The Vikings and Cardinals each have three-game leads in the NFC North and West, respectively. The undefeated Saints are up by five games on the Falcons. Only the NFC East remains up in the air, with the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles all within a game of each other. So who is making the playoffs in the NFC?
If the playoffs started today, the NFC playoff picture would look like this:
1. New Orleans Saints, 10-0 (South)
2. Minnesota Vikings, 9-1 (North)
3. Dallas Cowboys, 7-3 (East)
4. Arizona Cardinals, 7-3 (West)
5. Philadelphia Eagles, 6-4 (WC)
6. Green Bay Packers, 6-4 (WC)
On the outside looking in:
7. New York Giants, 6-4
8. Atlanta Falcons, 5-5
9. San Francisco 49ers, 4-6
10. Carolina Panthers, 4-6
11. Chicago Bears, 4-6
A few explanations:
The Cowboys hold the No. 3 seed over the Cardinals for the time being, as Dallas has a 6-2 conference record compared to Arizona's 5-2 record in the NFC. Looking at conference records, you will see that Philly has a better conference record (5-2) than Green Bay (5-3) or New York (4-3).
The Eagles, Giants and Cowboys will all get a chance to face each other in the back half of the season with games against each other.
Week 13 (Dec 6): Dallas @ Giants
Week 14 (Dec 13): Philadelphia @ Giants
Week 17 (Jan 3): Philadelphia @ Dallas
The Cowboys do hold head-to-head tiebreakers over the Falcons and Panthers, but a lot still has to happen for either of those NFC South teams to get into the postseason. This race is going to be between the Packers and the entire NFC East to determine the remaining three NFC playoff teams.
Keep an eye on the number of conference wins that these teams put up. The Cowboys remaining conference games are at New York, at New Orleans, at Washington and home against Philadelphia. Do you feel good about any of those games? The conference opponents are a 25-15 overall (.625).
The Giants have conference games left home against the Cowboys and Eagles, at Washington, home to Carolina, and at Minnesota. The conference opponents record: 29-21 (.580). It's certainly not an easy road, but the game against Minnesota on the final week of the season might be against a team with nothing to play for if they've locked up the bye, and there is no shot of catching the Saints for home field advantage.
The Eagles in the conference will be home to Washington, at Atlanta, at New York Giants, home to San Francisco, and at Dallas. It's a pretty balanced conference schedule for Philly, whose NFC opponents are 25-25 (.500) on the season, but they will be on the road against the two tough division opponents, which might make this an uphill battle for them.
Finally, the Packers finish their conference schedule at Detroit, at Chicago, home to Seattle, and at Arizona. It's a pretty comfortable conference road - the teams are combined 16-24 (.400) - compared the the schedule of the NFC East trio, so look for Green Bay to make a late-season charge. The Packers own the head-to-head over Dallas, and because they will not play New York and Philadelphia this year, the Pack might have to go down the list of tiebreakers if they are even with the Giants or Eagles. After conference record, the next tiebreaker is common opponents (minimum four). Each team plays the Cowboys, Buccaneers, Vikings and Cardinals this year, so that will be applicable if it comes down to it.