NFC notes: key divisional battles highlight Week 14

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 12, 2009



Ed note: the following information came from the stat-crunchers at the NFL.
 
As teams enter the final quarter of the NFL regular season and make their push for the playoffs, divisional games in December take on vital importance. 
 
"The games in December are the most important regular-season games by far," says NFL Network analyst STEVE MARIUCCI.  "It's extremely important to win in December and to make a run at the playoffs and show improvement.  You want your team to peak in December.  It's important to stay healthy and keep your players fresh.  You remember what happens in December."
 
In Week 14, the NFL schedule features four key NFC divisional matchups with playoff implications:
 
DATE
TEAMS (RECORD)
DIVISION
TIME (ET)
NETWORK
Sunday, Dec. 13
NO (12-0) at Atlanta (6-6)
NFC South
1 p.m.
FOX
 
GB (8-4) at Chicago (5-7)
NFC North
1 p.m.
FOX
 
Philly(8-4) at NYG (7-5)
NFC East
8:20 p.m.
NBC
Monday, Dec. 14
Arizona (8-4) at San Fran (5-7)
NFC West
8:30 p.m.
ESPN
 
"The primary goal entering every season is to win the division," says Arizona Cardinals head coach KEN WHISENHUNT, who guided his team to an NFC West title and Super Bowl XLIII appearance last year.  "Obviously the six head-to-head divisional games are huge.  You also hope to be playing your best football in December, so that makes these types of late-season games even more important."
 
The Cardinals, who lead the division with an 8-4 record, will visit San Francisco on Monday night to face the 49ers, who are tied for second in the NFC West.  With a win, Arizona will clinch the division for the second consecutive year, the first back-to-back division titles for the franchise since 1974-75, when the St. Louis Cardinals won the NFC East. 
 
The New Orleans Saints have already clinched the NFC South and have turned their attention towards a first-round bye and homefield advantage in the playoffs.  The Saints, who are a franchise-best 12-0, will visit the Falcons, who at 6-6 are right in the thick of the NFC playoff race. 
 
"It's nice to clinch the division," says New Orleans head coach SEAN PAYTON, who knows that despite winning the division, there is still a lot left to accomplish.  "It's one of our goals along the way and we're very excited about that.  We'll just keep battling now and the excitement is unbelievable." 
 
The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will meet for the 178th time in the regular season, the most meetings between two teams in NFL history.  The Bears are 4-2 at home this season and are looking for a win to get back into the NFC postseason race.  The Packers, who have won four in a row, are two games behind Minnesota in the NFC North and are in prime position for a playoff spot. 
 
"This is December football now and it's the most important football we're going to play all season," says Green Bay head coach MIKE MC CARTHY.  "There are some positive things we have done as a football team.  Confidence is the key in my opinion to winning in the National Football League.  If we stay healthy and keep improving, I feel great about where we are."
 
In the NFC East, the 8-4 Philadelphia Eagles will square off against the 7-5 New York Giants on Sunday night.  Last season, the Giants won the division but were knocked off by the Eagles in the Divisional Playoffs. 
 
"We had a great season last year and they ended our run in the playoffs," says New York wide receiver STEVE SMITH, who ranks second in the NFC with 78 receptions and 979 yards.  "We definitely want to come out against them and set the tone at home and show everyone we're going to dominate this month."
 
The Giants got off to a good start in December with a 31-24 win at home against the 8-4 Dallas Cowboys last week.  Dallas and Philadelphia are tied for the top spot in the division and New York sits just one game back. 
 
"December is such a critical time for all the teams in our league," says Giants head coach TOM COUGHLIN.  "There isn't any question about the season being a marathon and not a sprint.  There are different facets of everyone's schedule that have to be recognized and no matter how you do it, we do it in phases.  The reason it is the NFL and the reason it is so meaningful to be division champion and, of course, Super Bowl champion is because it is a grind."
 

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