The Dallas Cowboys are the talk of the NFL this week, but they’re still looking up at the Green Bay Packers in the NFC.
Getting the No. 1 seed is massively important in the expanded playoff field. Only one team gets a bye. There’s a reason teams getting a bye under the old format had a great record. Things will tip even further in favor of the No. 1 seed going forward.
Can the Cowboys get the all-important No. 1 seed? Yes, but they will be rooting hard for the Minnesota Vikings and then the Detroit Lions these last two weeks.
Green Bay, which is 12-3, hosts the Vikings this week and then finishes at Detroit. Two wins and they’re the No. 1 seed. One loss could move them into a tie with Dallas, the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which all have four losses. Then the door opens up for the Cowboys.
If the Cowboys win out and the Packers lose one game, the Cowboys will be the No. 1 seed. They’re 9-1 in conference games and the Packers are 8-2 (and would take one more loss in this scenario). The Rams have four conference losses and the Buccaneers have three. The Buccaneers win the head-to-head two-team tiebreaker with the Cowboys due to a Week 1 win, but that only comes into play if it’s just those two teams tied atop the NFC.
It’s not like the Cowboys are guaranteed to win out. They face the Arizona Cardinals this week and finish with the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams are in the playoffs if the season ended today. But all Dallas can do is win out and hope Minnesota or Detroit can help them out against Green Bay.
Here’s a look at the biggest games for the playoff picture in Week 17:
Rams at Ravens
The Ravens aren’t dead in the playoff race, but this might be last call for them to get in. A loss here would really set them back. Meanwhile, the Rams are in great shape to win the NFC West, even if getting the No. 1 seed would take a lot of help.
Chiefs at Bengals
Earlier this season, the Titans beat the Chiefs 27-3. That still matters because the Chiefs have a one-game lead over the Titans for the top seed in the AFC, but the Titans hold the tiebreaker. If Tennessee wins out and Kansas City loses once, the Chiefs will be playing wild-card weekend. A Bengals win would clinch the AFC North.
Raiders at Colts
Somehow the Raiders are still alive in the wild-card race. News that Carson Wentz might miss this game for the Colts doesn’t hurt the Raiders’ chances of pulling the upset and staying in the mix. The Colts are in great shape to make the playoffs but haven’t clinched yet.
Dolphins at Titans
Miami’s push for the playoffs after starting 1-7 rolls on. If the Dolphins win out, including a win over the Patriots in Week 18, they’d make the playoffs over New England. Crazy. Tennessee is still hoping for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, so they’ll be rooting for the Bengals to beat the Chiefs.
Broncos at Chargers
No team saw its playoff odds fall further in Week 16 than the Chargers. According to Football Outsiders’ odds, the Chargers’ chances to make the playoffs dropped 41.4 percent after a loss to the Texans. They’re now 36.6 percent to get a wild card and don’t want to risk losing again this week to a Broncos team that isn’t mathematically eliminated yet but would need a miracle to make the playoffs.