WEEK 13 NFC Playoff Picture

The bye weeks have come and gone, leaving every team having played 11 games up to this point. With five games left in the NFL season let’s take a look at the NFC playoff picture as we enter Week 13. Which teams are virtually assured to make the playoffs, and how will this week affect the races for the wildcards, divisions, first-round byes, and home field advantage. 

All current playoff chance numbers are courtesy of fivethirtyeight.com, with all future numbers courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL.

NFC East

Week 13 NFC Playoff Picture, Week 13 AFC playoff picture
Image courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL

Dallas Cowboys (6-5)

What a bizarre division this is turning out to be. Across the four teams, they have won just 15 of 44 games. Despite the Cowboys not yet having beaten anyone with a winning record, they are the only team with a winning record, and head into this week with a 65% chance of making the playoffs. Sitting two games out of the wildcard the only real way of doing that is to win the division. That makes the game with the Philadelphia Eagles massive in a few weeks time. 

A win on Thanksgiving will boost the Cowboys chances of making the playoffs up towards the 80% mark, but a loss coupled with an Eagles win leaves things more in the balance. Win or lose this weekend, the best a Cowboys fan can hope for is to see them on wildcard weekend. No matter the result Thursday they are likely to end the week with a less than 1% chance of getting a first-round bye.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6)

The Eagles have no real choice, they need to be perfect. Right now they have around a 35% chance of making the playoffs. Depending on which metric and site you use that chance of winning the division is a lot lower. For example, Lee Sharpe has the Eagles with around just a 25% chance of winning the division even if they win this week. However, given their schedule I have also seen a few places talk about them and the Cowboys as 50/50 type situations. Whatever happens in their other five games they have to make sure they beat Dallas in Week 16, otherwise their job becomes extremely tough.

NFC North

Image courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL

Green Bay PAckers (8-3)

The North is the second NFC division still right up for grabs as it stands. Both teams have blotted their record at times with embarrassing losses. Right now the Packers hold the edge having won the first matchup between the sides. However, they sit just marginally above the Vikings when it comes to chances to win the division, at 50%. A win this week puts their chances around the 60%, especially if the Vikings cannot win in Seattle. Additionally, the PAckers have a >95% chance of making the playoffs, which could rise to 98% with a win this week.

Last week’s embarrassing loss on Sunday Night Football has left the Packers with an uphill struggle for a bye or home field advantage. Even with a win this week they still would only have approximately a 20% chance of getting the first week of the playoffs off.

Minnesota Vikings (8-3)

Right now the Vikings still control their own destiny to some extent. They deserve to be in the position to as well. Their play this year has been impressive, whether on the ground or through the air more recently. Beat the Seahawks this week and not only would they have a real shot to take the division, but Lee Sharpe’s metrics show they could have as much as a 40% chance of grabbing a first-round bye given they would have the head-to-head victory over the Seahawks.

NFC West

Week 13 NFC playoff picture, Week 13 AFC playoff picture
Image courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL

San Francisco 49ers (10-1)

The NFC West has been the surprise package of the NFL. While no one expected the Rams to walk to the division they aso did not expect them to be the third place team. No one has surprised more than the 49ers, who have had dominant games from both sides of the ball.

Despite being 10-1 they still have just a 59% chance of winning their division. Even a victory this week will only likely see that rise to around 65%, but that could be higher if the Seahawks lose on Monday. Interestingly their chances of earning a first-round bye are even with their chances of the division, because it is their division rival Seahawks they are competing with. Every game is important for the 49ers, but none more so than when they travel to Seattle in Week 17. 

However, for now all of their focus will be on trying to defeat the incredible Ravens in Baltimore. If they do and the Rams lose or tie then the 49ers will be assured a wildcard spot at the very least.

Seattle Seahawks (9-2)

You would have shocked nobody by telling them that the Seahawks would be in with a shot of the playoffs come Week 13. The Seahawks have relied heavily on Russell Wilson this season, but the defense has stepped up when called upon, and they now have a 99% chance of the making the playoffs this season.

Entering Week 13 they are right on the heels of the 49ers when it comes to the division, and it is likely that is the battle that will decide one of the first-round byes. As it stands both teams chances are going to mirror each other until one loses and the other wins. While they remain just one game apart, that head-to-head matchup between the two in Seattle is an all-or-nothing game that will likely decide who is on the road wildcard weekend, and who is putting their feet up watching the action.

Los Angeles Rams (6-5)

I am including the Rams out of courtesy. They have just a 15% chance of making the playoffs right now according to fivethirtyeight.com. A loss this weekend would leave them looking at a less than 5% chance of playing in January, while a win gives them a chance to remain above the 10% threshold.

NFC South

Image courtesy of @LeeSharpeNFL

New Orleans Saints (9-2)

It has been a really strange year for the Saints. They lost Drew Brees in Week 2, but then went on a five-game win streak with Teddy Bridgewater. Since Brees’ return they are 3-1, and essentially in full control of the NFC South. Right now they have a >99% chance of winning the South thanks to their last-gasp victory against the Carolina Panthers in Week 12. They actually have a chance to clinch the South this week if they win and the Carolina Panthers lose on Sunday.

Entering their Thanksgiving game against the Atlanta Falcons the Saints have a 63% chance of owning a first-round bye. A win this week will see them have approximately an 80% chance of sealing that week-off. A win this week combined with favourable results in Seattle and Baltimore could see them have as much as a 50% chance of the number one seed come the end of the year.

Ben Rolfe

NFL Analyst