Jan 15, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; A New York Giants fan looks through binoculars during warmups prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL's Banner Weekend

Someone or more likely everyone in the NFL offices must be smiling as this weekends games approach.  The NFL made a concerted effort a few years back to have more divisional games played late in the year, to increase the competitiveness and to avoid meaningless games down the stretch.  This week the NFL will feature what should be 9 great games and a few more that have major playoff implications for more than just the teams playing in that game.  Let’s take a look:

Thursday Night: Cincinnati Bengals (7-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (4-9)

The Eagles have suddenly decided they might want to finish the Andy Reid era with a little heart, and youth.  They fought till the final play of the game last week and defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs who desperately needed the win to stay in the playoff hunt.  This week they host the Bengals who also need to win here before facing division foes Baltimore and Pittsburgh the following two weeks.

Green Bay Packers (9-4) at Chicago Bears (8-5)

The Packers, since losing to the Giants, have not quite returned to form.  They beat Detroit last week without Aaron Rodgers throwing a TD pass.  This is the last stand for the Bears and their division title hopes.  A win here puts them in first as they beat the Packers earlier this season.

Indianapolis Colts (9-4) at Houston Texans (11-2)

The Texans come off their embarrassing loss to the Patriots on Monday night and return home to find a familiar foe, without the usual players.  The Texans have been trying to for years to overcome the Peyton Manning led Colts, only to have Andrew Luck walk in and pick-up where he left off.  These two teams will meet twice in the next three weeks.

Denver Broncos (10-3) at Baltimore Ravens (9-4)

The Broncos have won the West and now look for a chance at the number two seed and all that comes with that spot.  Baltimore, after stumbling against the Redskins last week are now trying to secure their own division title.  They will face the Giants next week before finishing with division rival Cincinnati.

Washington Redskins (7-6) at Cleveland Browns (5-8)

The Redskins might be without the services of rookie QB sensation Robert Griffin.  This, and the next two games, is a must win for any chance to make the playoffs.  Cleveland, despite their record is a tough home team, and has played better recently.

Minnesota Vikings (7-6) at St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)

This probably is the last meaningful game for one of these teams, or maybe both depending on the outcomes of other games played on Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-7) at New Orleans Saints (5-8)

We all know the Saints are a different team at home than they are on the road, and that speaks to their poor leadership.  Tampa has basically fallen apart the past few weeks.  Can they muster up a run starting here?  I doubt it.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at Dallas Cowboys (7-6)

These teams are in similar situations, except Pittsburgh has a few more avenues into the playoffs than the Cowboys.  This is another must win for Dallas who faces New Orleans next week before finishing with the Redskins.  The Jets fans will be rooting hard for the Cowboys this weekend, where, as always, Giants fans will be pulling for a Cowboys loss.

San Francisco (9-3-1) at New England Patriots (10-3)

The 49ers travel to Foxboro in December and need to win this game to secure a clear shot at a division title.  The Seahawks (8-5) are right on their tail. The Seahawks play Buffalo this week and then the two face each other next week.  The Patriots want home field advantage and they hate to lose at home no matter what month it is.

New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta Falcons (11-2)

The Giants showed who they could be on Sunday vs the Saints, and now go on the road to face a team they embarrassed in the playoffs last season.  The Falcons can gain home field advantage with a little help from others if they win this weekend.  The Giants want to maintain their one game lead in the NFC East, and show their late season winning ways.  This should be a great match-up.

Ten Games to watch, and a few more that have a minor role in who will make this year Post Season Tournament.  The NFL and T.V. Execs everywhere are all smiles as it just happens to coincide with the week that college football takes a few weeks off.



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