By Brian Willwerth
A quick overview of the division races in the NFC with five games remaining…
This is a two-team race between the Cowboys and Giants. As of now, Dallas has a one-game lead, but these teams still have to play each other twice down the stretch: the first matchup is in two weeks, the second is the season finale. It will ultimately be those two games that decide the division winner. The other note from the East: Philadelphia [4-7] gets my vote for biggest disappointment in the NFL, at least for the moment.
You know the headline here: will the Packers go undefeated? Their five remaining games are against the Giants, Raiders, Chiefs, Bears and Lions. Three of them are at home. Four of those teams are over [.500], (KC being the exception) so it’s hardly a given that Green Bay will fly through them. The Lions are Bears are both in the thick of the wild card race at [7-4]. They split the head-to-head meetings this season. But Chicago has questions at quarterback, while Detroit will have to play the next two games without Ndamukong Suh, thanks to his “stomping” job against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day.
Here’s another two-team race. The Saints and Falcons are separated by one game. Both teams are peaking at just the right time. New Orleans has already beaten Atlanta in the Georgia Dome (in the “Mike Smith 4th Down Gamble” game.) The second meeting is the day after Christmas on Monday Night Football.
That game could be for the division title.
The 49ers can wrap up the division with a win at home Sunday against the Rams. San Francisco also has the inside track to a first-round bye. The one game that sticks out on their remaining schedule is a Monday night game against the Steelers on December 19th. Jim Harbaugh gets my vote for Coach of the Year, though it might be hard to bypass Mike McCarthy if the Packers go undefeated. Remember that tremendous game between the Saints and Packers on opening night? Wouldn’t you love to see a rematch in the NFC Championship game? I hope I’m right.