When you project what the NFL's playoff field will look like at the end of Week 18 — which we'll be doing for the rest of the season — it becomes clear that the NFC East is likely going to get in at least three teams. Maybe four, depending on if you think the Seattle Seahawks can rebound.
Two teams are obvious. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are getting in. That's the easy part. Then we have to deal with the bottom two teams, who aren't dominant but have good records. And seven teams from the NFC have to make it.
The New York Giants are 7-4. They've cooled a bit after a great start, but everyone knew they were due for regression. The Washington Commanders are 7-5, somehow the winners of six of their last seven. Both teams are severely flawed, but that hardly matters in the playoff race. The Commanders and Giants play twice in three weeks, the first meeting coming on Sunday, and those will be enormous in the playoff picture.
Because, unless anything weird happens, we're down to three teams for the final two NFC wild-card spots.
The final two wild-card spots are likely going to some combination of the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks, Commanders or Giants. The team with the best chance to make a run and crash that party is the Detroit Lions, but they're a long shot at 4-7. They really needed that Thanksgiving win over the Buffalo Bills.
The Commanders and Giants might not be two of the top 14 teams in the NFL, and they each have tough remaining schedules. The Giants have the toughest remaining schedule according to Tankathon, and the Commanders are third. But we have to fill out a bracket. If the Seahawks' two-game losing streak is a sign of things to come, the Commanders and Giants are both likely to make it. That would give the NFC East four of the seven teams on that side of the bracket.
When the Giants and Commanders face off Sunday, there will be some playoff-level urgency. Nobody saw that coming before the season started.
Here are the rest of the Week 13 games that will have the biggest impact on the playoff picture:
Bills at Patriots
The Bills might need to win out to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and even then the Kansas City Chiefs might not relinquish it. That means the Bills can't afford a loss on Thursday night. The Patriots aren't in great shape for the playoffs in a loaded AFC, but a win would go a long way in that wild-card race.
Jets at Vikings
The Vikings probably aren't going to get the No. 1 seed after losses to both the Eagles and Cowboys, so they're in the weird spot of having a division title virtually clinched and not having a ton to play for the rest of the season. They're almost assured of being the No. 2 or 3 seed. The Jets are in a real battle for a wild-card spot, especially with the second place teams among Bills-Dolphins and Ravens-Bengals looking very good for the top two wild-card spots.
Chargers at Raiders
Right now we have the Chargers in the last wild-card spot over the AFC East teams, and it's a matter of schedules. The Chargers have a much easier stretch run than the Jets or Patriots. But they can't afford to drop games like this one. And we all know, that's kind of what the Chargers are known for.
Chiefs at Bengals
The Bills, who still have a shot at that No. 1 seed, will be rooting for the Bengals. The Ravens, who are tied with the Bengals atop the NFC North at 7-4, will be rooting for the Chiefs. This is a big game in shaping the AFC bracket.
Saints at Buccaneers
The Saints are 4-8. And if they beat the Buccaneers on Monday night and the Falcons lose Sunday to the Steelers, New Orleans will be a half-game out of first place in the NFC South. The NFC South, led by the 5-6 Bucs, is in real danger of being the rare division to not produce one winning team.