There are still some things to work out with the NFL playoff picture, but nine of the 12 spots have been clinched headed into the final week of the season. However, only two of the first round byes have been clinched and only four of the eight divisions have been decided. That means that most of the teams are going to be involved in meaningful games in the last week of play.
Also having been clinched is the first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Carolina Panthers cannot be passed for futility, meaning that at the close of the season they will have the No. 1 pick in the draft. However, with nine teams sitting at either four or five wins there is a lot to work out before the Top 10 is set.
1) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) at New Orleans Saints (11-4) - In my opinion, the two best teams in the NFC both reside in the NFC South. I think that played out on Sunday. While the Bears gave up 34 points to a New York Jets team that had not thrown a touchdown pass in a month and the Philadelphia Eagles lost to a Minnesota Vikings team that was starting a third string QB (Joe Webb), the Saints and Falcons played a slugfest in Atlanta, won by the Saints 17-14.
New Orleans knows they have no chance to win this division. Winning this game is only half the equation; they also need the Falcons to lose a home game to 2-13 Carolina. I cannot see that happening. Look for the Saints, who beat the Buccaneers 31-6 in Tampa Bay to continue their dominance at home and wrap up the No. 5 Seed. That loss would eliminate the Buccaneers, who need to win and see the Giants and Packers lose to keep their playoff dream alive. The win is also good for the Saints, as the fifth seed has a certain advantage this year. It is as good as a first round bye, as the five seed will travel to the NFC West Champion. Winner: New Orleans