That includes three sub-.500 NFC West teams (St.Louis, Seattle and San Francisco) and the 5-6 Washington Redskins. The Redskins' chances are slim since they would have to win every game the rest of the season and hope for some divine intervention along the way to qualify for the post season.
The West winner will most likely be the only entrant into the NFC Playoffs from that bracket, so we will not include them in any of our league-wide scenarios going forward unless something dramatic occurs.
The Eagles and Giants are both 7-4, but Philadelphia currently holds the tiebreaker by virtue of their victory over the Giants two weeks ago.
There are many who believe the key to winning this division is actually going to be determined by division play. The teams face each other on Dec 19 in New Jersey. That is the primary battle. The Eagles' two games with Dallas and the Giants' home-and-home with Washington are the subplots.
Many are hoping Dallas can rise up and slap Philly a few times to help the Giants out. They way the Cowboys are playing, that is very possible. But the Giants need to win all three of their division games and defeat either Green Bay or Minnesota to be assured of anything.
Eleven wins, oddly enough, is the conference benchmark for a playoff appearance, but for the division title less than eleven may do it: the Giants simply need to have more wins than Philadelphia or tie them in wins and hold the tiebreaker.
The Eagles are 2-1 in the division. The Giants 1-2. If New York sweeps their division games, they are 4-2 and the Eagles would have to beat Dallas twice to match them.
Should that happen, and both teams finish with the same overall record, the tiebreaker would fall to games against common opponents. The Giants split their AFC South games. The Eagles are 2-1 and play Houston Thursday.
Against other common opponents - the NFC North - Philly is 1-2 thus far with Minnesota left to play, and the Giants are 2-0 with Minnesota on the slate as well as Green Bay. Overall, the Eagles are 3-3 in common games and the Giants are 4-2.
There's too much football to be played right now to start fleshing this who thing out. If Philly wins on Thursday night, they are 8-4 and their common game record increases to 4-3. A Giants' win would also put them at 8-4 and even their division record at 2-2.
It's Chicago (8-3) and Green Bay (7-4) in a fight to the finish. The two teams met in Week 3 with the Bears coming out on top 20-17.
That puts the Packers in a bit of a hole in the division race right now. They are 3-1 in the North and the Bears are 3-0.
The schedule favors Green Bay, but only slightly. They can control their playoff destiny simply by winning four of the final five. Depending on who they lose to, they will be either division champs or wildcards.
Chicago has to travel to Detroit, who were robbed of a victory at Soldier Field in Week One. This could be payback time. The Bears better hope not. The rest of their schedule is brutal: New England, Minnesota, Jets and Packers.
Green Bay has it almost as rough before meeting the Bears in the season finale. After hosting the 49ers this week and traveling to Detroit, the Packers play the Pats and Giants in consecutive weeks. Both of those teams are in playoff battles as well.
The division will most likely come down to the final game at Lambeau Field. The question is....how many wins will the second-place finisher have...?
Atlanta has the conference lead with 9-2 record. Defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans is right on their tail at 8-3. Tampa Bay (7-4) has leveled off after after a smoking start.
The Falcons have played only two games in the division thus far and won them both: a thriller at home over the Bucs and an OT win over the Saints in the Superdome.
They play Tampa away this week in a must-win situation for the Bucs. If Tampa is going to stay in this race, they need this game. It is a winnable one, don't kid yourself....the Falcons are 6-0 at home but only 2-2 on the road.
Should Atlanta win, they will have 10 wins with four games to go. Three of those four games are hangers: a home-and-home against 1-10 Carolina and a trip to Seattle.
The only test they will have the rest of the way is a Week 16 home game vs the Saints.
New Orleans obviously needs that Week 16 game in Atlanta if they are going to win the division. But will need help from Tampa or Carolina, too. Don't count on that.....
The Saints will probably end up being a wild card. Outside of the Falcon game, they play Cincinnati, St.Louis, Baltimore and Tampa, again- this time at home. They can go 3-2 in those games with their eyes closed....