Skip to main content

A Closer Look At Cowboys' Place In Playoff Race

Carolina Panthers (10-3; lead NFC South)
Conference Record: 7-3
NFC South Record: 3-2
Remaining Schedule: Denver (8-5), at New York Giants (11-2), at New Orleans (7-6)
Outlook: Carolina has the inside track to the NFC South title, and possibly a first-round bye, after beating second-place Tampa Bay on Monday night. The Panthers still would figure into the wild-card mix if Tampa Bay regained first place or tied them by season's end. The teams split their season series and each have a 3-2 division record.

Minnesota Vikings (8-5; lead NFC North)
Conference Record: 6-3
NFC North Record: 4-2
Remaining Schedule: at Arizona (8-5), Atlanta (8-5), New York Giants (11-2)
Outlook: Minnesota holds a one-game lead over Chicago in the NFC North but has a more difficult remaining schedule. The teams split their season series, but the Vikings have a slightly better division record at this point (4-2 to 3-2). Their playoff fate, be it a division title or a wild-card berth, will be determined by these final three games - all NFC opponents.

Wild-Card Contenders

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-4)
Conference Record: 8-3
NFC South Record: 3-2
Remaining Schedule: at Atlanta (8-5), San Diego (5-8), Oakland (3-10)
Outlook: The Buccaneers fell a full game behind Carolina in the NFC South but seems to have a favorable remaining schedule. If they lose Sunday to Atlanta, they'd still maintain wild-card position (the fifth or sixth seed depending on how Dallas fares) due to a slightly better common-opponents record than the Falcons (8-4 to 7-4) - the third division tiebreaker because they'd be tied on head-to-head and division record.

Dallas Cowboys (8-5)
Conference Record: 6-4
NFC East Record: 2-2
Remaining Schedule: New York Giants (11-2), Baltimore (9-4), at Philadelphia (7-5-1)
Outlook: Aside from division rivals Philadelphia and Washington, Tampa Bay is the only wild-card contender the Cowboys have or will face. They split with Washington, won the first meeting with Philly and own the head-to-tiebreaker over the Bucs should both teams finish with the same record. That's big. But the Cowboys have the toughest remaining schedule based on record (27-11-1). With conference record a potentially significant tiebreaker at season's end, losing to AFC-North Baltimore would be the least damaging of their three remaining games.

Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
Conference Record: 5-4
NFC South Record: 2-3
Remaining Schedule: Tampa Bay (9-4), at Minnesota (8-5), St. Louis (2-11)
Outlook: Like Dallas, the Falcons must win their final three games to feel safe, particularly because all three involve conference foes. Sunday's loss to New Orleans dropped them out of the final wild-card spot, at least temporarily, because the Cowboys have a better conference record.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-5-1)
Conference Record: 6-4
NFC East Record: 1-2
Remaining Schedule: Cleveland (4-9), at Washington (7-6), Dallas (8-5)
Outlook: The Eagles are surging with two straight convincing wins and also own a solid conference record. They can even the head-to-head series with the Cowboys on Dec. 28 but need to win out and watch the other teams ahead of them stumble - namely Dallas, Tampa Bay and Atlanta.

Washington Redskins (7-6)
Conference Record: 6-4
NFC East Record: 2-3
Remaining Schedule: at Cincinnati (1-11-1), Philadelphia (7-5-1), at San Francisco (5-8)
Outlook: Washington has a very favorable remaining schedule, but anything less than 10 wins means elimination. The Redskins aren't going anywhere unless they solve their offensive deficiencies - they're averaging 10.6 points over the past five games.

Chicago Bears (7-6)
Conference Record: 5-5
NFC North Record: 3-2
Remaining Schedule: New Orleans (7-6), Green Bay (5-8), at Houston (6-7)
Outlook: The Bears benefit from a shaky division. They're stuck near the bottom of the wild-card race, but could wind up hosting a playoff game if they can catch Minnesota.

New Orleans Saints (7-6)
Conference Record: 4-5
NFC South Record: 2-3
Remaining Schedule: at Chicago (7-6), at Detroit (0-13), Carolina (10-3)
Outlook: At 7-6 with a shaky conference and division record, the Saints must win out and pray for some serious help to sneak in.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.