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Why NFL Game of Week 7 Isn’t Vikings-Steelers

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Because the Cowboys and the Falcons are playing.

While Steelers and Vikings is being billed as a possible super bowl match-up, it merely ends up as a regular season contest which is a minor help to the division title hops of the winner, and a minor deterrent to the loser.  Atlanta’s trip to JerryWorld is so much more than that.

For one thing, this game could very easily decide a  playoff berth.  The way the NFL tiebreaker system is structured, head to head match-ups decide all.  And with the Giants and Saints comfortably headed towards first round byes, both the Cowboys and Falcons might be looking at wild card seasons.

Of course, they’ll have to knock off each other before they can worry about the playoffs, but I want to demonstrate just how important this game is for the Cowboys in particular.  If they fail to beat the Falcons at home:

  • They fall to 1-2 at Cowboys Stadium this year.
  • They fall effectively three games behind the potentially 5-1 Falcons in the NFC Wild Card race.
  • They still have one of the toughest schedules in the NFL the rest of the way, with only Oakland, Washington (twice), and perhaps San Diego as winnable games.
  • At 3-3, the Cowboys will be behind the Eagles, Bears, Packers, and perhaps the Cardinals as well in the NFC Wild Card race, and with their playoff hopes in dire straights.

Of course, if the Cowboys do win, they’ll sit effectively a game ahead of the Falcons, and in the pilots seat for a playoff berth.  And things won’t be quite as dire for the Falcons.  But even the Falcons won’t play an inter-divisional opponent in the next two months who will have a greater effect on their playoff odds than the Cowboys.  Consider, if the Falcons lose:

  • At 4-2, they could find themselves two games behind the Saints in the division.
  • The Panthers, left for dead in the NFC prior to this, could move to 3-3 against the Bills.
  • They still have to play the Giants, Eagles, and Saints (twice).
  • They would fall to a disappointing 1-2 on the road, opening serious questions about their viability to play well away from home.
  • They lost CB Brian Williams for the season, and they have major questions to answer about their defense.

All questions will be answered for one of these teams on Sunday.  For the Vikings and Steelers, the same certainly can not be said.

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