Scoreboard watching will be at an all-time high this week in the NFL with a handful of teams still fighting for their playoff lives.
Losing is no longer an option in Week 16, where wins will be at a premium and losses are sure to sting far worse than any that have come in the 2012 season prior to this week.
With so many teams playing with so much on the line, the action is sure to be intense as these games unfold.
Let’s take a look at three games, specifically, that have massive playoff implications and see how they’ll play out as well as a look at the entire playoff picture as a whole.
Drew Brees and the Saints head to Dallas needing to win out—and get help—if making a fourth consecutive playoff appearance is in the cards.
Dallas, meanwhile, sits in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, because he simply can’t help himself, is talking about a Super Bowl run (h/t Dallas Morning News):
You can legitimately look at how the Giants played last year, what they did at the end of the year and how they took it all the way. And that’s not unrealistic to think that that can happen to you.
While Dallas is in the midst of a four-game winning streak, someone might want to remind Jerry that the Saints have won each of their last three games against the Cowboys in Dallas.
Defensively, the Cowboys have a major advantage over the Saints, though Dallas has been vulnerable to quarterbacks who have attacked the middle of the field against its safeties.
This one is going to come down to which quarterback makes fewer mistakes, and while Tony Romo has done a much better job of protecting the football in 2012 than Brees has, Romo doesn’t exactly have a long track record of success in pressure-packed games.
As much as it pains this lifelong Giants fan to do, I’m picking the Cowboys to beat the Saints and keep pace with the Washington Redskins in the race for the NFC East.
Dallas 31, New Orleans 24
While the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot, neither team has been able to lock down its respective division, and both are struggling heading into Sunday afternoon’s pivotal showdown.
The defending Super Bowl champions are coming off a deflating 34-0 loss at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 15, the first time that the Giants have been shut out since Carolina blanked Big Blue 24-0 in the 2006 playoffs.
Baltimore, on the other hand, is hoping to avoid a four-game losing streak and clinch the AFC North with a win in Week 16.
Look for the Giants to try to get Eli Manning back on track early in this one with short passes and screens, while the Ravens figure to feed the Giants a heavy dose of Ray Rice, both on runs between the tackles and in the passing game.
New York’s run defense has been mediocre at best and its vaunted pass rush has been essentially non-existent. Both of those issues will come back to bite the Giants in this one, a game that many Giants fans cringed at the thought of when the schedule was initially released.
Baltimore 27, New York 24
Fresh off of a Sunday night scare at the hands of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, the San Francisco 49ers head to Seattle with their eyes on clinching a second consecutive NFC West division title.
The only problem is that nobody has been able to beat Seattle at CenturyLink Field this season, where the Seahawks own a shiny 6-0 record and will be looking to keep their chances of winning the division alive and well heading into the season’s final week.
Seattle, in the midst of a three-game winning streak, has outscored opponents over the last two weeks by a combined score of 108-17, becoming the first NFL team in 62 years to rip off back-to-back games where it scored at least 50 points in each.
While San Francisco has won each of its last four games against Seattle, including a 13-6 victory in San Francisco in Week 7 of this season, this is a drastically different Seahawks team than the 49ers faced earlier this season.
Seattle has the momentum and CenturyLink Field is one of the most difficult places for opposing teams to play.
Seattle 21, San Francisco 17
NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (12-2) Clinched NFC South|
|No. 2 Seed San Francisco 49ers (10-3-1) Lead NFC West; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|No. 3 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-4) Clinched NFC North|
|No. 4 Seed Washington Redskins (8-6) Lead NFC East|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Seattle Seahawks (9-5)|
|No. 6 Seed Minnesota Vikings (8-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Chicago Bears (8-6)|
|Dallas Cowboys (8-6)|
|New York Giants (8-6)|
|St. Louis Rams (6-7-1)|
|New Orleans Saints (6-8)|
AFC PLAYOFF PICTURE
|No. 1 Seed Houston Texans (12-2) Clinched AFC South|
|No. 2 Seed Denver Broncos (11-3) Clinched AFC West|
|No. 3 Seed New England Patriots (10-4) Clinched AFC East|
|No. 4 Seed Baltimore Ravens (9-5) Lead AFC North; Clinched Playoff Berth|
|WILD CARD LEADERS|
|No. 5 Seed Indianapolis Colts (9-5)|
|No. 6 Seed Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)|
|IN THE HUNT|
|Pittsburgh Steelers (7-7)|
|Miami Dolphins (6-8)|
Atlanta: vs. Detroit, vs. Chicago
San Francisco: at Seattle, vs. Arizona
Green Bay: vs. Tennessee, at Minnesota
Washington: at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas
Seattle: vs. San Francisco, vs. St. Louis
Minnesota: at Houston, vs. Green Bay
Chicago: at Arizona, vs. Detroit
Dallas: vs. New Orleans, at Washington
New York: at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia
St. Louis: at Tampa Bay, at Seattle
New Orleans: at Dallas, vs. Carolina
Houston: vs. Minnesota, at Indianapolis
New England: at Jacksonville, vs. Miami
Baltimore: vs. New York Giants, at Cincinnati
Indianapolis: at Kansas City, vs. Houston
Cincinnati: at Pittsburgh, vs. Baltimore
Pittsburgh: vs. Cincinnati, vs. Cleveland
Miami: vs. Buffalo, at New England
Rick Weiner is a member of B/R’s Breaking News Team.
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