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Three NFC playoff hopefuls limp into final quarter

Kansas City Chiefs v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Packers and 49ers are division champions. The Saints have a commanding two game lead in the NFC South.

The teams above figure to be the top three seeds in the NFC. After that, we essentially have five teams fighting for three spots, which includes the NFC East division title.

10 wins should get you in to the NFC playoffs this year. At this point, it’s quite possible that a 9-7 team gets into the playoffs. That means the Cardinals or Seahawks, both 5-7, could still hang around in the unlikely event that they won out.  (The two teams face off in Week 17, so they can’t both win out.)

Three NFC hopefuls have come back to the pack dramatically:

Chicago: The Bears looked like one of the best teams in football with Jay Cutler.  With Caleb Hanie, they are 0-2 coming off a home loss to Kansas City. They have two tough road games left. They might not get to nine wins, much less ten. Their collapse opens up the door for others.

Detroit: The Lions have lost five of seven games, but the Bears’ collapse could save them.  Home games against the Vikings and Chargers are manageable. Unless the Lions can pull off an upset in Green Bay, getting to a 10th win could depend on a trip to Oakland.

New York Giants: Big Blue has lost four in a row, but they have two games left against division leading Dallas. They remain very much in the wild card mix considering a 9-7 team might make it.

Atlanta and Dallas have been playing better of late, but they both lost on Sunday as road favorites.  Based on the schedules remaining, the Falcons and Cowboys have the easiest paths to the playoffs. Atlanta faces three teams well under .500 (Carolina, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay), in addition to a road game in New Orleans.

My hunch is that Dallas and Atlanta find a way in. That would mean that one of the three teams in freefall listed in bold above should still make it.

We have a month left to find out which team will collapse the least.

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50 Responses to “Three NFC playoff hopefuls limp into final quarter”
  1. zaggs says: Dec 5, 2011 3:18 PM

    So long as the Giants don’t have to keep playing the refs and the other team, they should do fine. Ballard no TD? Yeah, too bad pictures say otherwise NFL! If Ballard was out of bounds, so was Driver on his second TD.

  2. lrt79 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:25 PM

    Unless Cutler and Forte come back early so the team can regain some of it’s chemistry, even if they earn a WC spot the Bears will be an empty suit.

    There is approximately zero chances they they can compete, let alone beat New Orleans or Dallas/New York without both of those guys.

  3. redruckus81 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:26 PM

    I suppose if you wanted to find a silver lining to the Lions going 2-5 over the last 7 games it is that the teams they have lost to are a combined 45-15 so its not like they are losing to the little sisters of the poor. Agree that they need to win these next three to make the playoffs but they have a good shot at it.

  4. trollhammer20 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:27 PM

    As a Seahawks fan, I’d have more hope if Okung were healthy. The offensive line had really been coming together, and had survived the loss of Moffitt and Carpenter. Okung, however, is the best player on the line, and his presence at left tackle will mean a worse running game and a lot more QB pressure.

    It could still happen, I suppose. We play the Rams (godawful), Bears (Hainie), 49ers (who may be in “rest ‘em up” mode), and the Cardinals. Four winnable games, but no guaranteed wins, especially with the offensive line issues.

    I really hate Trent Cole now.

  5. baned0n says: Dec 5, 2011 3:27 PM

    So wait….ATL and Dallas…as WC’s? I’m confused. If Dallas gets a WC, who do you have winning the division? You wrote that very confusingly.

  6. chipper41 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:28 PM

    seattle sneaks in again and punks the saints in the first round

  7. baned0n says: Dec 5, 2011 3:28 PM

    Nevermind, I reread and got what you were saying.

  8. zonedogz says: Dec 5, 2011 3:29 PM

    The NFC wild card teams will all be jokes in the playoffs and useful only to the league for TV money on wild card weekend because they’ll all be destroyed if they’re lucky enough to make it into the divisional round.

  9. stairwayto7 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:29 PM

    Cards lose on a bogus “giving himself up” to victor cruz and then blew a 21 point lead against the Ravens woudl have 7 wins with the Briwns and Bungals still to come. Cards win out, tie with Cowboys and beat out Det and Chicago, tie breaker over cowpokes would be great!

  10. rcampore says: Dec 5, 2011 3:32 PM

    As a Giants fan, it is really pointless to keep harping on the what should have happened in the game that is already done with. Every game there are bad calls on both teams by the refs. There are always going to be those fans on every team that can’t let it go, but it really is pointless.

    This week against the Cowboys I think will determine the division. Hopefully the Giants that played against the packers shows up and not the Giants that showed up against the Seahawks or Eagles, but you never know with this team.

    The NFC is really up in the air at the moment as far as the wild card so it should be a very interesting December.

  11. drbob117 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:32 PM

    Stop whining, your team gave up almost 40 points again a week after they gave up 49. They’ve given up 33 more points than my team , the Eagles. At least I admit my team sucks.

  12. Land Snark says: Dec 5, 2011 3:32 PM

    Truth is that none of the teams in the hunt is all that impressive. For whatever reason, be it injuries or shoddy play, they’re on the bubble because they can’t get it done.

  13. Zach says: Dec 5, 2011 3:35 PM

    So well said, Those two calls were such BS, i hate how the packers have gotten those calls for the last 20 some years.

  14. fuhrman says: Dec 5, 2011 3:36 PM

    Now we can trully see how valuable Cutler is.

  15. legacybroken says: Dec 5, 2011 3:46 PM

    Serves the Lions right after Suh’s crap on Thanksgiving and the mocking of Tebow. At least us Detroit fans have class acts like Nick Lidstrom an MVP Verlander to root for.

  16. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Dec 5, 2011 3:48 PM

    Did Jerry Jones die? If not, my hunch is telling me Dallas doesn’t make it.

  17. jutts says: Dec 5, 2011 3:51 PM

    Injuries are taking their tole. Packers/ Patriots SuperBowl:

  18. mr86ism says: Dec 5, 2011 3:51 PM

    Remember early in the season when all you heard about was how dominant the nfc was and how mediocre the afc had become. Haaaahahaha

  19. oneaa says: Dec 5, 2011 3:53 PM

    As for Ballard, he clearly stepped out of bounds. One foot in and one foot out. Driver clearly was two feet in. This is a prime example of a salty giants football fan who has a hard time excepting his team lost a football game. Listen guy, the Giants played a great game. They drove down the field, tied it up, but in the end, the packers came out on top. So get over your dumb way of thinking and making excuses for yourself and your football team. Real talk! Now I will wait for a dumb reply on how you got called out. Logical thinking my friend.

  20. goawayeverybody says: Dec 5, 2011 3:54 PM

    If Atlanta can’t even defeat TJ Yates, what makes anyone think they will make the playoffs?

  21. claymaker52 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:58 PM

    The Giants benefited from the absolute mugging that Finley had to take all day from the Giants DB’s. From all the groping going on they owe him a dinner, I mean come on. The Ballard TD was 100% out, you could see the chalk line hit as his knee went out of bounds. There were bad calls on both sides, but in the end the Packers were able to make enough plays despite poor officiating.

  22. willardj says: Dec 5, 2011 4:04 PM

    None of these are surprising.

    Bears: lost their franchise QB

    Lions: Jim Schwartz is their head coach. He is subject to the Bill Belichick assistant-turned-head coach (worked as a scout under him with Cleveland) curse of starting out really well and then collapsing the second half the season and getting fired the subsequent season. Already happened to Crennel, Mangini, and McDaniels.

    Giants: Excluding 2007, during Manning era will always start out really strong and then will fade down the stretch of the season

  23. mike5011ad says: Dec 5, 2011 4:08 PM

    An 18 game season should be no problem for any of these gladiators. What’s the worse that could happen???

  24. qtownchawk says: Dec 5, 2011 4:10 PM

    I agree trollhammer…

    hopefully cable can keep the oline going, considering the reserves have stepped up when their numbers were called so far this year. i’m not a big “shoulda woulda coulda” type, but those losses to cleveland and washington would have really helped seattles playoff hopes. seattle could easily have been sitting at 7-5.with the way lynch is running, tjax recovering from his injury, and if the d keeps playing well, winning out doesnt seem so far-fetched.

    oh, and I hate trent cole too..he was clearly upset okung was owning him. go hawks

  25. gordyb7 says: Dec 5, 2011 4:12 PM

    Lions will get in. Not over Atlanta, but over Chicago. Think Hanie will lead the Bears to a win in Denver in front of 80,000 screaming Teboners?

    NYG is too far behind Dallas, and even if Dallas somehow implodes and NYG gets the East, Detroit has the tiebreaker over the Cowboys.

  26. We'reFineThere says: Dec 5, 2011 4:15 PM

    Eagles still alive. Here we come.

  27. slammincamnewton says: Dec 5, 2011 4:15 PM

    carolina will win out and sneak in

  28. bozosforall says: Dec 5, 2011 4:20 PM

    claymaker52 says:
    Dec 5, 2011 3:58 PM
    The Giants benefited from the absolute mugging that Finley had to take all day from the Giants DB’s. From all the groping going on they owe him a dinner, I mean come on. The Ballard TD was 100% out, you could see the chalk line hit as his knee went out of bounds. There were bad calls on both sides, but in the end the Packers were able to make enough plays despite poor officiating.

    __
    claylicker5.2,

    Your team might scrape through the regular season undefeated, but they same fate that befell the Pats will also befall your team. Look for the defenses of the Steelers or Ravens to shut your team down.

  29. kinguga says: Dec 5, 2011 4:22 PM

    @goawayeverybody:

    The Falcons play CAR, JAX, NO, and TB. That’s why.

  30. hawks12 says: Dec 5, 2011 4:25 PM

    if only the seahawks had beat the browns and redskins

  31. We'reFineThere says: Dec 5, 2011 4:28 PM

    Claymaker, I hate Giants as much/actually more than the next guy but it was pathetic at how on every incompletion the Packers expected to get a PI flag.

  32. tommyj20 says: Dec 5, 2011 4:33 PM

    Hate to say this but (and very highly unlikely)… With 4 games to go, Philly will be favored to win in all 4 games. If (BIG IF)they win out they finish 8-8. If the Cowboys split with NYG and lose to Tampa (8-8) and NYG also lose to Washington or the Jets (8-8) Philly wins the NFC East.

    Seems far fetched unless you consider Dallas lost to AZ and Eagles have a knack for finishing strong.

  33. dericivy says: Dec 5, 2011 4:35 PM

    If it played out for Seattle to get in at 9-7, and knocked off Sanfran in the wild card round I would die laughing.

  34. gcsuk says: Dec 5, 2011 5:11 PM

    drbob117 says: Dec 5, 2011 3:32 PM

    Stop whining, your team gave up almost 40 points again a week after they gave up 49. They’ve given up 33 more points than my team , the Eagles. At least I admit my team sucks.
    ———————————————————————-
    Well, you SHOULD admit your team sucks. They, by their own admission, went “all in” this year, anything less than a SB victory is failure. I think we can safely say they are not winning it all this year, therefore they are a failure.

    The Giants, on the other hand, were picked by everyone and their mother as 3rd or 4th in the division. That was BEFORE all the injuries. Yes, I know all teams have injuries. But the Giants lost 3 valued starters (CB, MLB, PR/KR/WR) before the season started, and the injuries have not stopped. I guess the fact that they are still in the hunt for the division title (let alone a Wild Card) means they don’t “suck”.

  35. claymaker52 says: Dec 5, 2011 5:17 PM

    @we’refinethere Oh I don’t think every incomplete pass should have been PI by any means. I’m simply saying by using the context the refs for the game were using and what constituted PI by calling it once and then not calling it for a more egregious instance made no sense.

    The illegal contact the Giants made on Finley to extend the Packers drive deep in their own territory was somewhat minor, then on the same drive to get wrapped up before the ball and no flag being thrown is not good football. Once they set a barometer on what is or isn’t PI, they can’t decide later in the same drive it wasn’t.

    Makeup calls aren’t supposed to happen, but they do all the time. The key is making sure they’re not necessary.

    Ballard’s TD was completely out of bounds, just like Drivers was completely in-bounds by the video evidence available at the time. The biggest question on Drivers TD was whether or not he was out of bounds prior to making the reception, but he had established himself back in the field of play with two feet.

    As you can see I’m not some crazy Packer fan with conspiracy theories, I know football.

  36. touchdownroddywhite says: Dec 5, 2011 5:21 PM

    My playoff bracket as of Saturday:

    NFC

    1. Niners 14-2 (tie breaker over GB being conference games won)

    2. Green Bay 14-2

    3. N.O Saints.

    4. NY Giants

    5. Atlanta Falcons

    6. Detroit Lions

    AFC

    1. Patriots

    2. Steelers

    3. Texans

    4. Broncos

    5. Ravens

    6. Bengals

    You heard me…

  37. stairwayto7 says: Dec 5, 2011 5:42 PM

    green bay won’t lose until the playoffs.
    9ers wil liose at least 1 more h=game..maybe 2
    steelers have tie breaker over pats for #1 seed
    bungals will choke

  38. gcsuk says: Dec 5, 2011 5:57 PM

    tommyj20 says: Dec 5, 2011 4:33 PM

    Hate to say this but (and very highly unlikely)… With 4 games to go, Philly will be favored to win in all 4 games. If (BIG IF)they win out they finish 8-8. If the Cowboys split with NYG and lose to Tampa (8-8) and NYG also lose to Washington or the Jets (8-8) Philly wins the NFC East.

    Seems far fetched unless you consider Dallas lost to AZ and Eagles have a knack for finishing strong.
    ———————————————————————
    While I agree with the premise/scenario, I can’t imagine that Philly will be favored to win all 4. This weekend they play in Miami, they play Dallas, the NY Jets, and @ Washington. Sorry, but I think they will be road dogs this weekend against a VERY resurgent Miami team, and we’ll see about the rest.

  39. drbob117 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:03 PM

    @gesuk: Any smart Eagles fan could see that the team was ‘top heavy’; that is, they had about 10 players with pro bowl credentials and the other 43 guys couldn’t play the game worth a damn. The FO said we’re “all in”; the fans aren’t that stupid.. Lurie , Banner and Reid have all been around long enough for the fans to realize we’re not winning anything with those guys in charge. We weren’t fooled, but just like you Giant fans, it’s not like we can just bring in another NFL team to root for. Maybe some day our front office won’t be run by fantasy league idiots. I’m just saying that after watching the Eagles defense this year that it’s unbelievable that a Giants team with Osi Uyminora, Tuck, Boley, Kiwanuka, etc. can give up 33 MORE points than ours. I thought nobody gave up more points than we did. Then I counted and there’s like 10 teams. Stunning! I will give you this, the Giants or Cowboys will eliminate the Birds in the next 2 weeks or so, I just can’t believe that it didn’t happen yesterday.

  40. drbob117 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:08 PM

    @tommyj20: I’m a diehard Eagles fan, and while you have the math right, I can’t imagine any scenario in which the Eagles beat the Jets( not exactly loving their chances against Miami either). If this rotting corpse of a squad that has quit like dogs the last 2 weeks beats the Jets, Rex Ryan should be fired before he boards the team bus.

  41. hawks49 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:14 PM

    As a non-biased viewer: The Giants really got screwed by the refs against Green Bay. Green Bay has a great team but doesn’t need any more breaks to get their wins.

    The illegal contact down field was garbage, the long PI down the left sideline was also a poor call. Both had a large influence on the outcome of the game.

    As for the NY fans saying Ballard was in… he obviously was not.

    As for the Packers fans that are positive Drivers TD was good… take a look at his back heel when he is pushed by the DB in the back of the end zone before he runs up for the catch. The refs didn’t even review the fact that he may have stepped out of bounds and was no longer an eligible receiver.

    Sorry this is just a rant. The refs blow this year: too many ticky tack calls on DBs, roughing the QB , miscalled horse collars and 15 yard penalties on textbook hits.

    The NFL really needs to start hiring professional refs, not people that have a day job and just do it on the weekends.

  42. claymaker52 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:29 PM

    @hawks49 take a look at my response a few posts up. I actually referenced Drivers 2nd TD. He likely did step out of bounds, but as long as you re-establish yourself in bounds before making the catch it’s a legal play. The referees weren’t the best, but they know the rules.

  43. jakek2 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:30 PM

    claymaker -

    I’ve tried to post the link to a photo of the Ballard catch but it won’t let me. At first I thought Ballard was out too but the photo shows his right knee clearly was inbounds. 1 knee = 2 feet. That said, I’m not complaining as a Giants’ fan. I’m a big advocate that calls should not be reversed unless you pass the test of willing to take a taser to your groin if you’re wrong. Even though I thought the photo of Ballard was “conclusive”, I’m comfortable with the call being upheld b/c I would not bet a taser/groin shot on it. Does that make sense?

    As for PI’s, Finley was begging for calls all game when there was absolutely no contact. If he didn’t whine all game, he probably would have gotten another call or two. By the way, Nicks was mauled on both of his TD catches and got no flag on either.

  44. jakek2 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:35 PM

    drbob – we have given up 33 more points than Phi but that number is deceiving. We played N.O. and G.B., two of the best offenses the league has ever seen. Your uncommon games were Chicago and Atlanta – both of whom just lost to 3rd string QBs.

  45. claymaker52 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:39 PM

    @jalek

    Oh I know Finley does gripe to the refs all the time, that’s just who he is. If you look at some of the plays that weren’t called he was being interfered with by the standards that were set.

    On Nick’s TD catch I agree he was held by Woodson and the refs missed it. That’s the problem though, they called some lesser contact but let other stuff go.

    As for the Ballard TD, the video that they had at the time showed his knee hit out of bounds before any his 2nd foot came down. I’m aware of 1 knee=2 feet, but doesn’t matter if the knee is out of bounds before the feet go down. You can see the chalk fly up as his knee hits.

    All-in-all it was a hard fought game with the refs making mistakes for both teams, not just in the Packers favors. The Giants were playing dirty and hitting Packers late after plays with no calls. GB isn’t Detroit, they don’t fight for no reason.

  46. franknunley57 says: Dec 5, 2011 6:56 PM

    @dericivy

    The 49ers clinched 1st place in the division. They can’t play The Seahawks in the wild card round. Now go do your math homework.

  47. east96st says: Dec 5, 2011 7:35 PM

    “The FO said we’re “all in”; the fans aren’t that stupid.. Lurie , Banner and Reid have all been around long enough for the fans to realize we’re not winning anything with those guys in charge. We weren’t fooled”

    Clearly, you’re new here. About 50 Eagles fans have been insisting they will win it all since August. A few were still insisting they would “win out” and go on a run to the Super Bowl prior to the Seattle game. I give you credit if you really saw the flaws from the start, but please don’t claim that the Eagle fans weren’t fooled. Almost every Philly poster here was drinking the kool-aid from day one.

  48. bigboi30 says: Dec 5, 2011 11:10 PM

    Lions will make it in. they will win vs.SD, vs.OAK, vs.VIKES. And no matter what GB record is, the only way GB starters sit in this game, is if there is a blowout by either team. And since it wont be, I see that as a 50/50 game.

  49. axespray says: Dec 6, 2011 4:07 AM

    Zach says:Dec 5, 2011 3:35 PM
    “So well said, Those two calls were such BS, i hate how the packers have gotten those calls for the last 20 some years.”
    ———————————————-
    yeah, we’ve had the refs on our side for 20 years.

    Yeah, Jerry Rice clearly didn’t fumble in that 1998 playoff game, Aaron Rodgers wasn’t face masked, We’ve always had the refs on our side…. that’s why we’ve been a consistent playoff team for the last 20 years… not anything to do with great drafting/coaching/players or anything…
    ka-durrh!?

  50. axespray says: Dec 6, 2011 4:10 AM

    zaggs says:Dec 5, 2011 3:18 PM
    “So long as the Giants don’t have to keep playing the refs and the other team, they should do fine. Ballard no TD? Yeah, too bad pictures say otherwise NFL! If Ballard was out of bounds, so was Driver on his second TD.”

    well, so much for my respect for giants fans…. whining about the refs, even thou you’re team has been on a losing streak that includes losses against the VY led eagles… maybe it’s not the refs, maybe your team is just mediocore this year?

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