As I do every year at the mid-season turn, this week marks the beginning of my annual Playoff Projections. As long as the Dallas Cowboys are in playoff contention, each week we will look at the NFC standings and the games on the schedule that could impact Dallas’ playoff positioning.
After a scary 2-3 start to the season, the Cowboys have won three-straight games and pushed their way back into the top six. It helps that only seven of the 16 NFC teams have winning records at the moment.
Here are the current NFC standings. With much season left to go, we’ll include all of the teams with .500 records or better.
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)
- New Orleans Saints (6-2)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (6-2)
- Carolina Panthers (6-3)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (5-3)
- Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
- Detroit Lions (4-4)
- Washington (4-4)
- Green Bay Packers (4-4)
- Arizona Cardinals (4-4)
- The three-way tie between the Saints, Vikings, and Rams will have a lot more clarity as the season goes on. The Saints (5-1 against NFC) are ahead of the Vikings (4-1) and Rams (4-2) right now because of a better record in conference play. Even though Minnesota beat New Orleans in Week One, the Rams make it a three-way tie so the head-to-head tiebreaker doesn’t apply. However, the Vikings and Rams play each other in Week 11 and then the Saints and Rams meet in Week 12.
- The Cowboys have a slight edge over the Seahawks because of a 4-2 record against NFC opponents, with Seattle at just 3-2. They will play each other in Week 16 in Dallas.
- The five-way cluster of 4-4 teams is all based on in-conference play. It’s too early in the season to worry about that. We’ll see how these teams factor in the playoff picture as things move along.
The Cowboys are currently looking good for one of the Wild Card spots and, of course, still have two games left with the Eagles to try to catch them. This week they face a critical game against a solid NFC opponent. Let’s take a look at that, plus all of the other Week 10 games that may have a bearing on these NFC standings.
Dallas Cowboys @ Atlanta Falcons
The Cowboys bring their winning streak into Atlanta to meet the reigning NFC Champions. The Falcons have struggled with Kyle Shanahan’s departure to San Francisco and are not close to the offensive juggernaut they were last year. What’s more, their once-vaunted home field advantage as vanished. They are 1-2 at home this season and only 10-9 since 2015. The Cowboys have a better road record (12-8) over the same span of time.
Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals
Tonight’s game is a big one for Seattle, who can’t afford to take their division rival lightly even without Carson Palmer. It’s a short week and a road game for Seattle, who’s offense still has some issue that the Cardinals’ defensive stars could exploit. While Arizona doesn’t project to be a factor in the NFC by the end of the season, they’re still in the hunt and will be motivated to win.
New Orleans Saints @ Buffalo Bills
The Saints have been a big surprise this year, but a cold day in upstate New York may be an issue for their finesse offense. The Bills are also a strong team at 5-3 and have the weapons on both sides of the ball to win. This should be one of the best game of the week.
Minnesota Vikings @ Washington
Another of the better games this week, the Vikings take a four-game win streak into Washington. Despite losing Dalvin Cook and Sam Bradford, Minnesota keeps finding ways to overcome thanks to a great defense and solid play from QB Case Keenum. It may be tough this week, though, against a 4-4 Washington team who is desperate to keep their season afloat.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
Much like the Cardinals, the Packers will likely fall out of the race soon without their starting quarterback. The Bears would love to hang a loss on their hated rival, but do they have the talent to do it? Brett Hundley may still be better than Mitch Trubisky at this point.
Cleveland Browns @ Detroit Lions
The Lions get a gift this week with the Cleveland Clown Show coming to town.
Houston Texans @ Los Angeles Rams
The Rams’ electric offense shouldn’t have much trouble against the struggling Texans. With J.J. Watt gone, Houston is barely average and particularly bad against the pass. The Rams should be able to keep their stunning season on track.
Miami Dolphins @ Carolina Panthers
Despite allowing 179 points this season and only scoring 116, Miami has a 4-4 record. That’s almost the same scoring margin as the Browns or Giants, who are a combined 1-15. Something tells me the Panthers will handle their business.