NFL: NFC News and Notes

DECEMBER GAMES KEY TO PLAYOFF PUSH

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The NFL season enters the home stretch with 27 teams still in playoff contention. The final quarter of the season kicks off this weekend with playoff berths on the line.

"The games in December are the most important regular-season games by far," says NFL Network analyst STEVE MARIUCCI. "It's extremely important to win in December and to make a run at the playoffs and show improvement. You want your team to peak in December. It's important to stay healthy and keep your players fresh. You remember what happens in December."

Over the past five seasons (since 2005), the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers own the best record in the month, which also includes regular-season games played in January (chart below).

"This is December football now and it's the most important football we're going to play all season," says Green Bay head coach MIKE MC CARTHY.

TEAM

WINS

LOSSES

PCT.

New England Patriots

21

4

.840

San Diego Chargers

21

4

.840

Philadelphia Eagles

17

8

.680

Pittsburgh Steelers

17

8

.680

Chicago Bears

16

9

.640

Indianapolis Colts

16

9

.640

"At this point in the season, every game becomes very important," says Atlanta Falcons quarterback MATT RYAN, who has won seven consecutive regular-season starts in December/January. "Late in the season, we're excited about the challenge. Seeing what happens in the NFL every December, you never know what to expect."

"There are plenty of big games ahead as we go through the month of December," says New Orleans Saints quarterback DREW BREES. "They only get bigger as you get closer to the end of the regular season."

"When you get into games in December, these are all important and every one is a big game," says New York Giants quarterback ELI MANNING. "Hopefully, you are playing good football at this point and you've found the way to win games."

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