Week 16 NFL Preview

NFL TEAMS PREPARE FOR FINAL STRETCH

Time is running out. With two weeks to go in the NFL regular season, it’s time for teams to make their final playoff push.

“Momentum is very important,” says head coach MIKE SMITH of the NFC-leading Atlanta Falcons. “Sometimes it’s difficult to measure and quantify it. When you use the word momentum, you use the word passion. You use the word purpose. It’s important that you’re playing efficiently and effectively in December and January. That’s what every team is striving for. Over the last two seasons, the teams that were playing well in December and January and really rolling were the teams that had the most success. Momentum is very important.”

While seven postseason berths have been clinched – Atlanta (NFC South), Baltimore, Denver (AFC West), Green Bay (NFC North), Houston (AFC South), New England (AFC East) and San Francisco – there are still 19 teams overall in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Three divisions – AFC North, NFC East, NFC West – are going down to the wire.

“These are the circumstances you want to be in,” says New York Giants quarterback ELI MANNING. “You want to be fighting to make it in the playoffs. That’s just football and you understand it’s tough to make the playoffs. You’ve got to work. You’ve got to win games. You’ve got to win important games. Our mindset is that the playoffs have started.”

In the AFC, Baltimore controls the AFC North and can clinch the division title with a win. Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh are each in control for at least a playoff berth. Houston and Denver are in control for a first-round bye with the Texans being in control for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

In the NFC, Washington and Dallas, who meet in Week 17, are each in control of the division in the NFC East. San Francisco, who has already secured a playoff berth, is in control in the NFC West. Seattle, Washington, Dallas and the New York Giants are each in control for at least a playoff berth. Atlanta and San Francisco are in control for a first-round bye with the Falcons being in control for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

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