The Washington Redskins (9-6), left for dead just a month ago, make the playoffs for the first time since 1999 with a victory, and they would play for the division title if the Giants lost to the Raiders last night.
The Redskins have scored 35 points in two straight games and they have won four straight. The Philadelphia Eagles (6-9), who couldn't beat the Redskins when Donovan McNabb was still active, lost last week to the Cardinals and have almost no chance here against on the hottest teams in the league.
If there is suspense here, it is over how much Mark Brunell, who suffered a knee injury last week against the Giants, will play and whether the Redskins will go with Patrick Ramsey, who lost his starting job in the season opener. That game seems like a long time ago for a team that started hot, fell apart, and now has regrouped behind the running of Clinton Portis. Portis has had four straight 100-yard rushing games.
The once formidable Eagles defense is now ranked 20th in the league against the run. Still, the Eagles, who expected so much more from this season, would love nothing more than to spoil their hated rival's playoff chances and that is what gives this game its frisson of electricity.
"The fact that these guys aren't in the playoffs really doesn't mean anything," said Redskins assistant coach Gregg Williams. "They want to finish strong. We can't afford to not play out best game, especially coming down the stretch."
That won't be a problem and the Redskins figure to be a dangerous team in the playoffs, especially if they are the Giants' first round opponent.
St. Louis (5-10) at Dallas (9-6)
If the Panthers and Redskins win, this game is meaningless before it starts. But if either of them falter, the Cowboys win the wild card with a victory.
The Rams will give the Cowboys all the help they can -- this is the team that has lost twice to the Niners this season, after all.
Running back Julius Jones, who had 194 yards last week against Carolina, won't find many roadblocks in a Rams defense that is ranked 30th against the run. It might be too little, too late, though.
Carolina (10-5) at Atlanta (8-7)
Atlanta's late-season collapse (they've lost five of the last seven and have been eliminated from race for the playoffs) has taken some of the luster off this game.
The Panthers are coming off a terrible loss to the Cowboys at home last week, and they're 1-9 at the Georgia Dome, but they're in with a victory here.
Carolina beat Atlanta 24-6 in week 13 and that's when the Falcons still had something to play for. Carolina could get in even with a loss, but they won't have to worry about that.
Cincinnati (11-4) at
Kansas City (9-6)
The Chiefs are clinging to a playoff opportunity, but they have to win and then hope for Pittsburgh and San Diego losses to get in. The Chiefs have the league's hottest rusher, with Larry Johnson rolling up eight consecutive 100-yard games.
They may get a break because the Bengals have already locked up the AFC North and will likely rest some of their starters and Arrowhead Stadium, at which the Chiefs have won 18 in a row in December, is the best home field advantage in the league.
New Orleans (3-12) at
Tampa Bay (10-5)
A disastrous season, in which the Saints have lost 10 of their last 11, is finally ending, perfect timing for the Bucs, who win the NFC South with a victory here, and will get in as a wild card through a number of scenarios even with a loss.