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PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP WITH 24 TEAMS IN CONTENTION

Posted Dec 11, 2012

PLAYOFF RACES HEAT UP WITH 24 TEAMS IN CONTENTION

With three weeks remaining in the regular season, the suspense continues to build as teams make their final playoff push. So far, four spots have been clinched – Atlanta (NFC South), Denver (AFC West), New England (AFC East) and Houston (playoff spot). 

 

“We still need to get better,” says Broncos head coach JOHN FOX. “Our players and our staff have that mindset. We’ll see where it takes us.”

 

That leaves eight spots available and there are still 24 teams in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

 

“This is a highly, highly competitive league,” says head coach TOM COUGHLIN of the 8-5 New York Giants, who have a one-game lead in the NFC East over Dallas and Washington. “The parity is incredible. Week in and week out, look at what you face. The level of talent is incredible.”

 

If the final three weeks are anything like the first 14, get ready for close games, exciting finishes and comeback victories. In Week 14, four games were decided with the winning points scored in the final two minutes or overtime. There have been 47 such games this season, tied for the most through the first 14 weeks of a season since the 1970 merger (2003).

 

“All around as a team, we just never quit,” says Philadelphia wide receiver JEREMY MACLIN, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass with no time remaining in the Eagles’ 23-21 come-from-behind win at Tampa Bay.

 

The Week 15 schedule starts with a primetime game on NFL Network as the Eagles host the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night (8:20 PM ET). At 7-6, Cincinnati is right in the thick of the AFC playoff chase. The week concludes on Monday night (ESPN, 8:30 PM ET) when the New York Jets visit the Tennessee Titans. New York (6-7) has won two in a row to climb back into the AFC playoff picture, one game behind Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

 

Also in Week 15, the Buffalo Bills will play their fifth regular-season game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre when they host the Seattle Seahawks (FOX, 4:05 PM ET). Some of the key games this week:

 

            NEW YORK GIANTS (8-5) at ATLANTA FALCONS (11-2) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)                

 

The Giants and Falcons will meet as both teams eye a trip to the postseason. The clubs met in the Wild Card round last year with New York defeating Atlanta 24-2 on its way to winning Super Bowl XLVI. This season, the Falcons have already clinched the NFC South and are closing in on a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

 

“This game is very important,” says Falcons head coach MIKE SMITH. “There are a lot of things that are going to happen over the next few weeks and that’s what makes it fun. We’ve got to go out and play our best football of the year now.”

 

The Giants lead the NFC East by one game and can win the division by winning their final three games.

 

“Our concern right now and for these next three weeks is about the New York Giants and what we need to do,” says Giants quarterback ELI MANNING. “That’s all we can focus on. We have to keep winning football games.”

 

DENVER BRONCOS (10-3) at BALTIMORE RAVENS (9-4) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)

 

Two of the top teams in the AFC will meet on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore. The Broncos have already clinched the AFC West and the Ravens can secure the AFC North with a win. Both teams are vying for a first-round bye in the postseason.

 

“We need to concentrate on what we need to do to get better,” says Denver cornerback CHAMP BAILEY. “We just need to keep plugging along and the rest will take care of itself.”

 

Denver has won eight consecutive games, the longest current streak in the NFL. Baltimore has a 5-1 record at home, tied for the second-best mark in the AFC this season.

 

“I’m focused on the Baltimore Ravens and I’m not going to sit back and watch our playoff fate be based on other teams,” says Ravens running back RAY RICE. “We pride ourselves on beating people and going into the playoffs strong. We’ve got to get ourselves back.”

 

GREEN BAY PACKERS (9-4) AT CHICAGO BEARS (8-5) (Sunday, FOX, 1:00 PM ET)

 

NFC North rivals will face one another at Soldier Field when the Bears host the Packers. Green Bay enters Week 15 with a one-game lead over Chicago in the division. With a victory on Sunday, the Packers will win the NFC North for the second consecutive season.

 

“We’re 9-4 right now and we’re in first place in the division by a game,” says Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS. “We’ve put ourselves in good position, not only for the division, but potentially a first-round bye. The division is the first goal. We can wrap things up next week, but it’s a tough opponent and a tough place to play. There’s a lot on the line.”

 

Chicago, at 8-5, is just one game out of first place in the division and currently holds one of the two NFC Wild Card spots.

 

“It’s now about a three-game season and this next game,” says Bears head coach LOVIE SMITH. “That’s going to dictate what happens with us. We’re still in position to accomplish all of our goals that we set out early on.”

 

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (9-4) AT HOUSTON TEXANS (11-2) (Sunday, CBS, 1:00 PM ET)

 

Houston owns the AFC’s best record but Indianapolis sits just two games behind the Texans in the AFC South. With a win on Sunday, Houston can clinch the division. But a Colts win would close the gap to just one game with two to play.

 

“We’re 11-2 and there’s a lot to do this season,” says Texans linebacker CONNOR BARWIN. “There’s a lot of football left. We have to move forward.”

 

With three games to go, Houston (11-2) has a one-game lead over Denver (10-3) and New England (10-3) for the No. 1 seed and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

 

The Colts can clinch a playoff berth with a win on Sunday. In Week 14, Indianapolis overcame a 13-point deficit to defeat Tennessee and improve to 9-4. The Colts, who finished the 2011 season with a 2-14 record, have already won seven more games than last year with three more still to play.

 

“It feels good,” says Indianapolis safety ANTOINE BETHEA. “For us to come in here this year and do the things that we’ve done so far, it feels good. As everybody knows, last year was a long year for us. We’ve proven the critics wrong but we still have three games left.”

 

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (9-3-1) AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (10-3) (Sunday, NBC, 8:20 PM ET)

 

The 49ers can secure a playoff berth with a win on Sunday. With a victory at New England coupled with a Seattle loss to Buffalo, San Francisco will clinch the NFC West for the second consecutive year.

 

“We’re just locked in on this one here with New England,” says 49ers head coach JIM HARBAUGH. “I really believe it’s about this next game. We don’t take anything for granted. Nothing is secured until it’s secured.”

 

New England has won seven in a row, including last week’s 42-14 win over Houston. The Patriots have already clinched the AFC East and are in a race for a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

 

“It’s always good to win these games,” says New England quarterback TOM BRADY, who recorded his 14th career game with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions, the most in NFL history. “We’ve played a lot of big games here. We’ve got a great football team coming in on a short week for us, so we’ve got to put everything into this one next week.”

 

****************************************************************************************************************************************** 

NFL FACTOID: Minnesota running back ADRIAN PETERSON has rushed for 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.04 yards per carry. He is the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,600 yards and 10 touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry in his team’s first 13 games. The others to accomplish the feat are Pro Football Hall of Famers JIM BROWN (1963) and O.J. SIMPSON (1973). 

******************************************************************************************************************************************

 

2012 NFL STANDINGS

 

American Football Conference

East Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-New England Patriots

10

3

0

.769

472

274

5-1-0

5-2-0

9-1-0

5-0-0

Won 7

New York Jets

6

7

0

.462

245

306

3-4-0

3-3-0

4-5-0

2-3-0

Won 2

Buffalo Bills

5

8

0

.385

289

352

3-3-0

2-5-0

4-6-0

1-3-0

Lost 1

Miami Dolphins

5

8

0

.385

240

276

3-3-0

2-5-0

3-6-0

1-3-0

Lost 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

Baltimore Ravens

9

4

0

.692

331

273

5-1-0

4-3-0

8-2-0

4-1-0

Lost 2

Pittsburgh Steelers

7

6

0

.538

278

264

4-2-0

3-4-0

4-6-0

2-2-0

Lost 1

Cincinnati Bengals

7

6

0

.538

321

280

3-4-0

4-2-0

5-5-0

1-3-0

Lost 1

Cleveland Browns

5

8

0

.385

259

272

4-3-0

1-5-0

5-5-0

2-3-0

Won 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

x-Houston Texans

11

2

0

.846

365

263

5-1-0

6-1-0

9-1-0

4-0-0

Lost 1

Indianapolis Colts

9

4

0

.692

292

329

6-1-0

3-3-0

6-3-0

3-1-0

Won 3

Tennessee Titans

4

9

0

.308

271

386

2-4-0

2-5-0

3-7-0

0-5-0

Lost 3

Jacksonville Jaguars

2

11

0

.154

216

359

1-6-0

1-5-0

2-7-0

2-3-0

Lost 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-Denver Broncos

10

3

0

.769

375

257

5-1-0

5-2-0

7-2-0

5-0-0

Won 8

San Diego Chargers

5

8

0

.385

292

281

2-4-0

3-4-0

5-5-0

3-2-0

Won 1

Oakland Raiders

3

10

0

.231

248

402

2-5-0

1-5-0

3-7-0

1-3-0

Lost 6

Kansas City Chiefs

2

11

0

.154

195

352

1-6-0

1-5-0

0-9-0

0-4-0

Lost 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Football Conference

East Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

New York Giants

8

5

0

.615

373

270

5-2-0

3-3-0

7-3-0

2-3-0

Won 1

Washington Redskins

7

6

0

.538

343

329

4-3-0

3-3-0

6-4-0

3-1-0

Won 4

Dallas Cowboys

7

6

0

.538

300

314

3-3-0

4-3-0

5-5-0

3-2-0

Won 2

Philadelphia Eagles

4

9

0

.308

240

341

2-4-0

2-5-0

2-8-0

1-3-0

Won 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

Green Bay Packers

9

4

0

.692

323

279

6-1-0

3-3-0

7-3-0

4-0-0

Won 2

Chicago Bears

8

5

0

.615

308

219

5-2-0

3-3-0

5-4-0

2-2-0

Lost 2

Minnesota Vikings

7

6

0

.538

283

286

6-1-0

1-5-0

5-5-0

3-2-0

Won 1

Detroit Lions

4

9

0

.308

320

342

2-4-0

2-5-0

3-6-0

0-5-0

Lost 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

y-Atlanta Falcons

11

2

0

.846

337

259

6-0-0

5-2-0

7-2-0

3-2-0

Lost 1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6

7

0

.462

354

308

3-4-0

3-3-0

3-6-0

2-2-0

Lost 3

New Orleans Saints

5

8

0

.385

348

379

3-3-0

2-5-0

3-6-0

2-2-0

Lost 3

Carolina Panthers

4

9

0

.308

265

312

2-5-0

2-4-0

4-7-0

2-3-0

Won 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Division

Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Home

Away

Conf

Div

Streak

San Francisco 49ers

9

3

1

.731

316

184

5-1-1

4-2-0

6-3-1

2-1-1

Won 1

Seattle Seahawks

8

5

0

.615

300

202

6-0-0

2-5-0

6-4-0

1-3-0

Won 2

St. Louis Rams

6

6

1

.500

236

279

4-3-0

2-3-1

5-3-1

4-0-1

Won 3

Arizona Cardinals

4

9

0

.308

186

292

3-3-0

1-6-0

2-7-0

1-4-0

Lost 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

x - Clinched Playoffs; y - Clinched Division; z - Clinched Conference


LAST WEEK’S RESULTS DECEMBER 6, 9-10

 

Thursday, December 6

Sunday, December 9 (cont’d)

Denver 26, OAKLAND 13

San Diego 34, PITTSBURGH 24

 

Philadelphia 23, TAMPA BAY 21

Sunday, December 9

WASHINGTON 31, Baltimore 28 (OT)

St. Louis 15, BUFFALO 12

GREEN BAY 27, Detroit 20

CAROLINA 30, Atlanta 20

NEW YORK GIANTS 52, New Orleans 27

Dallas 20, CINCINNATI 19

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS 27, Miami 13

CLEVELAND 30, Kansas City 7

SEATTLE 58, Arizona 0

INDIANAPOLIS 27, Tennessee 23

 

New York Jets 17, JACKSONVILLE 10

Monday, December 10

MINNESOTA 21, Chicago 14

NEW ENGLAND 42, Houston 14

 

 

2012 WEEK 13 SCHEDULE (DECEMBER 13, 16-17)

(All times local)

 

Thursday, December 13

Sunday, December 16 cont’d

Cincinnati at Philadelphia, 8:00 PM (NFLN)

NY Giants at Atlanta, 1:00 PM

 

Seattle at Buffalo, 4:05 PM

Sunday, December 16

Carolina at San Diego, 1:05 PM

Green Bay at Chicago, 12:00 PM

Detroit at Arizona, 2:05 PM

Indianapolis at Houston, 12:00 PM

Kansas City at Oakland, 1:25 PM

Denver at Baltimore, 1:00 PM

Pittsburgh at Dallas, 3:25 PM

Jacksonville at Miami, 1:00 PM

San Francisco at New England, 8:20 PM (NBC)

Washington at Cleveland, 1:00 PM

 

Minnesota at St. Louis, 12:00 PM

Monday, December 17

Tampa Bay at New Orleans, 12:00 PM

NY Jets at Tennessee, 7:30 PM (ESPN)

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