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2016 NFC Playoff Picture: Cowboys Still Control Destiny With Two-Game Lead Atop NFC

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Lots of ways the playoff race could play out over the last three games.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Graziano of ESPN summarized the Cowboys' playoff picture rather nicely after yesterday's loss to the Giants:

The Seahawks were once viewed as the Cowboys' biggest threat in the NFC. But Seattle is just another average team -- at best -- on the road. And the Cowboys have a legitimate, full-fledged nemesis in their own division.

The Lions, Falcons and Buccaneers don't appear to be going away anytime soon.

Despite Sunday's loss, the Cowboys are still sitting atop the NFC East playoff rankings with a two-win lead over the other division leaders, and a two-win lead in the NFC East. A lot can still happen over the remaining thrree games, but for the Cowboys to lose their spot as the No. 1 seed, a lot would have to happen. Here's how the playoff seeding currently plays out.

Seed Team Record Rationale
1 Dal_medium Dallas 11-2 NFC East Champion
2 Det_medium Detroit 9-4 NFC North Champion
3 Sea_medium Seattle
8-4-1 NFC West Champion
4 Atl_medium Atlanta 8-5 NFC South Champion
5 Nyg_medium New York 9-4 Wildcard #1
6
Tb_medium Tampa Bay
8-5 Wildcard #2
7
Was_medium Washington 7-5-1 - -
8
Min_medium Minnesota 7-6 head-to-head
9 Gb_medium Green Bay
7-6 - -
10 Four teams with five wins

Week 15 promises to be an interesting week for the NFC playoff picture, with two games featuring matchups between four of the six potential NFC playoff teams as Tampa Bay travels to Dallas, and the Giants host the Lions. Seattle and Atlanta have a more favorable schedule, as they host the Rams and 49ers respectively.

Here are the early Vegas lines for all four games:

  • Tampa Bay @ Dallas (-7.5)
  • Detroit @ NY Giants (-4.5)
  • Los Angeles @ Seattle (-13.5)
  • San Francisco @ Atlanta (-12.5)

Because of the loss against the Giants, the Cowboys weren't able to lock up the NFC East just yet, and they haven't locked up home-field advantage just yet. But they still hold a comfortable two-game lead atop the NFC and the NFC East and remain the masters of their own destiny.

There are lots of permutations of how the remaining three games can go, and you can check out the NFL playoff scenarios via ESPN’s playoff machine.