dallas and then Carolina at home before traveling to Minnesota to close out the season.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-3): The Bucs have won four straight and hold tie breaker over the Panther who are also 9-3. Tampa is a solid team that seems to do just enough to win every week. They're schedule is not near as bad as some other teams considering that their final two games are at home against the Chargers and Raiders. Their next two games will define the season though as they've got road contests against the Panthers and Falcons.
3. Minnesota Vikings (7-5): The Vikes have won their past two games and slid into a tie with the Cardinals at 7-5. Since the Vikings currently have a better record against NFC teams (5-3 vs. 5-4), they beat out the Cardinals for the three seed if the playoffs started today. They get one cupcake game this week (@ DET) before traveling to Arizona and finish the season with home games against the Falcons and Giants.
4. Arizona Cardinals (7-5): The Cardinals can still become the first team to clinch their division this week with a win or San Francisco loss. Our remaining schedule isn't too easy but it does include home games against bad teams (STL and SEA) and a third home game against the Vikes. The lone road contest will be a trip to New England. Winning the remaining games against our NFC opponents will be extremely key if they want the #3 seed.
5. Carolina Panthers (9-3): The Panthers got a much needed win in Green Bay last week and they're in control of their own destiny. The remaining schedule won't help them out though. They've got home games against Tampa and Denver before they head out on the road to face the Giants and Saints.
6. Atlanta Falcons (8-4): No, I'm being serious. If the season ended today the Falcons would be a playoff team. If you predicted that before the season, congratulations, you're a genius. They still got their work cut out for them though with a road game in New Orleans, a home game against the Bucs, a road game in Minny and a home game against the Rams to finish the season.
The rest of the teams scrambling to get in, their record and remaining schedule:
Dallas (8-4) - @PIT, NYG, BAL, @PHI - Thats a brutal foursome of games.
Washington (7-5) - @BAL, @CIN, PHI, @SF - 9 wins should be easy, they probably need 10 though.
Philadelphia (6-5-1) - @NYG, CLE, @WAS, BAL - Not the easiest, they need 9 wins.
Chicago (6-6) - JAC, NO, GB, @HOU - That's actually manageable but they probably have to run the table.
New Orleans (6-6) - ATL, @CHI, @DET, CAR - Not easy but they're not dead yet!