Playoff fever rages across NFL

The NFL playoffs are just a few short weeks away and most teams are anxious about their part in them in week 15.

Two of the biggest worriers have to be the Bears and the Saints. Both need wins and help to get into the playoffs. Look for the difference here to be which quarterback manages the game best.

Sunday will see more dire times for teams on a playoff bubble. Tampa Bay is still reeling from Carolina’s fourth quarter magic on Monday. If their defense doesn’t get over that quick then Turner and the Falcons will run them over like Williams and Stewart did for the Panthers.

In spite of their early season success Washington don’t look headed to the playoffs. Their problems have been with an injured Portis and offensive line giving Campbell less time to make plays happen. The Bengals may be awful but the Redskins are in enough of a funk to lose to them.

Tennessee is smooth sailing after wrapping up the division last week. Don’t look for too much here against the surging Texans. If the starters play more than one quarter I’d be surprised.

Indy is hot at the right time, as they’re on a six game win streak. With the way the AFC East is turning out they need every win to make the playoffs. Detroit is pathetic but a loss here could really hurt the Colts’ chances.

Last season a Green Bay-Jacksonville match-up would have had much significance. This year, with both teams being also-rans in their divisions, there’s not much to see here. Look for both running games to try and salvage something from this season.

Another meaningless match-up will be the disappointing Chargers against the hopeless Chiefs. San Diego has so many issues on both sides of the ball it’s tempting to say they’re the underdogs. For sure though, defense will be crucial because both teams have shown little of it this season.

Miami is on the cusp of an improbably turnaround as a playoff berth is squarely in their control. They simply need to keep winning against inferior teams. The Niners are certainly one. But, as the Jets showed last week, taking San Fran too lightly could mean an upset. Thus the game boils down to who can keep their focus.

The Jets lost to an underachieving squad last week and they’ll look to avoid a repeat performance against Buffalo. If Jones steps up and the defense stays awake the Jets should be fine.

Seattle-St. Louis has no significance on the playoff landscape. Consider their game the battle for last place in the NFC West.

It’s the complete opposite though when Minnesota battles Arizona. Sure the Cardinals are officially playoff-bound but the Vikings are desperate to keep their win streak and playoff hopes alive. Tavaris Jackson proved last week he could play if called upon and he will need to throw well again.

One of the biggest showdowns this weekend is between Pittsburgh and Baltimore. With the way the AFC is going there’s much doubt whether both will make the playoffs. For the Steelers to win they must limit damage done through the air like they did against Dallas. For Baltimore they need to follow the Cowboys’ lead, run the ball often and pressure Big Ben in the pocket.

Denver is a mediocre division leader. Sure they can score with the best of them but their defense comes and goes like the wind. That doesn’t bode well for them in the playoffs or for their match-up against a stout Carolina run game that can destroy any linebacker core.

New England, in spite of all their flaws, are still very much in the hunt. Cassel has had an up and down season behind the helm but has looked good in their wins. He’ll need to produce another dandy against a sketchy Raiders team to keep playoff hopes alive.

The Giants and Cowboys always produce epic games year in and year out. This year will be no different. New York has nothing to lose with the division all wrapped up. Dallas are in a precarious spot because another loss will surely keep them out of the playoffs.

Monday’s Cleveland-Philly game has some importance on the playoffs. The Browns aren’t saying anything but the Eagles might just be the playoff team no one saw coming.