By Mike Corasaniti
With two games left in the NFL season, the NFC playoff picture has become a bit more muddled.
A short while ago, the New York Giants and Chicago Bears were on top of everyone's power rankings, looking primed for deep playoff runs. On the other hand, teams like the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys were all but ready to stick a fork in their seasons and start planning for next year.
As all NFL seasons go, though, things rarely end up according to plan.
Five teams are two games above .500 with two games left in the season, all fighting for just two playoff spots. Out of nowhere, it's the Redskins and Minnesota Vikings feeling pretty comfortable with the rest praying for a few things out of their control to fall their way.
But with the playoffs inching closer, which 8-6 teams look the strongest to make the playoffs and do some damage when they get there? Let's take a look.
No. 5 Chicago Bears
Last Game: 13-21 Loss vs. Green Bay
Last Five: 1-4
After dropping four out of five games, the Bears couldn’t catch a break this weekend against longtime rival Green Bay.
Now, the team that started off 7-1 and lead every power rankings in the book is all but down for the count. Or so it would seem.
Of the five 8-6 teams fighting for a spot in the NFC playoffs, the Bears have the easiest remaining schedule by far. Road games against the Cardinals (who just beat Detroit to snap a nine-game losing streak) and the Lions (who haven’t beaten anybody recently) are all that stand between the Bears and possible redemption for their awful skid.
But, as the current seventh seed, the Bears don’t control their own destiny. And if their final two games are anything their last few performances, Jay Cutler’s nightmares are only going to worsen.
Next up: @ Arizona (5-9), @ Detroit (4-10)
No. 4 New York Giants
Last Game: 0-34 Loss at Atlanta
Last Five: 2-3
God forbid the Giants ever make anything easy for their fans, their annual second half swoon is officially in full effect after their Falcon-sized drubbing on Sunday.
It was tough to not put New York last on the list. Eli Manning was terrible, the defensive line was nonexistent, and the team’s first shutout in more than 15 years make it real easy to forget all of the good things the Giants have been able to put together this season (David Wilson’s coming out party seems so long ago).
But the Giants do have a more favorable schedule than you might think. The Ravens, coming off of a tough 34-17 loss to Denver, are slowly watching their once-promising season slip out of their hands week by week, proving to not be quite the formidable opponent teams were expecting.
Of course though, Eagles fans all over will be looking towards that season finale at MetLife Stadium, as nightmares of a new Miracle at the Meadowlands start to surface in New York’s minds.
Next up: @ Baltimore (9-5), vs. Philadelphia (4-10)
No. 3 Dallas Cowboys
Last Game: 27-24 Win vs. Pittsburgh
Last Five: 4-1
The Cowboys have had to weather through a lot this season, but their dramatic overtime win over the Steelers provided for some pretty sweet relief.
Dan Bailey’s 21-yard field goal put Dallas into a three-way tie with the Giants and Redskins for first place in the NFC East. Now, after a 3-5 start to the season, the Cowboys control their own destiny coming down to their season finale against the Redskins.
If the team can battle through their injuries for the rest of the season, they look strong enough to earn a playoff spot.
They’ll just have to hope they don’t overlook their matchup against the Saints this weekend. The potential division championship game the following weekend may be too distracting for a team prone to Texas-sized distractions.
Next up: vs. New Orleans (6-8), @ Washington (8-6)
No. 2 Minnesota Vikings
Last Game: 36-22 Win at St. Louis
Last Five: 3-2
Another 200-yard rushing performance by Adrian Peterson was music to the Viking’s ears, as Minnesota continues to ride the running back to a playoff berth.
Christian Ponder also proved to be a bright spot for Minnesota this weekend, completing 17 of 24 without any turnovers (as well as a rushing touchdown to start the day off).
The Vikings though have the most unfavorable schedule of any team on this list by far, going into Houston next Sunday to face a Texans team that just clinched it’s second consecutive AFC South title followed by facing the Packers at home.
Out of any of the teams on this list, the Vikings have by far been the most consistent. It would be a shame to see them miss out of the playoffs, but it’s a tough road to conquer.
Next up: @ Houston (12-2), vs. Green Bay (10-4)
No. 1 Washington Redskins
Last Game: 38-21 Win at Cleveland
Last Five: 5-0
The Redskins are the hottest team in football right now, no matter who’s behind center.
Robert Griffin III sat out this weekend due to injury, but Kirk Cousins and his 329-yard performance set Washington up for a strong win without skipping a beat. Now the Redskins have a healthier RG3 moving forward and the hottest back up quarterbacks in the league.
It also doesn’t hurt the team’s cause that fellow rookie Alfred Morris is still tearing things up, most recently with two touchdowns against the Rams.
About a month ago, Washington was 3-6 and ready to start prepping for next year’s campaign. Now, incredibly, the Redskins control their own destiny for not only a playoff spot, but also the NFC East title.
Next up: @ Philadelphia (4-10), vs. Dallas (8-6)
This article can be seen on Bleacher Report