Last week saw some major changes in the NFC playoff picture. The previous number-one team dropped to fifth as a new division leader emerged, and potential January matchups shifted in a big way. Will Week 14 have the same level of impact?
The 49ers' loss to Baltimore allowed Seattle to jump into first place in the NFC West. That also bumped the Saints up into first place in the conference and dropped San Francisco down to a wild card spot.
The Cowboys' ugly loss to Buffalo on Thanksgiving day felt like the end of their playoff hopes, but then the Eagles had an even worse loss on Sunday in Miami. Dallas is still in the driver's seat in the NFC East, but the margin remains slim.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- New Orleans Saints (10-2)
- Seattle Seahawks (10-2)
- Green Bay Packers (9-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (8-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-5)
- Chicago Bears (6-6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
- The Saints hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks from a victory in Week 3.
- The Seahawks hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the 49ers from a victory in Week 10. They play each other again in Week 17.
This weekly feature will focus on teams who are clear contenders in division or wild card races. We will adjust what teams are discussed as needed depending on shifts in the standings and if anyone currently unmentioned go on a late-season run.
The Bears two-game winning streak has them now back to .500 and within striking distance of a wild card spot. It's unlikely with the Rams still a game ahead, but a win this week over the Cowboys would keep Chicago relevant.
The Eagles are only still in the conversation because of their potential to still with the NFC East. They have little hope of a wild card spot at this point.
Here are this week's games involving the current NFC playoff contenders:
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears
The Cowboys limp into Chicago trying to stay afloat as a division leader, which is their only realistic route to the 2019 playoffs. The Bears are barely clinging to hope at this point, having no real shot at overtaking both Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC North, but still within mathematical range of a wild card spot.
Both teams are desperate and neither is that good. All of Dallas' six wins have come against losing teams and Chicago only has one (Week 4 vs Minnesota) against a winning club. So this is an even matchup between two unimpressive clubs.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles' humiliating loss in Miami squandered a chance to pull even with Dallas in the division. They get a great chance to bounce back this week with the Giants coming in, but can Philly feel certain about anything after losing to the Dolphins?
Even if Dallas loses and Philadelphia wins this week, the Cowboys will maintain their NFC East lead thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker. The rivals play again in Week 16 in a game which is currently set up to decide the division winner.
Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers
The Packers are hanging on to the NFC North right now but Minnesota is hot on their heels. Between trying to stave off the Vikings and also push into the top two seeds in the NFC, Green Bay's max effort is bad news for the Redskins. This one shouldn't be close.
As a Cowboys fan, the last thing I want to see is Aaron Rodgers coming to town in the playoffs. We know how that goes, so I'm rooting for Green Bay to win their division and push any potential game against to Dallas to the later rounds.
Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings
Despite a tough loss last night in Seattle, the Vikings are still in good shape for a playoff spot. They are only a game back in their division and have some separation in the wild card race. A win next week over the Rams would likely secure a playoff spot for them.
From the Cowboys perspective, hosting the Vikings is probably our best-case-scenario for a playoff victory. With Dallas likely to be the fourth seed in the playoffs, that would mean needing Minnesota to rise to fifth. They need to keep winning for that to happen, and thankfully the Lions should make that pretty easy.
San Francisco 49ers @ New Orleans Saints
What a great regular season game! It's wild to think that the 49ers could win this one but still be stuck in a wild card spot, but that's why winning your division is so crucial. The Niners need a win and a Seattle loss this week to jump back into the top spot in the conference.
The Cowboys will likely host whichever wild card team comes out of the NFC West, either the 49ers or the Seahawks. Dallas beat Seattle last year in the playoffs, but some might rather face Jimmy Garoppolo than Russell Wilson if given the option.
Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams
The Seahawks can take a big step toward securing their new division lead and deliver a major blow to a rival by beating the Rams. Barely in the picture as is, a loss this week would all but end Los Angeles' hopes at getting back into a wild card spot.