NFL: 'Win and in' NFC divisional showdowns headline final week of the 2013 season
By Alex Williams. Last Updated: 29/12/13 7:33am
Eddie Lacy: Should recover from an ankle problem to play against the Bears
It will be win or bust for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears when they face off for the NFC North title live on Sky Sports 3HD on Sunday.
Whoever wins the showdown at Soldier Field will qualify for the play-offs as a division winner, while the loser has no chance of making it to the post-season.
The Bears had the chance to wrap up the division last weekend but were thrashed by the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, setting up the winner-takes-all clash with their bitter rivals.
And the Packers have been given a huge boost by the news that star quarterback Aaron Rodgers will return from injury to suit up for the contest, while running back Eddie Lacy is also expected to play despite an ankle problem.
Chicago have been struggling immensely on the defensive side of the ball, so with Rodgers and Lacy in the line-up, the Bears will hope offensive stars such as Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte come up trumps.
In the first part of Sky Sports' double-header on Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens travel to face the Cincinnati Bengals needing a win to keep their play-off hopes alive.
The Miami Dolphins will also be gunning for the play-offs when they face the New York Jets.
The San Diego Chargers are also in with a shot at the final AFC wildcard, but they need both the Ravens and Dolphins to lose coupled with them winning at home against the Kansas City Chiefs, who will likely be resting their starters having already clinched the other wildcard spot.
If all three lose then the Pittsburgh Steelers will qualify if they beat the Cleveland Browns.
Due to the NFL's tie-breaking procedures, none of the four teams fully controls its own destiny and all will be relying on other results to some extent.
It is a lot simpler in the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys face the Philadelphia Eagles in a straight fight to see who wins the division and qualifies for the play-offs.
Dallas will be playing at home but have to cope without quarterback Tony Romo, who is out with a back injury. The Eagles have the league's second-ranked offence and have lost just twice on the road all season.
In the NFC wildcard race, the Arizona Cardinals face the San Francisco 49ers at home and can still qualify but they need to better the New Orleans Saints' result against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Carolina Panthers and 49ers are assured of play-off spots, but the former need to beat the Atlanta Falcons to be sure of the NFC South title and a first-round bye.
The Seattle Seahawks are big favourites to clinch the top seeding in the NFC but can be usurped if they lose to the St Louis Rams and the 49ers beat the Cardinals.
In the AFC, the Denver Broncos can clinch home-field advantage throughout the play-offs if they beat the Oakland Raiders, while quarterback Peyton Manning has another NFL record in his sights.
Manning has already set a new mark for the number of touchdown passes in a season and now needs 266 more yards to beat Drew Brees' record of 5,476 in a single campaign. If the Broncos score 18 points or more, they will also set a new record points total for a single season.
The New England Patriots have a chance at clinching the No 1 seeding but need to beat the Buffalo Bills and hope that Denver lose.
If the Patriots lose, the Bengals could secure a first-round bye if they beat the Ravens, while the Indianapolis Colts are still in with a shot of a top-two seeding, but they need to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and hope New England and Cincinnati both slip up.
At the other end of the scale, the Houston Texans currently occupy the No 1 slot in the 2014 NFL Draft and will face the Tennessee Titans on the final day of the season.
However, the Rams can still be awarded the top pick if the Texans win and the Washington Redskins lose to the New York Giants. In that scenario the Redskins, who have traded their pick to the Rams, and Texans will have the same record but Washington will be bottom of the pile due to their inferior strength of schedule.
All that means the only real dead rubber on Sunday's slate is the Minnesota Vikings' clash with the Detroit Lions.