The playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts (9-5) have secured a division
title while the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City
Chiefs have also secured postseason spots, leaving eight berths
Everything else is up for grabs in an action-packed Week 16 that
ends on Monday with the San Francisco 49ers (10-4) looking to clinch
a trip to the postseason with a win over the visiting Atlanta
Nowhere is the race for the playoffs tighter than in the NFC North
where the Chicago Bears (8-6), Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) and Detroit
Lions (7-7) are battling for a division crown that is likely to go
down to the wire.
Chicago can clinch the division and secure a playoff berth with a
road win over the Philadelphia Eagles combined with losses by
Detroit and Green Bay.
The Lions host a New York Giants (5-9) team that cannot make the
postseason while the Pittsburgh Steelers, clinging to ever-so faint
playoff hopes, visit the Packers.
Green Bay's playoff push would receive a massive boost if All-Pro
quarterback Aaron Rodgers can return to the lineup after missing six
games with a broken collarbone.
With Rodgers looking on from the sidelines last Sunday, the Packers
rallied from a 23-point halftime deficit behind four touchdown
passes from backup Matt Flynn to defeat Dallas 37-36 and remain in
the postseason chase.
"It's the fourth quarter of the season and we have to beat
Pittsburgh next," said Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. "We can't
worry about what's going on around us. We can't control it. We just
have to get ready to play."
Over in the NFC East it is a similar scenario for the Eagles, who
can lock up the division title and a playoff berth with a win over
the Bears and a Cowboys (7-7) loss to the Washington Redskins
The most mouth-watering showdown in the NFC will play out in
Charlotte, where the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, both
sporting 10-4 records, clash for the second time in three weeks with
the winner taking control of the South division.
A win would secure top spot for the Saints and a first round bye
while the Panthers could guarantee themselves at least a playoff
berth with a victory.
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"The next two games as far as I'm concerned are playoff
games," said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera. "There's a lot of
importance to this next game against New Orleans. This is about
as big as it gets."
Although they own the NFL's best record, the Seahawks (12-2)
will not lack motivation when they host the NFC West division
rival Arizona Cardinals.
The Seahawks, a perfect 6-0 at home, can clinch the division and
home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a win
while the Cardinals (9-5) can keep the heat on the 49ers in the
battle for a wildcard spot if they can pull off the upset.
A battle royale is shaping up in the AFC West with Peyton
Manning's Denver Broncos (11-3) and the Kansas City Chiefs (11-3
) looking to claim top spot in the division.
Both teams have already secured playoff berths but a Broncos win
over the Houston Texans (2-12) combined with a Chiefs loss to
the Colts would give Denver the division.
The Broncos could also secure home-field advantage through the
AFC playoffs if a victory is coupled with a New England Patriots
(10-4) loss to the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore
Tom Brady, who has already set a quarterback record by winning
10 division titles with the New England Patriots, can make it 11
with a win over the Ravens, who are fighting with the Cincinnati
Bengals for top spot in the North.
"We've got 10 wins, and 10 wins is fine," said Brady. "But it
hasn't gotten us anything. We haven't qualified for anything.
"We need to start playing better football and see if we can do
better on a more consistent basis."
The surging Ravens bring a four-game winning streak into their
showdown against the Patriots while the Bengals (9-5), who enter
Sunday in top spot in the North, can remain there with a win
over the Minnesota Vikings (4-9).
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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