ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 24: Peyton Hendershot #89 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates a touchdown with Jake Ferguson #87 and Dalton Schultz #86 during the second half in the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

With the first three games of Week 12 in the books, the 2022 NFL playoff race remains wide open.

The Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings were all victorious on Thanksgiving, bolstering their postseason hopes in the process.


NFL Playoff Standings

AFC

  1. Kansas City Chiefs, 8-2 (1st in AFC West)
  2. Buffalo Bills, 8-3 (1st in AFC East)
  3. Tennessee Titans, 7-3 (1st in AFC South)
  4. Baltimore Ravens, 7-3 (1st in AFC North)
  5. Miami Dolphins, 7-3 (wild card)
  6. Cincinnati Bengals, 6-4 (wild card)
  7. New York Jets, 6-4 (wild card)
  8. New England Patriots, 6-5
  9. Los Angeles Chargers, 5-5 
  10. Indianapolis Colts, 4-6-1 
  11. Jacksonville Jaguars, 3-7 
  12. Las Vegas Raiders, 3-7 
  13. Cleveland Browns, 3-7 
  14. Denver Broncos 3-7 
  15. Pittsburgh Steelers, 3-7 
  16. Houston Texans, 1-8-1

NFC

  1. Philadelphia Eagles, 9-1 (1st in NFC East)
  2. Minnesota Vikings, 9-2 (1st in NFC North)
  3. San Francisco 49ers, 6-4 (1st in NFC West)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 5-5 (1st in NFC South)
  5. Dallas Cowboys, 8-3 (wild card)
  6. New York Giants, 7-4 (wild card)
  7. Seattle Seahawks, 6-4 (wild card)
  8. Washington Commanders, 6-5 
  9. Atlanta Falcons, 5-6 
  10. Detroit Lions, 4-7 
  11. Green Bay Packers, 4-7 
  12. Arizona Cardinals, 4-7 
  13. New Orleans Saints, 4-7 
  14. Los Angeles Rams, 3-7 
  15. Carolina Panthers, 3-8 
  16. Chicago Bears, 3-8

With the standings still so tightly packed, no team has a path to clinching a playoff berth this week. Gaining separation could instead be the theme for the postseason contenders.

The Bills and Cowboys are two prime examples.

Buffalo is now a half-game ahead of the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East after Tyler Bass’ 45-yard field goal sealed a 28-25 win over the Detroit Lions.

Perhaps more consequential, Dallas has a one-game advantage over the New York Giants for second place in the NFC East and claimed the head-to-head tiebreaker with Thursday’s 28-20 victory.

The absence of one clear title favorite is among the themes of this season. Fans always expect a level of parity, but there are typically one or two teams that separate themselves from the rest.

The Cowboys symbolize that trend. They aren’t even leading their division, but they’re one of the NFL’s hottest teams.

Bob Sturm @SportsSturm

Since the return of Dak Prescott to the Cowboys, they are ranked 1st in the entire NFL in points, 1st in 3rd downs, and 1st in points per drive.

Matt Owen @ProfessorO_NFL

The Cowboys have the strongest SOV(strength of victory) in the NFC.

The Kansas City Chiefs might have something to say about that.

Kansas City, which has the AFC’s best record at 8-2, hosts a Los Angeles Rams squad that will be starting Bryce Perkins at quarterback in place of an injured Matthew Stafford. It will be ironic if this year ends with Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs reaching the Super Bowl—the most predictable outcome imaginable, even if Tyreek Hill’s exit presented a new variable in the usual formula.

Elsewhere in the AFC, the Baltimore Ravens will look to create some breathing space on the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Ravens hit the road to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have lost six of their last seven. The Bengals face off with the Tennessee Titans in a rematch of the 2022 divisional round. Baltimore might have a two-game lead for the AFC North lead when the dust clears in Week 12.

In the NFC North, the Vikings could put one hand on the division title.

The Green Bay Packers travel to take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. A loss there would maintain the five-game cushion Minnesota built by taking down New England.

The Packers and Lions still might have a mathematical chance of catching the Vikings, but it’s difficult to picture either actually doing so.

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