NFL Playoffs 2016: NFC Wild Card race Week 14

Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) throws a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second half at Heinz Field. The Steelers won the game, 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports /

Here’s how the NFC Wild Card race sits heading into Week 14 of the NFL regular season.

With 13 weeks in the books, the playoff race is heating up in the NFC. The NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys clinched the first playoff spot with a win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday Night Football and some help on Sunday. At 11-1, the Cowboys have a big division matchup with the New York Giants this Sunday night in which they could clinch the East with a victory. We’ll get back to the Giants in just a moment but before we get to that, let’s take a look at how the NFC standings sit heading into Week 14.

  1. x-Dallas Cowboys (11-1)
  2. Seattle Seahawks (8-3-1)
  3. Detroit Lions (8-4)
  4. Atlanta Falcons (7-5)
  5. New York Giants (8-4)
  6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5)
  7. Washington Redskins (6-5-1)
  8. Minnesota Vikings (6-6)
  9. Green Bay Packers (6-6)
  10. Arizona Cardinals (5-6-1)
  11. New Orleans Saints (5-7)
  12. Philadelphia Eagles (5-7)
  13. Carolina Panthers (4-8)
  14. Los Angeles Rams (4-8)
  15. Chicago Bears (3-9)
  16. San Francisco (1-11)

As I stated in the opener, the Dallas Cowboys are in. So let’s go ahead and get to who’s out. With Tampa Bay currently holding the final wild card spot with a record of 7-5, let’s go ahead and eliminate the Bears, Rams and Panthers from any further NFC Playoff conversation. It would take a miracle for any of these teams to get in and the San Francisco 49ers are already technically eliminated anyway.

Moving up the ladder, you’ve got the Saints and Eagles sitting at 5-7. It’s unlikely that the Eagles can fight their way back in with the way they’ve been playing recently and have a tough schedule coming in with games against the Redskins, Ravens, Giants and Cowboys. The Saints are in a very interesting position right now as at 5-7 they sit two games behind not only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but also the division-leading Atlanta Falcons. And they could only help themselves this week as they visit Tampa on Sunday afternoon. They’ve then got a date with the team directly above them in the standings, the Arizona Cardinals, and then it’s a home game with Tampa Bay in Week 16 and a road trip to Atlanta to close out the season. Things could get very interesting here.

As for the Cardinals, that tie on their record could make things interesting. They’ve got the Dolphins, Saints, Seahawks and Rams left on their schedule and that tie may up letting them slide into that sixth spot if the teams above them take a nosedive.

At 6-6, the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings have very different tasks ahead of them in Week 14. The Vikings head to Jacksonville to play the lowly Jaguars while the Packers have a matchup with the Seahawks on Sunday night at Lambeau. With the Detroit Lions holding a two-game lead in the NFC North and an almost-guaranteed win in Week 14 against the Bears, both teams face a must-win this Sunday. The Week 16 winner between Green Bay and Minnesota may end up deciding who has a chance to get in the final week of the regular season.

The Washington Redskins also have a tie on their record at 6-5-1 and have a very favorable schedule coming in. They do have a divisional matchup with the Eagles this weekend but follow it up with games against the Panthers and Bears before closing out the year at home against the Giants. A 3-1 finish would be great for them and even a 2-2 mark might get it done.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a great surprise this year. They just won their fourth straight game and currently sit in that coveted sixth spot. They split their two games with the division-leading Falcons this season, with each team winning on the road, but Atlanta currently has the better record within the division which gives them the tiebreaker. As mentioned earlier, the Bucs have two games left with the Saints and they also finish with the Panthers, who I’m sure would just love to play spoiler with the season they’ve had. Tampa also visits Dallas on Monday night in Week 15. Again, the NFC South could be a lot of fun coming home.

The New York Giants aren’t likely to catch the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East but will certainly try to get one step closer with a big matchup on Sunday night. But it’s more likely that they hold either the fifth or sixth spot when the season ends. After the Cowboys on Sunday, they close with games against the Lions, Eagles and Redskins. A split of these four games definitely gets them in.

Next: Week 14 NFL Power Rankings

The Dallas Cowboys will most likely win the NFC East. The Seattle Seahawks hold a big lead in the NFC West and the Detroit Lions will likely come out on top in the NFC North. That leaves three spots for nine teams. December in the NFC should be a lot of fun.