The road to a playoff bye is rarely a smooth one. The top teams in the NFC were reminded of that in Week 10.
With their easy schedule and great play at home, the Falcons can survive their slip-up in New Orleans. The 49ers remain two up in the loss column on Seattle in the NFC West and don't rely on their quarterback play that much. They can live without Smith. The Giants are used to second-half drama. It's what they do.
The Bears are the team to worry about most here. They have the Packers coming fast in the rearview mirror and a brutal schedule coming up, with five straight games against winning teams. Chicago relies on Cutler's big arm to overcome inadequacies on its offensive line. Cutler's concussion hurt the Bears' chances to beat Houston on Sunday night, and it could have repercussions in the NFC playoff race for weeks to come.
So you're saying there's a chance
- The Cowboys are far from out of the NFC East (despite the appearance of owner Jerry Jones batting eyelashes at Mike Holmgren) after Dallas' win against Philly. Dallas has a chance to be only half a game behind the Giants before New York gets back on the field after its bye week. The Cowboys host the Browns before facing the Redskins on Thanksgiving.
- The Bengals have looked lousy nearly all season, but they won a game convincingly against the Giants when they absolutely needed to. A record of 4-5 is not out of it in the AFC. You can't rule out a Colts collapse down the stretch, which would mean that 8-8 or 9-7 could be enough for the last Wild Card spot in the AFC this season.
- The sledding is tougher in the NFC, which is why Saints fans shouldn't go too crazy making Super Bowl plans just yet after beating Atlanta. New Orleans' margin for error remains perilously thin, but at least they are giving their fans something to enjoy this season. Games against the 49ers, Falcons and Giants still loom.
They're real and spectacular
- It's probably time to throw Adrian Peterson's hat in the MVP ring. It is totally ridiculous the guy might have a career season after tearing his ACL.
The more things change ...
- The Giants are making life hard again. That's what they do. The road to a playoff bye is going to be much tougher, but they have a chance to get healthy during their bye week. The key part here: Do you really trust Dallas to make a run in the second half?
- This may sound obvious, but tying the Rams is so much better than a loss for the 49ers. Teams always want to "control their fate." The loss column is about controlling fate. San Francisco remains two up on Seattle in the loss column, which is a significant edge past the midway point of the season. Marc Sessler had a great recap of the madness.
- To all the AFC teams at five or six losses: You are only out of it if you believe the Colts can't stumble down the stretch.
Each week, the Around the League crew sticks a fork in teams we eliminate from true playoff contention. We don't intend this to be predictive, just a statement that their seasons are legitimately over.