December 8, 2016
As of this moment, the only team in the NFL playoffs is the Dallas Cowboys. Since its opening-week loss, Dallas has reeled off 11 straight wins.
The Cowboys get a chance to avenge their only loss of the season to the New York Giants this Sunday. More than just revenge at stake for the Cowboys.
A victory over their hated rival isn’t the only thing on the line in this game. A Cowboys win would http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/NFL/2016/12/08/Dallas-Cowboys-aim-to-clinch-NFC-East-with-win-over-New-York-Giants/2321481219795/">lock up the NFC East title for the club and put a strangle-hold on home-field advantage.
New York, on the other hand, can keep Dallas from winning the division and help its playoff hopes. The Pittsburgh Steelers overwhelmed the Giants last week and have both the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles hot on their tails.
Dallas can wrap up home-field advantage with http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18229974/a-look-biggest-remaining-nfl-games-essentially-viewing-guide-december-nfl">a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next week on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys can then use the last two weeks of the season to let banged up players rest.
It would take a massive fall from the Cowboys to lose the division and home field, but massive falls have happened before in the NFL. Dallas ends the season with games against the Detroit Lions and the Eagles.
http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/schedule/_/name/dal">Every team the Cowboys play in the final four weeks of the season are still in the hunt for the playoffs. That means locking up division and home field will become more important each week.
On the other hand, the http://www.espn.com/blog/new-orleans-saints/post/_/id/24775/drew-brees-on-schedule-quirk-with-buccaneers-i-guess-you-make-it-good">New Orleans Saints burned all their margin for error in a loss to the Lions. Detroit helped its playoff hopes and put the Saints in must-win mode for the last four weeks of the season.
New Orleans gets another chance to help its playoff hopes, as the team plays http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/schedule/_/name/tb">Tampa Bay in two of the next three weeks. A road game against the Arizona Cardinals is mixed between the two meetings against the Buccaneers.
Few teams have been as hot as Tampa Bay the last four weeks. Since losing to the Atlanta Falcons on Nov. 3, the Buccaneers have won four straight games and tied for the NFC South lead.
If the Saints are going to make the playoffs, they are going to have to earn it. The team must http://www.espn.com/nfl/team/schedule/_/name/no">beat Tampa Bay twice and then Arizona and Atlanta just to have a chance to get in the postseason.
Every team in the http://www.nfl.com/playoffs/playoff-picture">NFC is still alive for the playoff except for the http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/standings/playoffrace">San Francisco 49ers. Pretty much every game in the NFC will matter as far as playoff hopes go over the next four weeks.
The next three weeks, however, are huge for the Cowboys and Saints but for different reasons. Dallas becomes the top team in the NFC, and the Saints can end up playing for something in the final week of the season if both just win.