Week 16 Playoff Projection: Little Certainty with Two Weeks Remaining

Week 15 gave us some interesting movement throughout the seedings. Detroit’s loss to the Giants knocked them out of the #2 seed and hurt their cushion over the surging Packers in the NFC North. Washington had a chance to get back into the Wild Card spot with Tampa’s loss to Dallas, but blew their opportunity with a loss to Carolina.

Jason Gerrett
Michael Ainsworth / The Dallas Morning News

If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings. I’ve included the teams with records of .500 or better.

  1. Dallas Cowboys (12-2)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (9-4-1)
  3. Atlanta Falcons (9-5)
  4. Detroit Lions (9-5)
  5. New York Giants (10-4)
  6. Green Bay Packers (8-6)
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-6)
  8. Washington (7-6-1)
  9. Minnesota Vikings (7-7)


  • The Falcons are the #3 seed ahead of the Lions because of the “strength of victory” tiebreaker. They are currently tied in conference record and common opponents.
  • The Packers are ahead of the Bucs for the last Wild Card spot due to “strength of schedule.” They are tied on conference games, common opponents, and strength of victory.

This week’s lineup features plenty of intriguing matchups with major playoff implications. As always, we’ll be looking at these from the standpoint of what’s best for the Cowboys.

For additional info on what’s best for Dallas, check out my ranking of our potential NFC playoff opponents. It will give you more info on why I am wanting certain teams to make the playoffs or get home field opportunities more than others.

Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sean Lee, GiantsWe have to talk about these two games together. The Giants-Eagles matchup tonight could greatly impact things for Dallas and Detroit on Monday.

The Eagles will have a lot of extra support as they look to upset the Giants. A New York loss clinches the NFC East and the #1 seed for Dallas. It also gives the Cowboys the opportunity to start resting some players and playing conservatively, which could be big for a Detroit team trying to hang on to their division and playoff spot.

If the Giants win tonight, they clinch the 5th seed in the playoffs. They need to win out and for Dallas to lose out to get the division and the top seed in the NFC.

If New York does win tonight, Dallas will go all out to get the victory over Detroit. The Cowboys don’t want to have anything on the line when they meet the Eagles in Week 17. Regardless of all other outcomes the next two weeks, Dallas can clinch the NFC East, a first-round bye, and home field advantage with a win in one of their next two games.

Detroit can clinch the NFC North with a win over Dallas and a loss by Green Bay. If both the Lions and Packers win this week, or if Detroit loses and Green Bay wins, then next week’s game between them will be for the division.

Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

After looking dysfunctional about a month ago, Green Bay has won four straight and “controls their own destiny” in the NFC North. If they win this week and then beat Detroit in Week 17, they would take the division with a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.

Even if they don’t take the division, Green Bay still has a good chance at a Wild Card spot. Neither Tampa Bay (@ Saints, vs Panthers) or Washington (@ Bears, vs Giants) has it easy the next two weeks.

With Aaron Rodgers being the best QB in the conference, I’d rather the Packers not make the playoffs. As much confidence as I have in Dak Prescott, a postseason shootout with Rodgers may be too much to ask from any rookie.

Washington @ Chicago Bears

Last week’s loss to Carolina was crushing for Washington’s playoff hopes. They are not dead, however. They have a beatable opponent in Chicago and then a home game against the Giants next week.

As I said in my NFC playoff team rankings, Washington is one of the last teams I want to see in January. Division rivals are tough and make for wild games. I’m happy for them to keep on losing.

Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers

The Falcons clinch the NFC South with a win and a Tampa loss. Atlanta can’t take the Panthers lightly, who have looked better with back-to-back wins in recent weeks.

Like the Lions, the Falcons don’t have much cushion between them and the pack of Wild Card teams. Even one loss could be a disaster. For this week, at least, they can’t take their foot off the pedal.

Tampa Bay Bucs @ New Orleans Saints

Tampa is hanging around in both the division and the Wild Card race but need to win out and get some help. The Saints are having a down year but will not be a pushover.

Two weeks ago, Tampa barely got a home win over the Saints. They now will have to stop Drew Brees in the Superdome, a much tougher assignment, with the pressure of their entire season hanging over them. The Bucs are a young team and that may be more than they can handle.

Arizona Cardinals @ Seattle Seahawks

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with a win and losses by Detroit and Atlanta. With the Lions hosting Dallas and the Falcons on the road against Carolina, it’s not out of the question.

With Arizona having nothing to play for, this one will come down to how much the Cardinals care about pride and rivalries. Still, even if Arizona plays their best, the Seahawks should be heavy favorites.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!


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