2022 NFC Pirates Playoff Standings, Week 12

After playing in the historic Week 10 game at Munich’s Allianz Arena, between nearly 10,000 miles of air travel each, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks enjoyed a reprieve this past weekend. While there have certainly been some noteworthy results between the two NFC playoff contenders — most notably Dallas-Mn and San Francisco-AZ — none of them have changed as the Pirates stand in a conference playoff spot. The Seahawks weren’t so lucky.

Atlanta held a closer half game in the NFC Southern standings with a win over Chicago but the Buckeyes remain at the top of the division heading into Week 12, which means they also remain the fourth seed at the moment. However, when the 49ers crushed the Cardinals on Monday night and improved their record to 6-4, they also changed places with the Seahawks, capturing the NFC West lead and sending Seattle into the Wild Card race.

Here’s how the NFC playoff race stands after 11 weeks:

1. Philadelphia (9-1), NFC East Leader

The Eagles had to score 14 fourth-quarter points to edge past the Colts, 17-16, but even that disappointing score doesn’t change their current status as the NFC team to win at the moment. They already took top seed Minnesota to a head-to-head win in Week 2, but now they’re outpacing the Vikings. All of this said, the Cowboys are clearly still in contention for the division title, so the Eagles can’t relax in the next two weeks against the Packers and Titans. They have a head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas but that could be erased when the two teams meet again in Week 16.

2. Minnesota (8-2), NFC North Leader

Week 11 probably hurt the confidence of Vikings fans more than it did Minnesota’s playoff hopes. FiveThirtyEight.com still gives the Vikings a 97% chance of winning the division and a 99% chance of making the playoffs. They have a four-game lead over Detroit with seven remaining and have already defeated every other team in the NFC North. However, they actually have a -2 point overall difference after being completely smothered by the Minneapolis Cowboys by a score of 40-3. This differential lends credence to critics who believe the Vikings’ dominance in one-score games is unsustainable.

3. San Francisco (6-4), NFC West Leader

The 49ers were the NFC’s Big Week Winners. With Jimmy Garoppolo throwing four touchdown passes Monday night, they easily took care of a deteriorating Cardinal, 38-10, and in the process moved into first place in the West. This division now looks like a two-team race with the Rams fading quickly, and San Francisco replacing Seattle as the best team in the group. The Pirates ended the Seahawks’ four-game winning streak in Germany in Week 10, and then the 49ers created a tie over the division with their win Monday night. The 49ers and Seahawks are now 6-4 but San Francisco won their first head-to-head battle of Week 2. The two teams meet again in Week 15. The 49ers have won three straight, all against division opponents, and now take the Saints home in Week 12. Then the schedule gets tougher for San Francisco with games against Miami, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Washington. However, the 49ers seemed to be rolling in at the right time, with Garoppolo making the most of a deep pool of skillful position players.

4. Tampa Bay (5-5), NFC South Leader

The Bucs didn’t move up the standings while out of action, as noted, but the Falcons turned up a little heat in the division by narrowly passing Chicago on Sunday. Atlanta is now just half a game away from Tampa Bay, though the Bucs own a head-to-head tiebreaker now. The Buccaneers Week 18 trip to Atlanta is likely to be an important game for both teams. Still Tampa Bay far You are more likely to earn the postseason via a divisional crown rather than a Wild Card spot; FiveThirtyEight.com pegs the Bucs with a 77% chance of winning the division and a 79% chance of making the playoffs. You do the math.

5. Dallas (7-3), #1 wild card

Dallas was more impressive than the 49ers in Week 11, but the Eagles didn’t pitch any pitches so they remain in a group of teams heading toward one of the three wild card points. After defeating the Vikings, the Cowboys jumped a spot in the wild card standings, taking the first of those three points away from the Giants, who were easily beaten by the Detroit Lions. Since dropping a lackluster 19-3 decision to the Buccaneers in Week 1, the Cowboys have won six of their eight and their only two losses are at Philadelphia in Week 6 and Green Bay two weeks ago in an overtime shootout after they blew a 14-point fourth quarter lead. Over their last three games, the Cowboys scored 117 points and brought their overall point differential to +84, the best in the NFC. Dallas has the fifth seed over the Giants for the time being due to their head-to-head victory in Week 3, but those two teams will battle it out again on Thanksgiving.

5. NY Giants (7-3), Wild Card #2

The Giants are 7-3 and remain one of the NFL’s best stories in 2022, but they’ve lost two of their last three stories and now have the spirited Washington Chiefs breathing down their necks for a third-place finish in the NFC East. New York and Washington will meet twice in the next four weeks, and in fact, all four of the Giants’ next games will be against NFC East foes, so their position in the team standings will be very clear in about a month. The Giants have scored distinct wins over Tennessee and Baltimore this season, but they need to pick up some big “Ws” on the NFC side of the ledger in the coming weeks.

7. Seattle (6-4), Wild Card #3

Even with their loss to the Bucs in the first game of the NFL season in Germany, the Seahawks have won four of their last five and five of their last seven. They also rallied in the final quarter in what could have been a blowout, so they should come out of their week with plenty of momentum on their side. Their next three games are against the Raiders, Rams, and Panthers, all teams with three wins at the moment. If they can hold serve in those games, they will welcome the 49ers to Seattle in Week 15 with a chance to regain the NFC West lead.

Washington has quietly won five of its last six games, slumping a just three-point decision against Minnesota in Week 9, and seems to have found a spark in quarterback Taylor Hynecke. That includes a 32-21 win over the previously unbeaten Eagles two weeks ago. Now just half a game away from the last wild card spot, Washington tied a game at home against Atlanta in Week 12 before an unusual part of the schedule that sees them play the Giants in two straight games, with a bye week in between. The Leaders’ 3-4 record in conference play and the strength of .397 wins won’t be so useful to potential tiebreakers as they currently are, but the team will have a chance to play the Giants on their own, at least.

Like the Buccaneers, the Falcons’ best bet to make the playoffs is with a division title, since they are 1.5 games away from the wild card spot and the field above them is crowded with teams that are playing well. If the Bucs can’t defeat the Browns on Sunday, Atlanta could move into first place in the NFC South by half a game with a win in Washington.

The Lions have a long way to go — match odds on FiveThirtyEight.com are just 12% — but they’ve put themselves on the fringes of the NFC race with three straight wins, and in the past two weeks have rediscovered their preseason offensive prowess, scoring 31 goals against the Giants and Bears. If they can upset the Detroit Bills on Thanksgiving, the Lions will have to be taken seriously as playoff favorites.

What lies ahead in Tampa Bay:

The Buccaneers are coming off their bye week with another road trip, albeit a much shorter one than their previous trip to Munich. Tampa Bay will be seeking its first win over an AFC team this year when it had to play Cleveland to play the 3-7 Browns. A win in Cleveland and a loss to Atlanta in Washington — the favored pair of scores on Sunday — should give the Buccaneers some breathing room in the NFC South. However, it won’t be easy to square off this win against a Browns team that features the NFL’s fourth-ranked rushing offense and a pair of defensive stars in Myles Garrett and Denzel Ward.

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