This is it.  The last couple of weeks of the NFL regular season and the time to find out who is strong enough to make it to the playoffs, including the battle for the NFC.  The Chicago Bears already showed what they’re capable of when they took down the Dallas Cowboys last night, 31-14.  This Sunday will continue the elimination process, with several highly important contests on tap.

Battle For NFC Heats Up

One of the more important games this weekend is the matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints.  The two teams are fighting for the top spot in the NFC and, if the Niners can win, they’ll take the top seed away from the Saints and get home-field advantage.  If they lose, however, they’ll be a full game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the battle for the NFC and looking at an almost impossible hill to climb.

Safety Jaquiski Tartt won’t be in on Sunday for the 49ers as he tries to let his fractured ribs heel.  Arik Armstead will most likely be back on the defensive line, though, having been given a little more time to rest before the big game.  Even without Tartt and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor, the Niners are still well equipped to take on the Saints.

The Saints have Drew Brees and he has the experience and demeanor to be under center for this important game in the NFL battle.  New Orleans, with the exception of an embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Falcons, have won all the games they were expected to win and are close to fulfilling the preseason prediction that they would make it to the Super Bowl.  They almost made it last year, as well, before things came crashing down due to errors by the officiating crew.

The Saints have already had to suffer similar ref mistakes this season, as well; if they can avoid no-calls and bad calls on the part of the refs, they’ll win on Sunday.

Baltimore Top The AFC

The Baltimore Ravens are now on top of the NFL AFC standings after some incredible performances this season.  They’re on the road to face the Buffalo Bills this weekend and this promises to be as tough a game as any the team has played all season.  Fortunately for them, the Ravens know it and have been preparing accordingly all week.

The Ravens have figured out how to breach offensive lines and get to the quarterback more than any other team this season.  They have 13 sacks in four weeks and enjoy keeping the pressure on the opponent’s offense.  They’re just as explosive on offense, as well, and have the third-most rushing yards in NFL history this season.  The Ravens are going to confuse the Bills both on offense and defense and will have no trouble securing the victory.

The Indianapolis Colts and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are still in the running, technically speaking.  They’ll face off on Sunday in Tampa and the Bucs have found some magic late in the season.  It would take a virtual miracle, and a lot of major upsets for the Bucs to make it to postseason, but there’s no reason to give up as long as there’s a chance.

The Bucs have won their last two games, while the Colts are down their last two.  It isn’t exactly clear where the trouble is, but Indianapolis has been missing on both offense and defense.  T.Y. Hilton won’t be taking the field for the Colts, but they have Marlon Mack and Parris Campbell, both strong positive assets on offense, to pick up the slack.  Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com believes the Bucs are the “team you don’t want to face in December,” and he’s probably right.  The Bucs shouldn’t have too much difficulty defeating the Colts on Sunday.