The six playoff teams remained the same from last week, but there was movement in the seeding. Detroit moved into the second spot, with its first-round bye, thanks to Seattle's loss in Green Bay.
Dallas' loss narrowed their lead in the NFC East and postponed in other clinching scenarios. They will have to win their division before any first-round byes or other perks can become official.
If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I've included the teams with records of .500 or better.
- Dallas Cowboys (11-2)
- Detroit Lions (9-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4-1)
- Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
- New York Giants (9-4)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
- Washington (7-5-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-6)
- Green Bay Packers (7-6)
- The Falcons are ahead of the Bucs in the NFC South based on a better record in common games. They split their season series and have the same 3-1 record in the division.
- The Vikings are ahead of the Packers due to a head-to-head victory in Week 2. They play each other again Week 16 in Green Bay.
You won't see a standings much cleaner than this. There are no tiebreakers currently at play among the six playoff teams or even Washington as they look from the outside. Everyone is separated by at least one game.
Dallas is once again involved in one of the most playoff-relevant games of the week. Here's a breakdown of all of the NFC games which could impact the postseason. As always, we'll be looking at these from the standpoint of what's best for the Cowboys.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Dallas Cowboys
Dallas will be looking to right the ship after their first loss since Week One and a few weeks of offensive struggling. Tampa Bay, winners of a five in a row and in a close division race, won't be looking to help us out.
The Bucs come into this game with plenty of confidence. A few weeks ago they put down two playoff-caliber teams in Kansas City and Seattle. They are 5-1 on the road so far in 2016.
With nobody else even at 10 wins yet in the NFC, Dallas can lose and keep their top spot. However, for the sake of their own confidence and to fend off the Tony Romo Truthers, the Cowboys really need the win and to look good doing it.
Detroit Lions @ New York Giants
Dallas gets help either way here. Ideally, the Giants lose and open the door for Dallas to clinch the NFC East by beating Tampa. Getting the NFC East taken care of allows you to focus on other goals and start resting whatever guys you may be wanting to get healthier for the postseason.
If New York wins, Detroit maintains their NFC North lead but could be in striking distance for both the Vikings and Packers. It would also likely allow Seattle back into the top two seeds and give the eventual NFC South champion a better shot at it.
Keep in mind that Dallas plays at Detroit next week. I'd rather not play them returning home after a loss.
Los Angeles Rams @ Seattle Seahawks
Seattle's loss last week was costly. It dropped them out of the top two seeds and dropped them to a 4-4-1 record in the NFC. Thankfully for them, they get a fluffer this week in the dysfunctional Rams. Seattle will win this one and win big.
They finish out the season in the division with the Cardinals and 49ers, so they will likely be 11-4-1 at the end of the year. Whether or not that's good enough to get back into a first-round bye depends on the Cowboys, Giants, and Lions.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears
The Packers' three-straight wins, and especially last week's blowout over Seattle, has the Cheeseheads all riled up again. They are only one game back of a Wild Card spot now.
The Bears are just 3-10 and don't look like much of a threat. Their three wins were all at home, though, and two of them against Detroit and Minnesota. Playing for only pride and to spoil a division rival, can they hold their ground one more time?
Indianapolis Colts @ Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings got off their losing streak recently but still have problems. The Colts are just as middling, making this a close match-up against two average teams.
Minnesota's defense gave Dallas a lot of trouble two weeks ago, so I'm not that keen on seeing them again in January. However, if the Vikings can sneak into the postseason then they are probably the worst team of anyone left in the mix. For that reason, I'm rooting for them the rest of the way.
San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons
This is a big week for Atlanta, getting a soft opponent at home while the Bucs head to Dallas. They can take a big step toward clinching the NFC South.
The 49ers are a bad team but do hold a little extra significance for Atlanta. Right now, the Falcons have a tiebreaker over the Bucs based on common games. Tampa Bay beat San Francisco earlier this year, so the Falcons will not want to drop this one and lose the tiebreaker.
Carolina Panthers @ Washington
A loss by Tampa opens the door for Washington to get back into that last Wild Card spot, so they have plenty to play for this week. The pressure should be on them the rest of the way with the Vikings and Packers right on their heels.
Although Dallas swept Washington this year, both were hard-fought and close games. I'd much rather face non-division opponents in the playoffs.