The NFC playoff race is locked in. The only spot up for grabs is the pathetic NFC South (we just missed the impossible dream, but a 6-9 vs a 6-8-1 for the division is still pretty good!)
The other five teams all stand at 11-4 after fifteen games. The scenarios are all over the place, but the team that is going to be screwed the most is the Dallas Cowboys. They are all but locked into the three seed, which means a home playoff game and a matchup against the six seed, who should be the worst team in the field. That’s not going to happen, and here’s why.
Dallas visits the nations capital this weekend. A Cowboys win will cement a 12-4 season. A terrific year for Dallas. They also have one ace in the hole, a victory over Seattle. However, with so many 12-4 teams, that ace means nothing.
In a three team tiebreaker, head to head only matters if all the teams have played each other. Once it’s a three team tiebreaker, things get very convoluted. Let’s examine shall we:
Scenario A)- Dallas, Seatte, Arizona, and Green Bay win. All four teams finish 12-4, but Seattle wins the NFC west. Even though Dallas beat Seattle, and Seattle beat Green Bay, there isn’t enough to use them, because there isn’t a third matchup between these teams. It would then go to conference record, where Seattle would finish first, and Green Bay would finish second. Dallas is the odd team out, and would host the Lions in the first round of the playoffs.
Scenario B)- Dallas, Seattle, Arizona, and Detroit win. The same NFC west rule applies, and the tiebreaker again goes to conference record. Dallas would be eliminated, and the Seahawks and lions would be determined on a strength of victory tiebreaker. Either way, the Cowboys would be the three seed, and host Green Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
Please note that these scenarios are the same if Arizona loses as well, because the Cardinals have tiebreaker over the Lions. It’s strength of victory vs the Packers
Perhaps things will be better if the Seahawks don’t win the division.
Scenario C)- Dallas, Arizona, and Green Bay win. Arizona and Green Bay would both have a 10-2 conference record. Dallas is out again.
Scenario D)- Dallas, Arizona, and Detroit win. Arizona beat BOTH the Lions and the Cowboys in the regular season, so the Cardinals would be the 1 seed. Dallas would host the Packers in the first round.
So how do the Cowboys get a bye?
Scenario E)- Cardinals win, Seahawks lose, Cowboys win, Lions and Packers TIE. The Cowboys would be the two seed, with Arizona being the one.
Surely there’s a way they can still get home field advantage? Yes there is:
Scenario F)- Seahawks win, Cowboys win, Lions and Packers TIE. This would mean not only a bye, but home field advantage throughout the playoffs. This is the miracle scenario that Cowboys fans should root for.
The most likely scenario? The Lions and Packers do not tie. So the Cowboys are the three seed. The Seahawks beat St Louis, while Green Bay wins at home vs the Lions. The seeds will look like this:
2) Green Bay
4) Atlanta or Carolina (does it matter?)
The best part of this whole scenario is that either Atlanta or Carolina is going to make the playoffs with seven wins. Their reward is a team that is likely to be quarterbacked by either the horrific Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas . Meanwhile the Cowboys will have to face Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson. Or Aaron Rodgers.
Welcome to the playoffs Jerry.