Well 17 long, hard fought weeks have rendered a verdict on who will be going to the playoffs and who will not. Months of speculation, hotly-contested games, and thrilling victories have all been a taste of the splendor the playoffs seem to offer.
A few playoff races came down to the wire and were decided today.
For one, the Vikings got their ticket punched to the postseason this afternoon by defeating the New York Giants 20-19 on a last-second field goal by Ryan Longwell, thus solidifying their status as NFC North champions.
The Giants had already clinched the first seed in the playoffs by defeating the Panthers last weekend in a thrilling come-from-behind fashion, eventually winning in overtime 34-28.
The Panthers also locked up the #2 seed and NFC South Championship by defeating the New Orleans Saints, 33-31 on a last second field-goal by John Kasay.
The Falcons in a feel-good story locked up the top wild card spot, winning 11 games this year after winning only 4 last year due to key injuries, off the field distractions, and poor coaching.
The Arizona Cardinals, this year’s other feel-good story, won the lowly NFC West Division this season, their first division title in 33 years.
Finally, the shocker of them all, the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES overcame a tumultuous season with off the field issues concerning quarterback Donovan McNabb, coach Andy Reid, a key injury to star player Brian Westbrook, and a tie to the lousy Bengals by defeating their rivals the (9-7) Dallas Cowboys 44-6. By edging out the Cowboys for the last wildcard, the Eagles seem to have redeemed themselves from the adversity they faced throughout the season. Mistrusting his QB to get the job done, Reid went so far as to bench McNabb in Week 12 loss at Baltimore. Since then, however, the Eagles have improved from 5-5-1 to 9-6-1 thanks to McNabb’s steady play and earned themselves the final wild card spot in the playoffs.
Without further ado, here is the finalized NFC playoff picture:
1. New York Giants (12-4) (NFC East Division Champs, First Round Bye, Home-field advantage throughout)
2. Carolina Panthers (12-4) (NFC South Division Champs, First Round Bye)
3. Minnesota Vikings (10-6) (NFC North Division Champs)
4. Arizona Cardinals (9-7) (NFC West Division Champs)
5. Atlanta Falcons (11-5) (NFC South Wild card)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) (NFC East Wild card)
January 3rd or January 4th- Wild card Weekend
6. Philadelphia Eagles at 3. Minnesota Vikings
5. Atlanta Falcons at 4. Arizona Cardinals
January 10th or 11th- Divisional Round
(Highest Seed) at 1. New York Giants
(2nd Highest Seed) at 2. Carolina Panthers
January 17th or 18th- Conference Championship
(Higher Seed) at (Lower Seed)
February 1st- SUPER BOWL
Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida
AFC Champion vs. NFC Champion