How Thanksgiving games impacted AFC, NFC Playoff Pictures


The AFC and NFC playoff pictures were impacted after the Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants games on Thanksgiving.

As has become tradition in the NFL, there were three games held on Thanksgiving. Of course, the first two contests are reserved for the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys, both of whom host the holiday game on an annual basis. This year, there were pivotal playoff implications for both contests.

In the opener, the Lions nearly forced overtime after tying the game 25-25 with less than 30-seconds remaining, but watched as the Buffalo Bills marched down field and kicked a game-winning field goal to notch the 28-25 victory.

As for the Cowboys, they overcame a 13-7 deficit at halftime to the New York Giants to secure the 28-20 win.

So, how did the results of these two games impact the AFC and NFC playoff pictures?

Updated AFC Playoff Picture after Bills narrowly defeat Lions on Thanksgiving

Let’s start with the AFC side. Below are the seven teams that would make the playoffs if the season were to end after the first two games of the Thanksgiving slate.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs (8-2)
  2. Buffalo Bills (8-3)
  3. Tennessee Titans (7-3)
  4. Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
  5. Miami Dolphins (7-3)
  6. New England Patriots (6-4)
  7. Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)

With their victory, Buffalo moved up three spots in the playoff picture. Specifically, they knocked the Dolphins from the No. 2 spot all the way down to the No. 5 spot. Entering Week 12, the Dolphins held the tiebreaker over the Bills by way of their Week 3 win. If the Dolphins were to win on Sunday, they’d move back to the No. 2 spot.

The Chiefs would automatically receive a first-round bye, as they have the higher winning percentage. Here are the first-round matchups that would take place if these standings were to hold.

  • (2) Buffalo Bills vs. (7) Cincinnati Bengals
  • (3) Tennessee Titans vs. (6) New England Patriots
  • (4) Baltimore Ravens vs. (5) Miami Dolphins

Of course, the higher seed in each contest host their matchups, so these games would be played in Buffalo, Tennessee, and Baltimore, respectively.

Updated NFC Playoff Picture after Cowboys win over Giants, Lions loss on Thanksgiving

Now, let’s take a look at the NFC playoff picture after the Cowboys win, and the losses by the Giants and Lions.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-1)
  2. Minnesota Vikings (8-2)
  3. San Francisco 49ers (6-4)
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
  5. Dallas Cowboys (8-3)
  6. New York Giants (7-4)
  7. Seattle Seahawks (6-4)

Even with the end result of the Cowboys-Giants game, both maintain their same playoff positioning. As for the Lions, they’re now 4-7 on the year. While not necessarily out of it, the Lions still have to go on a run from here on out to try and secure one of the playoff spots.

The Eagles still maintain the top seed, meaning they would secure the first-round bye. Here’s how the first-round matchups would look like:

  • (2) Minnesota Vikings vs. (7) Seattle Seahawks
  • (3) San Francisco 49ers vs. (6) New York Giants
  • (4) Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. (5) Dallas Cowboys.

Minnesota, San Francisco, and Tampa Bay would all host playoff games by way of holding the higher seeds in their respective matchups.

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