The Dallas Cowboys already know that they will be the NFC’s fourth seed in the 2018 playoffs. They know that they will get a home game in the first round. But beyond the, the Week 17 schedule still has a say in Dallas’ playoff future.
Only the Cowboys and Saints are locked into their current playoff spots. New Orleans has clinched the top seed in the NFC and will enjoy the first-round bye and home field advantage that comes with it.
If the season ended today, these would be your NFC playoff standings:
- New Orleans Saints (13-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (12-3)
- Chicago Bears (11-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (9-6)
- Seattle Seahawks (9-6)
- Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1)
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
- The Cowboys lost to Seattle earlier this year, but still remain the 4th seed as a division winner over a wild card team.
The number-two spot in the playoff bracket is still up for grabs between the Bears and Rams. And yes, sadly, the Eagles still have a shot at getting into the tournament.
For the Cowboys, we still aren’t sure who’s coming to Dallas in the first round. It’s down to the Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings.
The playoff picture will be complete in just a few days. Here are this week’s impact games involving the NFC playoff contenders:
Philadelphia Eagles @ Washington Redskins
The Eagles need a Vikings loss (vs Bears) and a win to make the playoffs. Both games are in the late afternoon, so Philly won’t have the luxury of knowing what happened in Minnesota before they kick off in Washington.
In fact, all of the games involving the five undecided NFC teams have late-afternoon starts. Nobody will get to take a breather except for Dallas and New Orleans this Sunday.
With the way that the Eagles have looked since Nick Foles retook the QB position, I think everyone in the NFC would rather them not get into the playoffs. That is especially true for the Cowboys, who would be hard-pressed to beat their division rival three times in one season.
But even if Philly does make it, the earliest Dallas could see them would be in the NFC Championship. The Eagles can be no higher than the 6th seed, and that means they would face either the Bears or Rams in the first-round.
And if Dallas could actually get to the conference title game, I’d take Philly, the ’72 Dolphins, or anyone else you want to put in that matchup.
Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings
The Bears need a win and a Rams loss to move up into the #2 spot in the playoffs and earn a first-round bye. They won’t be taking this game lightly.
However, Minnesota will be fighting just to stay in the tournament. With the Eagles likely to beat the Redskins, the Vikings have no cushion here to lose. This might as well be their first playoff game.
Interestingly, we could easily be seeing this same matchup next week. If the Bears stay in the #3 seed and the Vikings are #6, they would face each other again in Chicago for the first round.
San Francisco 49ers @ Los Angeles Rams
The Rams can’t catch the Saints for the #1 seed now, but they can secure their #2 spot with a win. But the 49ers come to town looking better than they have all year, beating the Seahawks two weeks ago and staying competitive with the Bears in last week’s loss.
Los Angeles isn’t firing on all cylinders right now. Jared Goff is struggling and Todd Gurley is hurt, making them vulnerable for an upset.
If the 49ers don’t pack it in and try to help their draft position, this one could be more interesting than you’d think.
Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle would secure the #5 seed and a first-round trip to Dallas with a win this week. They beat the Cowboys back in Week 3, but Dallas is a better team now than they were in September.
However, they’re still a more favorable matchup than the Bears. The Seahawks lost to Chicago in Week 2 and the Bears are arguably better now than they were then.
If the Seahawks were to lose, it would open the door for the Vikings to move up to the fifth spot. That would send Minnesota to play the Cowboys and Seattle to Chicago in the first round.
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So as it stands, Dallas’ playoff path should start with a home game against the Seahawks. Their next stop would depend on the outcome of the “#3 vs. #6” matchup. But given our playoff history these last two decades, just getting that first win is plenty to focus on.
Like the Cowboys themselves, we all just have to sit back and wait to see what happens. But it’s warmly comforting to know that, no matter what, we’re going be playing some football in January.