- iHaveNet.com: NFL Football
By Dean Michaels, NFL Writer
Time is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it's time for teams to make their final playoff push.
"It's the fourth quarter of the season and we have to beat Pittsburgh next," says head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers, who rallied from a 23-point halftime deficit to defeat Dallas 37-36 and are now in control of their playoff destiny in the NFC North. "We can't worry about what's going on around us. We can't control it. We just have to get ready to play."
So far, only four playoff spots have been clinched -- Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City and Seattle. With two weeks left, there are still 19 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII.
Only one division -- AFC South (Indianapolis) -- has been clinched. The remaining seven division winners are still to be decided.
"This is an amazing league," says Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, whose team is in control in the AFC North. "Everybody is so close and that's what makes it great."
In the AFC, the Denver Broncos can clinch the AFC West, a first-round bye and home-field advantage this week. The Patriots can clinch a playoff berth, the AFC East division and a first-round bye. The Cincinnati Bengals can clinch a playoff berth and the AFC North title. And the Ravens and Dolphins can secure wildcard playoff berths.
In the NFC, Seattle can clinch the NFC West, a first-round bye and home-field advantage this week. New Orleans can clinch a playoff berth, the NFC South division and a first-round bye. Chicago and Philadelphia can each win its division. And Carolina and San Francisco can secure playoff berths.
There will be 15 games on Sunday and Week 16 will conclude on Monday night in a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons (ESPN, 8:40 PM ET). The game also marks the final regular-season game at Candlestick Park.
Some of the key games in Week 16:
New Orleans Saints (10-4) at Carolina Panthers (10-4)
(Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)
The NFC South's top two teams meet for the second time in three weeks.
Both teams enter the contest with 10-4 records and each is in control for the division title and a first-round bye.
"The next two games as far as I'm concerned are playoff games," says 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."
The Saints defeated the Panthers 31-13 in Week 14. In that contest, New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES completed 30 of 42 passes (71.4 percent) for 313 yards with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 124.4 passer rating. Brees threw two touchdowns each to wide receiver MARQUES COLSTON (nine catches for 125 yards) and tight end JIMMY GRAHAM (six catches for 58 yards). Defensively, linebacker JUNIOR GALETTE had a career-high three sacks and defensive end CAMERON JORDAN added two sacks.
Carolina has won nine of its past 10 games with the only loss coming at the hands of the Saints. In last week's 30-20 win over the New York Jets, Panthers running back DE ANGELO WILLIAMS became the first player in franchise history with at least 80 rushing (81) and 80 receiving (87) yards in the same game. Williams had a 72-yard touchdown catch from quarterback CAM NEWTON, who posted a 118.9 passer rating in the contest. Cornerback CAPTAIN MUNNERLYN had two sacks and a 41-yard interception-return touchdown, his fourth INT-TD in the past two seasons, the most in the NFL.
[ Check Out: Panthers and Saints Face Off in NFC South Matchup ]
Arizona Cardinals (9-5) at Seattle Seahawks (12-2)
(Sunday, FOX, 4:05 PM ET)
The Seahawks have clinched a playoff spot and the Cardinals find themselves in the thick of the postseason race.
Arizona head coach Bruce Arians -- who was the 2012 AP NFL Coach of the Year with Indianapolis -- has guided the Cardinals to nine wins in his first season as the helm. In franchise history, only NORM BARRY in 1925 had more wins in his first season as the team's head coach. Last week, Arizona won 37-34 in overtime at Tennessee. Cardinals cornerback ANTOINE CASON had an interception-return touchdown and set up JAY FEELY's 41-yard game-winning field goal with an interception in overtime. Offensively, rookie running back ANDRE ELLINGTON had 87 receiving yards and 71 rushing yards, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer OLLIE MATSON (October 26, 1952) as the only rookies in team history with at least 80 receiving yards and 70 rushing yards in a game.
With a win -- or a San Francisco loss -- Seattle will lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Last week, the Seahawks recorded five interceptions in a 23-0 shutout win over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, the home of Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle cornerbacks RICHARD SHERMAN and BYRON MAXWELL each had two interceptions with safety EARL THOMAS contributing one. Quarterback RUSSELL WILSON -- who has never lost at home (14-0) -- notched his 23rd win, the most in the Super Bowl era by a starting quarterback in his first two seasons.
"At this point in the season, it's about making plays and winning games," says Feely. "Nothing else matters. You just have to win."
[ Check Out: Seahawks Host Division Rival Cardinals ]
New England Patriots (10-4) at Baltimore Ravens (8-6)
(Sunday, CBS, 4:25 PM ET)
The Patriots are in control for the division and a first-round bye. With a win -- or a Miami loss -- on Sunday, the Patriots will clinch the AFC East. A win and losses by Cincinnati and Indianapolis will secure a first-round bye for New England.
Quarterback Tom Brady has led the Patriots to 10 division titles, the most of any starting quarterback in NFL history. With a win, Brady (146 wins) will also tie Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO (147) for the fourth-most wins in NFL history by a starting quarterback.
"We've got 10 wins, and 10 wins is fine," says 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."
Baltimore has won four games in a row and is now in control of its destiny in the AFC North.
On Monday night, Justin Tucker kicked six field goals in the Ravens' 18-16 win at Detroit. Tucker sealed the victory with a career-long 61-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining. That marked the third-longest come-from-behind game-winning field goal in the final minute of the fourth quarter in NFL history.
"We're playing our best football right now and we're going to have to continue to improve with what we have in front of us down the stretch," says Ravens head coach JOHN HARBAUGH.
[ Check Out: Playoff Implications Abound as Ravens Host Patriots ]
Chicago Bears (8-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (8-6)
(Sunday, NBC, 8:30 PM ET)
The Chicago Bears are in control in the NFC North.
With a win and losses by both Detroit and Green Bay, the Bears will clinch the division. Chicago and Green Bay will also meet in Week 17.
Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler returned to the lineup in last week's 38-31 win at Cleveland and threw three touchdown passes -- one each to EARL BENNETT, ALSHON JEFFERY and BRANDON MARSHALL. Jeffery (1,265 yards) and Marshall (1,185) have combined for 2,450 receiving yards, the most by teammates this season. The Bears also got a score on defense as cornerback ZACK BOWMAN returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
Philadelphia is in control in the NFC East. With a win and a Dallas loss in Week 16, the Eagles will clinch the division. Philadelphia and Dallas will also meet in Week 17.
The Eagles have the NFL's top rushing offense (152.9 yards per game) and rank second in the league in total offense (414.0). Quarterback NICK FOLES has the NFL's best passer rating (117.0) and running back LE SEAN MC COY leads the league in rushing yards (1,343) and scrimmage yards (1,850).
The Bears -- Matt Forté (1,200 rushing), Jeffery (1,265 receiving) -- and Eagles -- McCoy (1,343 rushing), DeSean Jackson (1,275 receiving) -- are the only two teams in the NFL with both a 1,200-yard rusher and receiver.
"We've put ourselves in a position to compete for the division in the last two games," says Chicago head coach Marc Trestman. "But we've got to play better to win it."
[ Check Out: Eagles Host Bears with Division Leads on the Line ]
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