The New York Giants (8-3) path to the NFL playoffs is becoming more clear with each passing week. It started with a whisper, but the Giants’ timely six-game winning streak and surging defense has them making the kind of noise not heard out of East Rutherford, N.J. in many years.
They’re starting to resemble that playoff team — the one who can do some damage once they get there. Just like the 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl teams who crept up on the rest of the league, the Giants are peaking at the right time. It isn’t always the best team who makes a deep playoff-run in the NFL, most times it’s the hottest.
The Giants still have a ways to go, but recent returns are encouraging. Sunday’s opponent notwithstanding (the Cleveland Browns are a very real 0-12), Big Blue’s defense dominated the fourth quarter to close out a victory for the third consecutive week. With only five regular-season games remaining, they’re starting to put distance between themselves and everyone else in the wild-card race.
Let’s take a look at the NFC playoff picture pre-Philadelphia Eagles vs. Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football.
1. Dallas Cowboys (10-1)
No one foresaw the Cowboys being able to pass the torch and win while doing it, but that’s exactly what’s happened this season. Longtime stalwart Tony Romo is out, rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are the new faces of the franchise. Since losing the 2016 opener to the Giants, Dallas has won 10 straight and is a virtual lock to hold down the top seed.
2. Seattle Seahawks (7-3-1)
The Seahawks have had a weird season. Their three losses are to the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, three teams who are a combined three games under .500. Their offensive line is a glaring weakness, but the 4-6-1 Arizona Cardinals aren’t legit threats to their stronghold on the NFC West. Seattle won’t finish outside of the top-four.
3. Detroit Lions (7-4)
Detroit is a game up on the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings for the NFC North and they swept the season series. Both have winnable games on the schedule to close out the season, so the race for the division could come down to the wire. The winner has a shot at home-field advantage, the loser is still in play for one of the two wild-card spots.
4. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
Atlanta has a one-game lead on the Bucs and a two games on the 5-6 Saints for the NFC South. They split the season series with Tampa and have one more matchup with New Orleans in Week 17. With games against the Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers on the schedule, however, the division may be decided before then. The Falcons are in the mix with the Seahawks and Lions for a first-round bye.
5. New York Giants (8-3)
The fifth-seeded Giants have the second-best record in the entire NFC. If not for season the Cowboys are having, the Giants would be looking at one of the top two seeds. Maybe it’s all for the best. The last time the Giants had a first-round bye in 2008, they were eliminated by the Eagles in the divisional round. As it stands, New York controls its own destiny. If they win out, and Dallas loses twice, they can finish as high as first and no lower than fifth in the conference.
6. Washington Redskins (6-4-1)
The Redskins are in if the playoffs start today, but just barely. With a .5-game lead on the Bucs, Vikings, and Eagles if they win tonight, the ‘Skins will have to fight their way through the final five weeks of the season.
NFC Playoff Picture.— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) November 28, 2016
Will 3 NFC East teams make it in? pic.twitter.com/clEIPpEx3N
Outside Looking In
The Bucs (6-5), Vikings (6-5), Eagles (5-5) and Saints (5-6), in that order, are in play for the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Things can, and likely will, change from week-to-week. The Cardinals (4-6-1) are still alive, but in critical condition. Conversely, the Packers (4-6) and Carolina Panthers (4-7) playoff hopes are on life support.