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Playoffs? For the Detroit Lions, a win will do it

By Barry Wilner

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Dec. 22 2011 10:59 p.m. MST

But they also need one more win to secure not having to leave Lambeau Field in the NFC playoffs.

Chicago still has slim wild-card hopes despite losing its last four. With the second string playing at many key offensive sports, keeping up with Green Bay's prolific offense is an even slimmer hope.

Philadelphia (6-8) at Dallas (8-6)

Hard to believe the Eagles remain alive in the NFC East, yet there they are. Win out, have the Giants fall to the Jets and then beat Dallas, and guess who walks off with the division? Yep, Philly.

The last time they met, the Eagles romped 34-7, their best performance of the year — until routing the Jets last Sunday. The pass rush, led by Jason Babin with 18 sacks, 4 1/2 short of Michael Strahan's mark, could give Tony Romo problems; no wonder owner Jerry Jones said he is "scared" of the Eagles.

St. Louis (2-12) at Pittsburgh (10-4)

Some people think the Steelers will rest Ben Roethlisberger and his injured left ankle, although the quarterback won't be too fond of that with playoff implications involved. Those same folks believe the Steelers can handle the awful Rams with Charlie Batch behind center. Or maybe without any QB at all.

The Rams' Steven Jackson needs 34 yards rushing to become the seventh player in NFL history to gain 1,000 yards in seven or more consecutive seasons.

Cleveland (4-10) at Baltimore (10-4)

The Ravens must falter for Pittsburgh to have a shot at the AFC North; Baltimore swept the season series. And the Ravens sure did falter last week at San Diego.

Still, Baltimore hasn't lost to Cleveland in the last seven meetings, the Browns are decimated by injuries and distracted by the mishandling of QB Colt McCoy's concussion.

Denver (8-6) at Buffalo (5-9)

The Tebow Express was derailed by New England last week, but now faces one of the NFL's biggest flops since the midway point. While Tim Tebow, Willis McGahee, a staunch defense and some clever coaching by John Fox have taken the Broncos from 2-5 to the verge of the division title — a win and an Oakland loss does the job — Buffalo has been stampeded the last seven weeks.

Oakland (7-7) at Kansas City (6-8)

Strangely, the Chiefs remain alive in the AFC West and by beating their archrivals, getting an upset by Buffalo and then taking down the Broncos next week in Denver, they could walk off with the prize. Barring, of course, San Diego sweeping its two games in that scenario.

The way the Chiefs' defense came alive last week in Romeo Crennel's first game as interim coach, it certainly could shut down Oakland, which continues to hurt itself with mistakes, especially penalties.

New York Giants (7-7) at New York Jets (8-6)

For all the local blather surrounding the first Big Apple matchup that counts in four years, this game doesn't move the meter a whole lot outside the New York area. Both teams have disappointed, with the Giants losing five of their last six, including an inept performance against Washington last week after taking control of the NFC East. Eli Manning is having his best season, far superior to what Mark Sanchez has done for the Jets, and that quarterbacking edge could be decisive.

New York — uh, the guys in green — can move very close to an AFC wild card with a win, plus Cincinnati and Oakland losses.

Arizona (7-7) at Cincinnati (8-6)

Among the most stunning numbers in the NFL standings are the 7-7 records accompanying the Cardinals and Seahawks. Arizona started 1-6, but coach Ken Whisenhunt and staff have done nearly as strong a job keeping the faith as they did back in 2008. All the Cardinals did then was come within a few minutes of the NFL title.

Their surge has been sparked by a rapidly improving defense and a tremendous knack for winning in overtime: 3-0.

San Francisco (11-3) at Seattle (7-7)

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