NFL: All 4 NFC East teams are on pace to make the playoffs

Prognosticating football is a tough business.

Take, for example, the NFC East. The once-proud division has been a laughing stock for years and was widely considered one of the NFL's worst during the preseason. Fast forward to Sunday, and all four division teams would be in the playoffs if the postseason started after Week 12.

That's right. Even the bottom-dwelling Washington Commanders have a winning record at 7-5 and would make the playoffs alongside the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants in a world where the postseason starts next week. The Eagles would secure the No. 1 seed, while the Cowboys, Giants and Commanders — in that order — would secure the 5th through 7th seeds in the NFC.

The division would claim 57.1% of the conference's playoff berths and all of its wild-card spots thanks in part to the expanded playoff field that started last season. The Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would claim the final three playoff spots as division winners.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 24: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts after a first down during the first half in the game against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2022 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are comfortably on pace for a playoff berth. (Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Can all 4 teams actually make the playoffs?

That world doesn't exist, of course. And it's unlikely that all four remain in playoff position once the regular season is over. But the NFC East remaining this competitive through 12 weeks is an accomplishment and one of the NFL's biggest surprises in 2022. And it's not out of the question for all of them to make the postseason.

FiveThirtyEight's projection assigned every NFC East team a 50% or better chance of making the postseason based on data through Sunday afternoon's games. It bases its projections on standings and power rankings assigned to teams that consider head-to-head results. The 10-1 Eagles and 8-3 Cowboys are virtual locks with a roughly 99% chance of maintaining their postseason standing.

Commanders-Giants matchups loom large

The Giants and the Commanders are the best candidates to drop out of the playoff race, and they just so happen to play each other next week in a game that could knock the loser to the wrong side of the playoff chase. FiveThirtyEight assigns the 7-5 Commanders a 66% chance of making the playoffs following Sunday's win over the Atlanta Falcons. New York's loss to the Cowboys on Thanksgiving dropped its record to 7-4 and its playoff chances to 50%.

Per FiveThirtyEight's projections, a Commanders win against the Giants in Week 13 could boost their playoff probability all the way to 88% while dropping New York's to 27%. A Giants win could increase their probability to 73% while dropping the Commanders' to 43%.

The Giants are reeling after a 6-1 start and have lost three of their past four games. The Commanders are on a hot streak with a 6-1 record after a 1-4 start. Whatever happens next Sunday, they'll get another shot at each other two weeks later in a Week 15 rematch.

AFC East also has a chance

The NFC East isn't the only division with a shot at putting every team in the postseason. The AFC East was in a similar position after Week 10 and would claim three playoff spots based on the standings after Sunday's games. The 6-5 New England Patriots are the first team on the wrong side of the AFC playoff bubble.

If either division achieves the feat, it will be the first to put all four of its teams in the postseason. It wasn't possible until the NFL added a fourth wild-card position to each playoff bracket last postseason. It was supposed to be the AFC West with the best shot at doing so this season. Instead, as the Denver Broncos and Las Vegas Raiders flounder, the NFC East is in best position to sweep its way into the playoffs with 2/3 of the regular season in the books.