Sunday’s matchup between a battle of 4-5 teams looked like a must-win for both sides. Of course, the Cowboys won on a last second field goal, leaving the Falcons with hung heads as they prep for a Thanksgiving night game against their division-rival and NFC-leading New Orleans Saints. 4-7 seems more likely than not, which would normally eliminate a team from playoff contention. However, in this wacky NFC, nobody seems that interested in asserting themselves in the Wild Card Race.
Looking across the NFC, there was a boatload of games that carried major Wild Card implications. It started on Thursday night when the Seahawks pulled off a close win against the Packers. Seattle, now 5-5, sits just a half game out of the sixth and final playoff spot. The Packers moved to 4-5-1, which seems terrible, but they are only a game behind the Vikings for that same spot.
The Panthers dropped a nailbiter on the road to the Detroit Lions bumping them down to 6-4, barely holding onto the 5th seed in the NFC. The win put the Lions at 4-6, and while they haven’t been talked about all season, are suddenly right in the thick of the race themselves.
Poor Philadelphia was manhandled in New Orleans dropping them to 4-6, but they have to feel like they are still alive. Not only are they a game and a half behind the Vikings, but they also sit two games behind the Redskins for the NFC East lead. That race is a whole lot more interesting after Alex Smith’s gruesome leg injury (Prayers up). Don’t put my name on this, but even the Giants (3-7) have a chance.
The biggest winners of the weekend: Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears. Dallas came up with a critical road victory over the Falcons. It gives them the advantage over Atlanta in the case of a potential tie and puts them a game behind Washington for the division lead. Two weeks ago, Dallas looked down and out, now they look like the favorite to win their division. Chicago took a huge step towards clinching the NFC North, not only by beating the Vikings but with a Packers’ loss as well. Minnesota hangs onto the final Wild Card spot, but they missed a real opportunity to separate themselves.
The Vikings are joined by the Falcons as the biggest losers of the weekend. For Atlanta, it is all about the schedule in front of them that makes things look bleak, starting with their road matchup with the Saints. Four of their final six games take place on the road, where they are 1-3 this season. Four of them also involve teams fighting for playoff spots (Ravens, Packers, Panthers, and Saints), and they end with a road divisional matchup against the Bucs. If the Falcons lose to the Saints, they have to win out, and that seems highly improbable given their inconsistencies this year.
With that being said, they are mathematically still very well alive. The rest of the NFC is cooperating and does not seem to want to make the playoffs either. In the NFC East, it is hard seeing any of those team finish better than 9-7. If the Cowboys find themselves on top of the division at the end of the year, the Falcons own the tiebreaker over the Redskins. Both the Packers and Panthers are on the Falcons remaining schedule. Albeit, on the road, but if the Falcons can win those, the rest of their schedule (outside of the Saints) is very manageable. The NFC North is going to have it’s fair share of causalities as they battle it out, and the Seahawks sit a mere a game in front of the Falcons. It may feel like the sky is falling, but the situation honestly is not much worse than it was a week ago, courtesy of the rest of the NFC.