Who’s still has a shot?
- Dallas Cowboys (6-5)
Dallas won their Thanksgiving game against the Washington Redskins to put them atop the NFC East with five games left to play. This team has proven over the last three weeks that they can compete for a playoff spot, but they’re by no means a lock to make it in.
Dallas’ next game is against the 10-1 Saints, who lead the league in scoring (37.2 points per game). Dallas has the defense to slow down the Saints, as they give up an average of just 19.4 points per game. The concern in this game has to do with their offense. This offense has been much better over the last three weeks, as they’ve let Ezekiel Elliott run wild. Although their defense can slow down the Saints’ offense, I’m not sure they can slow it down enough for the offense to outscore the Saints.
After playing the Saints, the Cowboys play the Eagles, Colts, Buccaneers and Giants. If the Cowboys lose this week and the Eagles win, the Eagles are tied for the division lead. Dallas will then face another tough division game to reclaim the lead, where they could just as easily lose it to the Eagles.
They’d then take on a red hot Andrew Luck, who has his team on a five game win streak and in the AFC playoff picture. Dallas should beat the Buccaneers and Giants, but you never know. Dallas making the playoffs as NFC East champs comes down to their next two games against the Saints and Eagles. If they can make the most of those games, they should be in. If they don’t win those games, they may find it difficult to get in with several other 6-5 teams in the NFC Wild Card race.
- Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1)
Of all the teams looking to make the playoffs in the NFC Wild Card race, the Minnesota Vikings are currently in the best shape. If the playoffs started today, they’d have the number five seed. Although they have the five seed right now, that doesn’t make them a lock to make it.
As discussed above when talking about the Bears and their competition for the NFC North, the Vikings face a decently tough schedule the rest of the way. Their next game comes against the Patriots, followed by the Seahawks. If they drop those two games, they’ll be sitting at 6-6-1. Seattle would at worst be 7-6, if not 8-5 at that point.
In other words, Seattle could take that number five spot from the Vikings in two weeks. If the Redskins and Panthers both drop their next two games, the Vikings will still have six spot, but I’m not so sure either team will drop to 6-7. At least one of them will be 7-6 or 8-5, meaning the Vikings could very well be on the outside looking in in the NFC Wild Card race.