With all NFL teams now having just six or seven games left in their 2019 schedules, this seems a fine time to start looking at the potential playoff seeding. The Dallas Cowboys are barely hanging on to a winning record and control of the NFC East right now, adding plenty of intrigue to the happenings around the conference and likely through the end of the regular season.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- San Francisco 49ers (8-1)
- Green Bay Packers (8-2)
- New Orleans Saints (7-2)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-3)
- Los Angeles Rams (5-4)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-4)
- Carolina Panthers (5-4)
- The Cowboys currently hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles. They play again Week 16 in Philadelphia.
- The Rams (3-3) are ahead of the Eagles (3-4) and Panthers (2-4) based on a superior record against NFC opponents.
- The Eagles are ahead of the Panthers based on a superior record against NFC opponents.
This weekly feature will focus on teams with winning records or those who are clear contenders in division or wild card races. So while a team like the Chicago Bears may be 4-5 and still capable of going on a run, we won’t worry about them until they start to rise in the standings.
Here are this week’s games involving the current NFC playoff contenders. The Packers and Seahawks are on bye.
Dallas Cowboys @ Detroit Lions
The Cowboys badly need this win for all sorts of reasons. Creating some distance with the Eagles, picking up a win against an NFC opponent, and just general morale boosting after an ugly loss to Minnesota; this is a must-win game on many levels.
Detroit isn’t a contender in their own right and that may actually serve Dallas will this week. Matthew Stafford missed last week’s game with a back injury and was held out of practice yesterday. If the Lions don’t believe they can be a factor in the 2019 postseason, they may get extra conservative with their franchise QB and sit him again against the Cowboys.
New England Patriots @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles’ remaining schedule is more favorable than the Cowboys so this is a critical game for Philly to lose. Really, there is no scenario the rest of the way where an Eagles win could help Dallas.
Obviously, winning the NFC East is the best road for Dallas to take into the playoffs as it provides home field advantage in the first round. And realistically, given their overall record and head-to-head losses to the Packers, Saints, and Vikings already this year, the Cowboys would have hard time getting a Wild Card spot. They just need to take the division and then hope to get hot in January, and every Eagles loss helps toward that goal.
Denver Broncos @ Minnesota Vikings
Still in striking distance of Green Bay in the NFC North and two wins ahead of the Wild Card outsiders, Minnesota has a solid playoff position right now. They just need to keep handling their business throughout the season, which certainly included a home win against the lowly Broncos, to control their destiny and make the tournament.
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Saints just suffered a shocking loss to Atlanta and fell out of one of the top two spots in the NFC playoffs. They are about to hit Tampa like a hurricane, and the 3-6 Bucs may not be able to put up much of a fight. New Orleans should pick up another win here and pull even again with Green Bay.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers
The Falcons, despite being mostly out of the race, just upset the Saints and could be looking for another stunner over Carolina. The Panthers have remarkably hung on to their season despite losing Cam Newton,; can Kyle Allen keep them afloat to the point of claiming a Wild Card spot?
Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are going to be angry after their first loss of the year, making this a predictable one-sided affair against one of the league’s worst teams. Crazy things can happen in division rivalry games, but this is setting up to be a major blowout as the 49ers keep building their lead over the conference.
Chicago Bears @ Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ 5-4 record this year may be an even bigger surprise/disappointment than the Cowboys’. They get a great chance to pick up a win, and another critical NFC victory, this week as they host the Bears.
While Chicago is still mathematically alive they feel like dead men walking. They have one of the worst QB situations in football and it won’t get any better this year. However, their strong defense gives them the ability to play a spoiler any given week. Tacking another loss to the Rams here could help Dallas in any potential Wild Card scenario.