The six playoff teams did not change after Week 12. However, Washington’s loss to the Cowboys brought them perilously close to the edge. We also now have teams like the Packers and Saints close enough to merit consideration.
If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I’ve included the teams with 5-6 records as they are still in the hunt.
- Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)
- Detroit Lions (7-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
- New York Giants (8-3)
- Washington (6-4-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-5)
- Minnesota Vikings (6-5)
- New Orleans Saints (5-6)
- Green Bay Packers (5-6)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)
- The Lions (5-2) are ahead of the Falcons (5-3) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
- The Buccaneers (5-3) are ahead of the Vikings (4-5) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
- The Saints (4-3) are ahead of the Packers (4-4) and Eagles (3-6) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
- The Packers are ahead of the Eagles based on a head-to-head victory in Week 12.
The Week 13 schedule is full of intriguing matchups with major playoff implications. As always, we’ll look at each game with a bias towards what’s best for the Cowboys.
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings
Both teams played on Thanksgiving so nobody’s coming into this game with extra rest. The Vikings are coming off a critical loss to the Lions, giving them a major advantage in the NFC North as Detroit now has the head-to-head tiebreaker.
A win here sets the Cowboys up to potentially clinch the NFC East next week against the Giants. Securing playoff positioning as early as possible could be vital for Dallas as they have several defensive players nursing injuries. It would also allow them to be judicious in how they use Ezekiel Elliott in potentially meaningless games, saving him for the postseason.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons can’t let up as Tampa Bay is just a game behind them in the NFC South. They will have a tough one this week against the 8-3 Chiefs.
Cowboys Spin: The Falcons are too far behind to realistically threaten Dallas for the #1 seed. That said, I’d be happy to see them collapse and fall out of the playoffs. I don’t want to see our secondary trying to stop Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
Now that they’ve clinched the head-to-head tiebreaker over the slumping Vikings, Detroit’s biggest concern could be the Packers. They lost to Green Bay early in the year and play them again at home in Week 17.
The Saints likely won’t be able to catch up in their division but could still threaten for a wild card spot. Their last give games are all against NFC opponents: Detroit, Arizona, Atlanta, and two with Tampa Bay.
Cowboys Spin: Both Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees are playing great this year, so I can’t say there’s one of them I’d rather see in the playoffs more than the other. I’m pretty indifferent on this one, but I’ll lean towards the Lions as I don’t want to see the Packers sneak into the playoffs.
Houston Texans @ Green Bay Packers
Despite losing four in a row, last week’s win in Philadelphia has kept the Packers in the conversation. They’re still just two games behind Detroit in the NFC North and get to play them again in Week 17. They have a very realistic shot at saving their season.
Cowboys Spin: While we’ve seen Dallas beat this team in their own house, the playoffs are a different story. Aaron Rodgers and his receivers might perform better in AT&T Stadium than they would’ve at home in January. I’d rather they just miss the postseason all together.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Cincinnati Bengals
Last week’s home loss to the Packers was a major shot the Eagles’ playoff hopes, dropping them below .500 and raising concern about Carson Wentz’s rookie wall. While the Bengals are having a bad year, they still have a tough defense which could frustrate him further.
Cowboys Spin: We are free to root against the Eagles in this one.
New York Giants @ Pittsburgh Steelers
The Giants are just two games behind Dallas and have that pesky head-to-head win from Week One. They are still front-runners for a wild card spot even if they can’t catch up in the NFC East.
Thankfully, the Steelers are in their own division dogfight and will be playing hard for the win. They are currently tied with Baltimore in the AFC North and are behind other teams for the wild card spots. They will give the Giants all they can handle, and hopefully more.
Cowboys Spin: Obviously, we want to see the Giants take as many losses as possible the rest of the way. Other than our own game with them in Week 14, this is probably the best chance for that to happen throughout their remaining schedule.
Washington @ Arizona Cardinals
Washington is hanging on to their wild card spot by a thread. Their tie with the Bengals is the saving grace right now; they’d be behind the Bucs otherwise due to a worse conference record.
Cowboys Spin: The Cardinals have become a non-factor this year. After two tough games this season, I’d rather not see Washington a third time. Them falling out of the playoffs is just fine and dandy.
Tampa Bay Bucs @ San Diego Chargers
After an upset victory over the Seahawks, Tampa has put themselves in striking distance. They are only a game behind the Falcons in the AFC South and have already split the season series with them. Albeit on the road, they have a winnable game here against the middling Chargers.
Cowboys Spin: As said already, I’d like to see the Falcons miss the postseason so we don’t have to deal with their passing offense. Tampa has its own offensive weapons but isn’t as consistent or explosive. I’d much rather face them in January.
Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks
The Panthers are likely out of it at 4-7, meaning this is all about the Seahawks. They took a tough loss last week in Tampa and will likely right the ship at home.
Cowboys Spin: Every Seattle loss increases our cushion for the number-one seed, so obviously we know who to root for here.