With the Seattle Seahawks set to host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon, all the team needed to move into a Wild Card spot in advance of even taking the field this weekend was for the Dallas Cowboys to lose to the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football. Well, the results of the Thursday game have only solidified my dislike for the Cowboys. By pulling off a 13-10 upset of the Saints, the Cowboys have drastically changed the outlook for the NFC playoff picture.
The biggest of those changes is the simple fact that the Saints have now slipped into second place in the NFC, with the Los Angeles Rams moving into the top spot and holding the inside track for home field advantage in the playoffs. In addition, with the victory, Dallas retains possession of first place in the NFC East, at least for now.
On Monday night the Washington Redskins take on the Philadelphia Eagles in a game in which they have the opportunity to reclaim first place in the NFC East. As of right now the Cowboys sit at 7-5 while Washington is 6-5, so a Washington win would put the teams in a tie at 7-5. Now, Dallas and Washington split the season series, and prior to last night’s victory over the Saints, Dallas held the tiebreaker over Washington thanks to a better division record (3-1 for Dallas compared to 2-1 for Washington).
However, a victory over Philadelphia would push Washington’s division record to 3-1 and equal to that of the Cowboys. That would then push the tiebreaker for first place in the NFC East to the conference record tiebreaker where Washington would be 7-3 and Dallas would be 6-3. That would put Washington ahead of Dallas, meaning they would retake first place in the division and Dallas would drop into the Wild Card race.
That is hugely important because of the three other games in the NFC Wild Card race this weekend. Let’s assume just for a second that the Seahawks beat the 49ers and the Carolina Panthers rebound with a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All of that happening would leave Seattle, Carolina and Dallas at 7-5. Typically a three team tie pushes things to the conference record tiebreaker, however, in this case it would be different.
The reason it would be different is because Seattle holds the tiebreaker over both Carolina and Dallas this season. That means that if all three teams are tied at 7-5, while Dallas has been pushed out of first place in the NFC East and into the Wild Card discussion, Seattle would get the higher seeding over both those teams. Then, because Carolina defeated Dallas in Week 1, they also hold the tiebreaker over Dallas and would be second in that three team traffic jam.
- Carolina wins in Tampa (early game),
- Seattle defeats San Francisco (late game) and
- Washington defeats the Eagles (Monday game),
it doesn’t even matter what happens when the Minnesota Vikings take on the New England Patriots because Dallas will have had a week in which it defeated the number one seed in the NFC and yet dropped out of playoff seeding.
Think about that for a moment. The Cowboys are on a four game winning streak which includes victories over each of the last two teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, a victory over then first place Washington and a victory over the then number one seed in the NFC, and thanks to the intricacies of the NFL tiebreaker system they will drop out of playoff seeding.
Absolutely mind blowing.
And I absolutely love it and am here for all of it.
As for the Vikings, if they defeat the Patriots they will remain in the number 5 spot in the NFC. If they lose, they likely drop out of one of the playoffs for the time being, with a huge matchup against the Seahawks looming in Week 14.
The other two teams in the playoff race, the current number one seed and number three seed in the NFC, the Chicago Bears and the Rams play on Sunday night. In this game Hawks fans should likely be rooting for the Bears. Chicago likely has an uphill battle in defeating the Rams with starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky potentially out once again, but a Bears loss keeps the door open for Minnesota to try and take over first place in the NFC North.
Minnesota has a rough schedule over the remainder of the season, but knocking Chicago out of first place in the NFC North would be bad in the long run because the Bears hold the tiebreaker over the Seahawks. Obviously Seattle and Minnesota play in Week 14, but because of the fact that the Vikes tied the Green Bay Packers in Week 2, any tiebreaker between the Vikings and Seahawks is likely irrelevant since the two teams are unlikely to actually finish in a tie.
In short, for the Seahawks to move into a playoff spot this weekend they simply need to win. A win puts them at 7-5 and moves them into either the six seed in the NFC (if the Vikings defeat the Patriots) or the five seed (if the Vikings lose to the Patriots).
So, it’s time to take care of business at home on Sunday afternoon.