We’ve reached roughly the halfway point of the NFL season, give or take a few games. It’s not too early to start projecting the playoff picture.
Consider this a weekly look at the projected NFL postseason field, our version of bracketology. Here is how we see the playoff bracket shaking out when the regular season is finished:
Keep in mind that remaining schedules matter, and the Dallas Cowboys might have the toughest of them all.
Here’s another look at the Cowboys’ upcoming schedule through what should be an enormous showdown in Philadelphia on Dec. 22:
Week 10, vs. Vikings
Week 11, at Lions
Week 12, at Patriots
Week 13, vs. Bills
Week 14, at Bears
Week 15, vs. Rams
Week 16, at Eagles
There’s not an easy win in those next seven games. And yes, that crucial NFC East rematch is in Philadelphia.
The Cowboys were better than the Eagles over the first half of the season, and might be the better team over the second half too. But it will take a huge effort to maintain their lead in the division with that gauntlet of games. That’s why the Eagles have a slight edge in the projection.
The battle for NFC wild-card spots will be intense too, and the result of this week’s Vikings-Cowboys game has plenty of potential implications in that race.
Here are the biggest Week 10 games in the playoff picture:
Panthers at Packers
The Panthers are 5-3 and generally that would put them in a good place. But the Panthers have tough games left and the NFC is deep. The Packers had a weird loss at the Chargers, and the Vikings aren’t going away.
Rams at Steelers
When the Steelers were 0-2 and Ben Roethlisberger was done for the season, it didn’t look like the Steelers would be a factor this season. But at 4-4 in a weak AFC, they’re right in it. Meanwhile, note that the Rams aren’t in this week’s playoff projection. Neither are the Vikings. Or the Panthers. The NFC is tough.
Seahawks at 49ers (Monday night)
This is one of the biggest games of the season. The Seahawks are two losses behind the 49ers in the NFC West. A Seattle win changes things. It would give the Seahawks a big edge in the tiebreaker, too.
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