The lines are only getting blurrier right now in the NFC playoff picture. Many teams still have realistic hopes for a wild card spot and interdivision play is about to heat up throughout the conference. The Week 13 schedule could go a long way to bringing clarity to the situation.
The division leaders are looking somewhat solid right now. Arizona, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, and Dallas all have at least two more wins than the next-closest rival. The real question between them is who manages to claim the top spot and the first-round bye.
For the Cowboys, winning the NFC East feels reasonable given their current lead and the imminent return of key players on both sides of the ball. If they play up to their full potential, Dallas may only face one more truly equal opponent in their Week 17 meeting with the Cardinals.
Current NFC Playoff Standings
- Arizona Cardinals (9-2)
- Green Bay Packers (9-3)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (7-4)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-4)
- San Francisco 49ers (6-5)
- Washington (5-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (5-6)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-6)
- New Orleans Saimts (5-6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
- Carolina Panthers (5-7)
- Washington (5-2) is ahead of the Vikings (4-3) and Falcons (2-5) based on a superior record in conference games. The Vikings are ahead of the Falcons for the same reason.
- The Falcons are ahead of the Saints based on a head-to-head victory..
- The Eagles are ahead of the Panthers based on a head-to-head victory.
Right now, the fourth-seeded Cowboys would host the top wild card team in the Los Angeles Rams. Unless they can catch up with Arizona, the Rams have a solid chance at remaining in that fifth seed by the start of the playoffs.
The Cowboys will hope to move up and get a less threatening opponent. There’s still plenty of time, but neither the Bucs or Packers will be easy to overtake.
Week 13 Impact Games
Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints
Any positive movement for Dallas has to start tonight in New Orleans. The Saints are reeling from four-straight losses and uncertainty at quarterback while the Cowboys are hopefully getting Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, and DeMarcus Lawrence back for this game.
The Cowboys have to make a statement tonight to regain public trust. Their 1-3 record in November has many rightfully worried, but thankfully they don’t have anymore AFC West teams on the schedule. More importantly, they appear to be getting their full roster back at the right time for a late-season push.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons
If the Cowboys hope to improve their playoff seeding then they need to start seeing some losses from the other division leaders. Tampa Bay has been shaky recently and a divisional road game is never a welcome sight. The Falcons aren’t good but rivalry matches have a tendency to defy expectation. Plus, Atlanta is still clinging to hope with only a tiebreaker currently keeping them out of the playoffs.
Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears
Arizona’s ongoing success without QB Kyler Murray has been very impressive. They will richly deserve the number-one seed if they hang on to it, and the Bears aren’t likely to threaten their position at all.
Jacksonville Jaguars @ Los Angeles Rams
Remaining the top wild card team and staying within reach of Arizona in the NFC West makes this a game that the Rams can’t take lightly. But with a big Monday night showdown with the Cardinals looming next week, could the lowly Jaguars present a trap game for LA?
Washington @ Las Vegas Raiders
A three-game win streak has pulled Washington back into relevance and currently the last wild card spot. But with a short week coming off Monday Night Football and the Raiders getting extra rest from Thanksgiving, plus being on the road, the Football Team will be disadvantaged in this one.
Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets
The Eagles embarrassingly blew a chance to shorten the gap with Dallas with a letdown against the Giants. If they don’t get it done now with New York’s other bad team, the season will feel unofficially over for Philly.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks
Only relevant in terms of wild card seedings, the 49ers will look for their fourth-straight win against the collapsing Seahawks. This is a great opportunity for Frisco to pad their record and perhaps even put some pressure on the Rams for that fifth seed.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions
Like the Niners, Minnesota is right in the thick for the wild card race and can’t afford any disappointments now. We already discussed how rivalry games can be funny, but giving Detroit its first win of 2021 would be utterly tragic for the Vikings at this point.