Last week tightened things up among the current NFC playoff contenders. With the 49ers and Eagles both taking surprising losses, we’ve come out of the first third of the 2023 season with plenty of intrigue ahead. Will the Week 7 schedule prove equally interesting?
The aforementioned upsets created a three-way tie between Frisco, Philly, and the Detroit Lions now as 5-1 teams. The Cowboys are right behind them at 4-2, and will now sit back during their bye week and hope to see some more surprising losses.
While a lot can happen over the remaining 11 weeks of the regular season, an upper crust does seem to be forming in the NFC. Two key dates to remember going forward are Week 13 when the Eagles host the 49ers, and Week 17 when the Lions visit the Cowboys. Based on current trajectories, these two matchups could have major ramifications for the eventual playoff picture. Of course, Dallas and Philly still have their two annual games coming up as well.
When the Cowboys do come off the bye, proving which tier of NFC teams they belong to will be a top narrative. Are they a legit contender like the current top three, or are they more like Tampa or Seattle as a solid team with limited championship potential?
Here are the standings ahead of Week 7:
- San Francisco (5-1 overall, 4-0 vs NFC)
- Philadelphia Eagles (5-1 overall, 4-0 vs NFC)
- Detroit Lions (5-1 overall, 4-1 vs NFC)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2 overall, 3-2 vs NFC)
- Dallas Cowboys (4-2 overall, 1-2 vs NFC)
- Seattle Seahawks (3-2 overall, 3-1 vs NFC)
- Los Angeles Rams (3-3 overall, 2-2 vs NFC)
- Washington Commanders (3-3 overall, 2-2 vs NFC)
- Atlanta Falcons (3-3 overall, 2-2 vs NFC)
- New Orleans Saints (3-3 overall, 1-2 vs NFC)
We now have published tiebreaker information from the NFL to help sort some of this out. The Niners top the Eagles based on strength of schedule, the calculation of which could shift dramatically by the end of the year. Both are over the Lions due to their undefeated records within the conference, while Detroit has a loss to Seattle hanging over them.
Tampa Bay may have a worse overall record than Dallas but they’re the current leaders in the NFC South, which would give them the fourth seed if they wind up as a division winner. The Cowboys would be the top wild card team, which would currently set up a Bucs-Cowboys postseason rematch if these standings hold.
Among the four 3-3 teams currently vying for the last wild card spot, Washington just picked up a big head-to-head win over Atlanta to pull them even and create a potential tiebreaker. But the Rams currently top both with a stronger strength of victory rating. New Orleans is bringing up the rear due to a worse record within the NFC South than the Falcons.
Again, there’s much football to be played and so many of these scenarios will change over the next three months. But every week is as important to that final picture as the ones ahead, so what impact could the Week 7 schedule have? And how should Cowboys fans be leaning in these matchups?
Dolphins @ Eagles
This primetime, interconference showdown between 5-1 teams is one of the best chances for Philly to suffer another loss on the entire remaining schedule. They’ll be fired up coming off the upset against the Jets, but the Dolphins are well-equipped on both sides of the ball to withstand any extra motivation. For Cowboys fans, there’s no question how you want this one to go.
49ers @ Vikings
Similarly one-sided in rooting interest is the Niners trip to Minnesota on Monday night. The Vikings aren’t a concern for this season, currently 2-4 and not a scary team even if they do rally. But that also means they probably won’t have a good night against San Francisco, who will be looking to bully someone after the loss to Cleveland. The Vikings’ best hope is that key offensive players like Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel don’t play due to injuries suffered last Sunday.
Lions @ Ravens
Another matchup between an NFC contender and AFC opponent, making what’s best for Dallas obvious. If the Cowboys do eventually overtake the Eagles to win the NFC East, standing above the other division winners would be equally lovely. Detroit is almost a shoo-in to take the NFC North at this point so keeping them lower in the standings is a good thing.
Commanders @ Giants
On the surface, a Washington loss would seem preferable as they’re a potential wild-card contender and New York doesn’t seem like a threat. But the Commanders host the Eagles next week, so do you want them confident after a win or hungry after a loss? You could argue either way, but a loss to the Giants right now might be more demoralizing than usual. Washington feeling good about themselves with a winning record going into the rematch with Philly probably gives them a better shot.
Falcons @ Buccaneers
This could be a big one for deciding the eventual NFC South winner. In the end, whoever comes out of the division shouldn’t be a major threat to Dallas, but it’d be nice for their overall record to stay as low as possible. Given that, Atlanta hanging a loss on Tampa Bay here would probably serve the Cowboys best.
Cardinals @ Seahawks
While the Seahawks probably won’t catch the 49ers in the NFC West, they are a heavy favorite to claim one of the three wild card spots. Assuming Dallas is also trying to get into the playoffs that way, we want to compete with as few teams as possible. Arizona won’t be in the conversation so a Seattle loss here is best.
Steelers @ Rams
The Rams are another potential wild card team, so the same logic as above applies here. While we’d love to think that either the Rams or Seahawks could make a miraculous surge to overtake San Francisco, we have to look at this stuff as realistically as possible. Anything can happen, but some things are far more likely than others.
Jaguars @ Saints
Another AFC-NFC battle that leaves no real question on the desired outcome. The less wild card competition for Dallas, the better.