West Coast clash heads drama for playoff spots

Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:36pm EST
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By Simon Evans

(Reuters) - Sunday's divisional clash between the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers headlines a fascinating penultimate weekend of regular season National Football League (NFL) action where playoff dreams are on the line.

Nineteen teams still have a mathematical shot at qualifying for the playoffs but the field of hopefuls dreaming of a berth in February's Super Bowl will be cut after the weekend action.

The New England Patriots (AFC East), Houston Texans (AFC South), Denver Broncos (AFC West), Green Bay Packers (NFC North) and Atlanta Falcons (NFC South) have already secured their respective division titles.

The Baltimore Ravens and 49ers, still looking to lock up their division titles, are guaranteed places in the 12-team playoff where five more spots are up for grabs.

Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck, who took over a team that finished with the NFL's worst record last season, can cap a remarkable Colts turnaround as a win at the Kansas City Chiefs or a Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, would give his team a playoff berth.

A victory by the Bengals, who enter the game having won five of their last six contests, will give head coach Marvin Lewis's team a surprise ticket to the playoffs and knock the Steelers out contention.

Several other teams know that a win on Sunday keeps their playoff hopes alive going into the final day of the regular season on December 30.

There is much at stake in Seattle this week where two stingy defenses meet when the Seahawks, undefeated at home this season, host the 49ers in a matchup featuring two teams chasing the NFC West division crown.   Continued...