The National Football League made it official yesterday.The Redskins, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints of the National Conference have been mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs.
In the American Conference, the New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals have been eliminated.
There still are 11 teams left in the hunt in the AFC and nine in the NFC. There will be 10 playoff spots, the six division winners and two wild cards from each conference. The Philadelphia Eagles have clinched at least a wild-card berth.
In the NFC Central Division all five teams still are in the running for the division title, but only Detroit and Minnesota could qualify for wild card slots.
In the NFC East, the Cowboys and the Eagles tied at 11-5 last year, but Dallas won the title and Philadelphia made the playoffs as a wild card. One more victory will assure the Cowboys of at least a wild card spot.
At 11-2 the Eagles have a full lead over the second-place Cowboys, 10-3. The Eagles figure to have the slightly easier schedule, but the decisive game probably will take place on Dec. 21 in Dallas against Philadelphia.
The Eagles play the Atlanta Falcons in Philadelphia on Sunday and the Cardinals in Philadelphia before the trip to Dallas.
In the NFC West, the first-place Atlanta Falcons at 10-3 have a full game lead over the Rams, 9-4, and appear to have the better schedule. After Sunday's game in Philadelphia, the Falcons have the 49ers in Atlanta and finish the season in Los Angeles.
The Rams play at Buffalo on Sunday, take on the Cowboys in Los Angeles on Monday, Dec. 15, before facing the Falcons. The Rams can clinch a playoff spot if they win one game and either the Detroit Lions or Minnesota Vikings lose one.
In the NFC Central, even the 5-8 Chicago Bears still are alive in last place, two games behind coleaders Detroit and Minnesota, 7-6.
The Vikings seem to have the toughest road, playing the Buccaneers on Sunday at Tampa Bay, then the Cleveland Browns at Bloomington, Minn., and the Oilers at Houston.
The Lions play at St. Louis, then finish at home against Tampa Bay and Green Bay.
After playing the Vikings in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers go to Detriot and close at home against the Bears on Sunday, Dec. 20.
The Packers play at Chicago, are host to the Oilers and finish at Detroit.
The Cleveland Browns are in excellent position to dethrone the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Central. The Browns at 9-4 are a full game ahead of the Steelers and Oilers, deadlocked at 8-5.
The Steelers, who defeated the Oilers in the season opener, play them again on Thursday night in Houston. After that the Steelers are host to Kansas City and finish at San Diego on Monday night, Dec. 22.
The Browns play the Jets at home, the vikings at Bloomington and the Bengals in Cincinnati.
After Thursday's game, the Oilers play at Green Bay and are host to Minnesota.
In the AFC East, Buffalo, in first place by a full game at 9-4, has the Rams at home on Sunday and finishes on the road against New England and San Francisco.
The Patriots, 8-5, and after being host to the Bills, complete their schedule at New Orleans.
The Colts, 7-6, play at Cincinnati and finish at home against Miami and Kansas City.
In the AFC West, first-place San Diego, 9-4, plays at RFK Stadium on Sunday, and closes out at home against Seattle on Saturday, Dec. 13, and against the Steelers on Monday night, Dec. 22.
After last night's game in Oakland, the Raiders looked forward to playing Dallas there, against the Broncos again, in Denver, and in New Rutherford, N.J., against the Giants.
After the Raiders, the Broncos were scheduled to go to Kansas before meeting Oakland again and closing at Seattle.