The NFC South will finally be decided this afternoon when Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen, and Jonathan Stewart ride south to the Land of the Dirty Birds to visit Matt Ryan, Jake Matthews, Roddy White, and Kroy Biermann. Mike Smith is rumored to be on his way out the door, and our friendly Falconatic fans don't seem too upset by tales of his imminent demise, with some of them even wondering whether Thomas Dimitroff will be on the next bike ride out of town, too. Regardless of who wins this game, the winner of the NFCS will have a sub-.500 record, leading to plenty of talking heads frothing that the winner shouldn't get to host a playoff game, and some even saying they should forfeit their playoff spot. That's not going to happen, of course. Jim Nantz and Phil Simms will have the game on CBS for the east coast, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, most of the South, the eastern portion of the Midwest, and Arizona.
Derek Carr will lead the surprising giant-killing Raiders into Mile High Stadium to take on the greatest regular season QB in NFL history, Peyton Manning. The Broncos have looked vulnerable lately and Manning has denied issues of arm strength or lingering injury, recently declaring his plan to play next season if John Fox will have him. Khalil Mack might be on track for Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, and we'll get the chance to see the great Charles Woodson take on Peyton Manning for perhaps the last time in his career. We'll also get to see our former stars Antonio Smith and Matt Schaub. The Broncos, however, should be using this game as an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past few games. They hope to get Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, and Demaryius Thomas scores, while showcasing Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware's talents as they gear up for the playoffs. Greg Gumbel and Trent Green will be calling the game on CBS for the western portion of the Midwest, most of the west, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
The battle for the NFC North will conclude today in the chilly confines of Lambeau Field. The Detroit Lions will face some difficult cap decisions this offseason, with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford eating up unsustainable amounts of cap space, and Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh both being free agents. For the moment, however, they are ready to take on Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Eddie Lacy, Clay Matthews, and Julius Peppers for the division crown. The King of the North and his minions have won the division three years in a row. This Packers fan hopes they win it a fourth time. Most of the country except a few small pockets around the other games will get Joe Buck and Troy Aikman's call on Fox.
The St. Louis Rams began the season losing their franchise QB, Sam Bradford, to a second ACL injury in two years. It took them a while to come around, but lately, Shaun Hill, Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn, Kenny Britt, Aaron Donald, and Jared Cook have gelled, and they've been competitive. The Seahawks began the season recovering from offseason personnel losses and spent the first part of the season battling rumors of locker room discord involving Russell Wilson (On Wisconsin!) and now-Jet Percy Harvin and front office-player discord with Marshawn Lynch. They've regained their form from last season, and their vaunted defense has regained its Boom. The Pacific Northwest, Idaho, most of Montana and Wyoming, St Louis, and a small section of southwest Missouri get the game, called by Gus Johnson and Charles Davis on Fox.
Last, but not least, the Cardinals will be landing in San Francisco to take on the 49ers. The Cardinals hope to right the ship. Bruce Arians' mantra of "Next Man Up" only works if there's a next man to step up, and his QB position has undergone a world of hurt this season, with Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton suffering knee injuries. Larry Fitzgerald's contract is such that there are questions over whether he'll be back next year, while Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu hope to show up and show out as they prep for the playoffs. Luckily, they will be facing the 49ers who, at this point, are playing out the string. There are legitimate questions over whether Jim Harbaugh will sign with the Michigan Wolverines on Black Monday, as well as whether Frank Gore and Justin Smith might be ending their tenure with the team. Colin Kaepernick, Anquan Boldin, Aldon Smith, and Michael Crabtree hope to show some sign of improvement. Thom Brennamen and David Diehl will call the game on Fox for Arizona and parts of Northern California.
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