With four games left, 28 teams remain in (mathematical) contention for a playoff spot with only the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers having booked their slots.
22 teams are either in a playoff spot or within two games of a playoff spot. Add six divisional games to the mix and you have the makings of a great NFL weekend in which playoff hopes are on the line in virtually every game.
After the break, the BTB writers make their picks for the weekend.
Our panel has ten games that are unanimous picks. That does take some of the excitement out of the weekend. So here's a look at the most tightly contested games (with at least two dissenting picks) according to our panel:
TB @ JAC: Little known fact: The Jaguars have the seventh best defense by points allowed and fifth best by yards allowed. Unfortunately, the Jaguars can't score. They haven't scored more than 20 points in any of their games this season and rank 32nd in scoring. Unfortunately, Tampa Bay doesn't put up a lot of points either (ranked 25th) and have the 30th ranked scoring defense. In a battle of inept offenses, will the defenses determine the outcome?
HOU @ CIN: The Texans have lost two starting quarterbacks and Andre Johnson, but they still have Arian Foster and a pretty good defense. Will it be enough against the suddenly not so hot Bengals, who have dropped to 7-5 after a 6-2 start and are 0-5 against teams with a winning record? Keep in mind that the Texans have lost to every team that has scored more than 14 points.
PHI @ MIA: Over the last six games, the red-hot Dolphins have outscored their opponents by 82 points, third most in the league behind only the Texans (+104) and Saints (+98), and one spot ahead of the Packers (+75). They host an Eagles team that is 2-4 over the last six games, and 21st in scoring differential (-11) over that period. Can the Eagles finally get their act together and begin winning their way out of a top ten draft pick? The Eagles get Michael Vick back, and everybody knows that "You cannot design a defense to stop him."
SF @ ARI: Little known fact: If the season were to end today, the mighty, mighty 49ers would have a 1-2 record against this year's playoff teams, with the sole win coming against the fading Lions. The Cardinals are 4-1 over their last five games and have allowed only 17.2 points per game over the period. But will that be enough to pull the upset?
ATL @ CAR: The Falcons will be playing their first outdoor game since week four and come limping in to Charlotte after taking a beating from a fifth round rookie QB. Awaiting them is the first pick of the 2011 draft, Cam Newton, who is breaking records left and right and just led his team to two road wins. And the Panthers defense may be hitting their stride just in time to make this an interesting contest for bragging rights in the NFC South.
Here are our entire week 14, 2011 picks.