Ten down, six to go and the NFL postseason is coming into focus. The NFC Playoff Picture after Week 11 is controlled by the Arizona Cardinals.
Drew Stanton’s Arizona Cardinals control the NFC’s race for home field advantage. Shocking. The NFC West was expected to be the NFL’s toughest division, with the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and three-time NFC Championship Game losers, the San Francisco 49ers, expected to duke it out for the top spot. Yet both trail the Cardinals and, while the regular season’s final six weeks feature multiple permutations of these teams playing key games, Arizona holds the inside track.
The NFC North crown may come down to a Week 17 matchup between Detroit and Green Bay. The Lions travel to New England in Week 12, while the Packers entertain the Patriots at Lambeau Field on Week 13. If either can take down the AFC’s leader, it could prove highly significant in securing the other first-round bye and a home playoff game. The Bears and Vikings can disrupt the leaders, but it would take a miracle for either to overcome the deficits they face.
Meanwhile, Week 15’s matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys in Philadelphia looms as the biggest game in the NFC East race. The Washington Football Team and the New York Giants are all but eliminated but can act as spoilers, especially the Giants in Week 17 for the annual “Cowboys Blow the Division” game.
Notice that we have not yet mentioned the traveshamockery in the NFC South. That’s because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (and their 2-8 record) still have as good a chance at the division title as do the Bears and Vikings in the North. One important difference is that Chicago and Minnesota, unlike Tampa Bay, aren’t 0-4 in their division or 1-6 in the conference.
In all likelihood, the NFC South will be won by the Atlanta Falcons and their 4-0 division record. The problem: that quartet of victories represents all their wins, as the Dirty Birds have yet to register a victory against any team not named the Saints, Panthers or Bucs. And since the NFC South is, definitively, the NFL’s worst division this year, damning with faint praise is putting things kindly.
This is the nightmare scenario for the NFL. The playoffs would be far better if Atlanta ‒ or whomever “wins” the NFC South ‒ were left home in favor of one of the teams with a winning record. The NFC playoff picture after Week 11 shows it is possible that a 10-win Seahawks or Cowboys team does not qualify while the Falcons host a wild card game. That’s just wrong.
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