The Cowboys became the NFC East Champions and the top seed in the playoffs last week when the Giants lost to the Eagles. Despite this, they still played to win last Monday night against Detroit. Ironically, beating the Lions was a huge help to Dallas' greatest rival.
If the Lions had won, they would've clinched a playoff spot and shut Washington and Tampa Bay out. The NFC's six playoff teams would've been set and this week would've only been about determining the seeding. However, Detroit's loss preserves hope for Washington and a much, much slimmer chance for the Buccaneers.
If the NFL playoffs started today, these would be the NFC standings:
- Dallas Cowboys (13-2)
- Atlanta Falcons (10-5)
- Seattle Seahawks (9-5-1)
- Green Bay Packers (9-6)
- New York Giants (10-5)
- Detroit Lions (9-6)
- Washington (8-6-1)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-7)
- The Packers are ahead of the Lions due to a head-to-head win in Week 3, but their game this week will determine the NFC North Champion.
Dallas and New York are the only teams locked into their playoff positions. The Giants are guaranteed the 5th seed as none of the other potential Wild Card teams are capable of getting to 10 wins.
Here is a rundown of the games this week with playoff implications. The 2nd seed and it's first-round bye are still up for grabs, keeping things interesting for the Falcons and Seahawks games.
New York Giants @ Washington
Washington guarantees themselves the 6th seed with a victory. They would be at 9-6-1 and the loser of the Packers-Lions game is guaranteed to have a 9-7 record. Washington would have no shot at the if they lose, essentially making this a playoff game for them.
With the Giants locked into the 5th seed, they have the dilemma of choosing between rest and rhythm. New York will likely rest some starters as they'll be playing on the road a week from now. However, they could be motivated to try and deny a division rival from making the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions
Flexed to Sunday Night Football because of its potentially heavy stakes, this rivalry showdown should be fun to watch. The winner takes the NFC North and could even be vying for a first-round bye depending on other games. The loser could miss the playoffs completely.
If Washington wins earlier in the day, the Packers and Lions will know that the loser doesn't make the playoffs. If Washington loses, either Green Bay or Detroit will be the 6th seed. That will take some of the intensity out of the game, but a playoff home game and a division title are still on the line.
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons are in the driver's seat for the 2nd seed and the other first-round bye. All they have to do is win and nothing else matters.
If Atlanta loses and Seattle wins, the Seahawks would clinch the #2 spot with a slightly better overall record. The Falcons could then potentially drop to the 4th seed depending on the Packers-Lions outcome.
In the unlikely scenario that both the Falcons and Seahawks lose, Atlanta will suddenly be rooting for the Packers. They have a head-to-head tiebreaker and would still be the #2 seed. The tiebreakers with Detroit would be much more complicated, coming down to common opponents. My current calculation is that Detroit would have the tiebreaker thanks to a win over the Eagles, who Atlanta lost to earlier this year.
Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers
Here's a simple one for you. The Seahawks clinch the 2nd seed with a win and a Falcons loss. If both Atlanta and Seattle win, the Seahawks will be #3 and host either Washington or the Packers-Lions loser in the first round.
If they lose, Seattle is guaranteed to be the 4th seed and hosting the Giants in their first playoff game.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Bucs
The scenario for the Bucs to make the playoffs is incredible complicated and barely worth considering. However, since we're here…
- Buccaneers beat Panthers
- Washington and Giants TIE
- 49ers beat Seahawks
- Cowboys beat Eagles
- Lions beat Packers
- Colts beat Jaguars
- Titans beat Texans