NFL Playoff Scenarios: Predicting Which Teams Will Claim Final Postseason Spots

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistDecember 27, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 09: Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears calls a play in the huddle against the Indianapolis Colts during their 2012 NFL season opener at Soldier Field on September 9, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Colts 41-21. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There are two playoff spots up for grabs as teams around the NFL prepare for the final week of the regular season. Both are in the NFC as the NFC East title and one wild card position are still available with five teams still alive in those races.

In the AFC, the six playoff teams have already been decided. Week 17 will just be used to determine seeding, including which teams will earn the coveted bye. But that's not nearly as intriguing as teams battling for their playoff lives.

It should be a terrific weekend of football. Here are predictions for which teams will claim the final spots when the dust finally settles on Sunday night.

NFC East: Washington Redskins

The stakes couldn't be more clear heading into Washington's clash with the Dallas Cowboys. The winner will be the NFC East champion. The Redskins could still get in as the wild card, but would need some serious help.

Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III returned last week to help push the Redskins one step closer to the division title. Although he wasn't his usual dynamic self, he still found ways to make key plays and that's what makes him a special player.

After having another week to heal, he should be ready to roll against a Cowboys defense he torched for over 330 total yards and four touchdowns in Week 12. Fellow rookie Alfred Morris also shined in that earlier win, rushing for 113 yards and a TD.

It's only fitting that the NFC East race goes down to the final day because the division was so competitive all season long. In a matchup between a rising star who keeps shining and a team that has a reputation of folding under pressure, expect Griffin to come out on top.

Wild Card: Chicago Bears

The Minnesota Vikings are in the driver's seat for the second NFC wild card spot. However, they face a tough matchup with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are still trying to lock up a first round bye and will therefore be going all out on Sunday.

A loss would open the door for Chicago. The Bears looked like playoff locks when they were 7-1 following a romp of the Tennessee Titans in Week 9. Since then, they have lost five of seven and now need help just to make the postseason.

The good news for the Bears is that they are coming off their most complete performance in a month. That sets them up well for a clash with the Detroit Lions, one of the season's most disappointing teams and losers of seven straight.

Ultimately, expect the Bears to take care of business during the first wave of games on Sunday. Then the Packers will secure a narrow victory over the Vikings to earn a bye, while handing the rival Bears a trip to the playoffs at the same time.