By TPR Staff

First off, a very Merry Christmas to you and yours this holiday season from us at the Pigskin Report. It’s always quite a somber holiday mood for the diehard NFL fan; for it means we’re nearing the end of the regular season. And the week number suggests, things are winding down and the playoffs begin just two weeks from today. It goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

With most of the top teams already in, there is just fighting for playoff seeding from most of the contests. However, there are a few “bubble” teams left that are either trying to get in or clinging desperately to a low playoff seed. Below is a closer look to five games this week that could have huge playoff implications.

Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans

The big talk in Houston this week has been the question of “who are you more afraid of; Adrian Peterson or Jason Allen.” For those who don’t remember, Jason Allen ended Matt Schaub’s season the last time these two teams met. Whereas, as amazing as he may be, Adrian Peterson isn’t going to end Houston’s title hopes even if he rushes for 294 yards against them. But therein lies the reason for the casual fan to watch; Peterson needs only the aforementioned 294 yards to break NFL legend Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record. Houston has a tough run defense, but Peterson has done pretty much whatever he’s wanted all season. Also, with a victory, Houston can wrap up the top seed in the AFC.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers

With a win in Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Bengals will clinch their second consecutive playoff appearance; something that has been unheard of in those parts for quite some time. In fact, with a victory and a Ravens loss, Cincinnati could be looking at a shot at the NFC North crown. For the Steelers, this is their season. If they win, they have a fighting chance to slip into the playoffs as the sixth seed. But one more loss and their season will reach its disappointing conclusion. The Bengals have been on the cusp for some time but have been unable to top the Steelers or Ravens. This could be the moment they finally arrive.

New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys

Even though the Saints playoff hopes are gone, the idea of playing spoiler has to be an entertaining thought. The Cowboys have been playing some good ball as of late en route to winning five of their last six and finding themselves in a three way tie for the NFC East title. With a week 17 contest against the Redskins in Washington, a victory here means they could be playing for the division title and the final playoff spot in the NFC. However, a loss here and it’s another season of second guessing in Dallas and the likely end of head coach Jason Garrett.

New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens

This contest looked much more entertaining about a month ago. However, both teams seem to be flailing a bit as of late and have watched their stranglehold on their respective divisions dwindle. The Giants are fresh off of the most lopsided shutout defeat of a defending Super Bowl champion in league history and a in a triple tie scenario in their division. Meanwhile, the Ravens have dropped three straight and are in real danger of letting the Bengals catch up and steal the division crown. Three weeks ago, the Ravens were talking about gunning for the top seed in the AFC. If they drop this game, they could be sitting on their sofa when wild card weekend rolls around.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

It would be hard for the 49ers to be engaged in as exciting of a football game as they played last week when they did the unthinkable; win in Foxboro in December. It wasn’t easy and the stout Niners defense took some punishment, but Brady and the Pats have a way of doing that to great defenses. But if I would have told you even a month ago that the week 16 contest in Seattle might determine the NFC West, well even I would have laughed. But after dropping 108 points the last two weeks, the Seahwaks, along with their stellar defense, have become that team no one wants to face. They’re young, they’re hungry and they are starting to look like a real dark horse in the NFC.

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