Eagles Soaring As NFC Contenders

December 13th, 2008
JoeBucsFan.com analyst Bob Fox takes a weekly look at the NFC playoff picture. Fox writes for numerous sports publications. He brings an insightful take on the conference. 
There are now three weeks to go in the regular season, and the playoff race is really getting interesting.  Only two teams, the New York Giants and the Arizona Cardinals have officially clinched anything right now in the NFC, as they have won their respective divisions.  Everything else is still on the table.  The Saints and Bears played on Thursday night, in a game in which the Bears won 27-24 in OT.   That loss severely shot down any playoff hopes for the Saints, while the Bears are still alive to at least possibly win the NFC North.  Let’s take a look at the possibilities, division by division.

NFC East
z- New York Giants 11-2
Dallas Cowboys 8-5
Philadelphia Eagles 7-5-1
Washington Redskins 7-6
JoeBucsFan.com analyst Bob Fox picks the Eagles to nab one of the two NFC Wild Card spots. Fox says Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb are at the top of their games.

JoeBucsFan.com analyst Bob Fox picks the Eagles to nab one of the two NFC Wild Card spots. He writes Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb are at the top of their games.

The Giants have clinched the East, but they still haven’t clinched the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.  The Cowboys seem to be imploding, as their loss in Pittsburgh illustrated, plus you have owner Jerry Jones questioning the manhood of Marion Barber, and Terrell Owens is performing his usual childish and paranoid act that calls out his quarterback (this time it’s Tony Romo).  The Eagles, a team that went through the tired T.O. act once, is playing the best football in the division now. QB Donovan McNabb and RB Brian Westbrook are razor sharp, playing their best football of 2008 right now.  The Redskins lost a key game last week against the Ravens last week that would have set up their playoff chances.  Right now, I would bet on the Eagles to be the Wild Card team that comes out of this division, as they have to play Washington (road) and Dallas (home) one more time apiece, after a date with the suddenly QB-less Cleveland Browns at home on Monday night.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings 8-5

Chicago Bears 8-6

Green Bay Packers 5-8

Detroit Lions 0-13

The 2008 season may be one of the rare times a division winner will end up 8-8.  The Vikings are not playing that well, but are winning close games they probably should have lost.  The Vikes finish against the Cards on the road, and then host Atlanta and the Giants at home.  It would not surprise me to see Minnesota lose its last three games to finish 8-8, especially because the Falcons and Giants may have need those games.  The Bears won a key game Thursday night against the Saints at Soldier Field, but they finish with the Packers on Monday night and then finish at Houston.  Again, I would not be surprised to see the Bears lose their last 2 games to finish 8-8.  The Packers would need a miracle finish –  three straight – to finish 8-8, as they play at Jacksonville and Chicago and then finish at Lambeau against the lowly Lions.  However, if the Packers do finish 8-8, which isn’t likely, they would win the divisional tiebreaker if the Vikings or Bears are also 8-8.

NFC South

Carolina Panthers 10-3

Tampa Bay Bucs 9-4

Atlanta Falcons 8-5

New Orleans Saints 7-7

The Panthers won a key game Monday  as they dominated the Bucs in the ground game, as both DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart had over 100 yards rushing.  To me, that was a fluke or an aberration against the usually stout Buc defense.  The Bucs can still make the playoffs, and even the NFC South crown a reality, if they run the table.  But it ALL starts at Atlanta.  That will be a huge game for both teams.  The Falcons are the Bucs biggest rival for the Wild Card spot, along with the Cowboys, who beat the Bucs earlier this year.  If the Bucs beat the Falcons, it certainly will impove Tampa Bay’s Wild Card chances.  Atlanta will bring an attack like Carolina did; The Falcons are second in the NFL in rushing with Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood leading the way.  If the Bucs win on Sunday, then the pressure is on the Panthers, who have to face the dangerous Denver Broncos and their big play passing game Sunday, and then travel to face the Giants on the road and then to New Orleans, where the Saints are very tough.  The Bucs meanwhile, close the season at home against the Chargers and the hapless Raiders.  The Bucs are 6-0 at the Ray Jay this year, as well.  If the Bucs run the table, and the Panthers lose to either the Giants or the Saints, then the Bucs win the NFC South and probably a No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.  I still think either the Bucs or Panthers will gain a Wild Card spot in the NFC, but look out for the Falcons if they win Sunday vs. the Bucs in Atlanta.

NFC West

z- Arizona Cardinals 8-5

San Francisco 49ers 5-8

St. Louis Rams 2-11

Seattle Seahawks 2-11

The Cardinals have clinched their first division title since 1975, and will host a home playoff game for the first time since 1947.  What does that tell you?  Tampa Bay fans have complained about Hugh Culverhouse and also about the Glazer family, but those owners have NOTHING on the Bidwell family that runs the Cardinals organization.  The Bidwell’s have also moved the Cards from Chicago to St. Louis to Arizona.  The Cards have been in the NFL as long as the Bears (1920) and and were around a year earlier than the Packers (1921).  But the Cards have won just two championships, compared to 12 by by the Packers and nine by the Bears.  The reason?  It starts with the owners.  The Bidwell family has owned the team since 1932.�

z– Clinched Division

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