The NFC wild-card race is beginning to look like one gnarly bowl of beef stew.
Yes, it's early. Yes, there's any number of catastrophes that could take place, like Matt Stafford going down (again). But let's start with figuring out what we know.
New York Giants
Here's the reality check: of all the potential playoff teams, the Giants have the toughest road as far as schedule is concerned. New York's remaining opponents are a combined 10 games over .500. If Big Blue fails to handle a reeling Eagles team at home, the Saints-Packers-Cowboys gauntlet might be too formidable for the G-Men to rally to make the postseason.
Current strengths: Pass rush, Eli Manning's play and red-zone efficiency (so important in big games)
Gaping holes: Health at running back (Ahmad Bradshaw), wideout (Hakeem Nicks) and effectiveness of ground attack
Dallas might not be the most well-rounded team in the NFC East, but they are the healthiest, even without Miles Austin.
The Cowboys get Felix Jones back this week, which will provide DeMarco Murray an occasional breather and give the offense a change-of-pace back. That said, coach Jason Garrett would be foolish to make this a running-back-by-committee situation. Murray has been a beast, with an incredible 601 yards rushing in the past four games alone.
Current strengths: Murray's presence gives offense true balance, Tony Romo' hot play (100 plus rating in three of past four games) and a palatable schedule
Gaping holes: Little pass rush outside of DeMarcus Ware and blitz packages, mediocre safeties and an organizational tendency to play down to opponents
Matthew Stafford is playing with a broken finger, and it showed on some of his throws in Chicago. While he reportedly has looked better in practice, he will only continue to fare worse, health-wise, if Jim Schwartz doesn't get him some help in the form of a ground attack. The game constantly is on Stafford's shoulders.
Jahvid Best doesn't appear any closer to returning from a concussion. Maurice Morris should start this weekend. Detroit's ineffective run game and poor offensive balance could be the difference in both Stafford's ability to stay upright and the Lions' bid to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Current strengths:Calvin Johnson (11 touchdowns), best third-down defense in NFL (28.5 percent) and ability to create turnovers and opponent mistakes.
Gaping holes: Inconsistent and ineffective running game, an offense too dependent on the big play and a porous run defense
The Falcons also find themselves in a tough position to capture a wild-card spot, considering they already have four conference losses, which could be a huge negative come playoff tiebreaking time. The Falcons have a very manageable schedule going forward, with games against the Vikings, Panthers and Jaguars over the next five weeks. The team also received a break during that run, as their toughest opponent -- the Texans -- just lost their starting quarterback.
Current strengths: Explosive passing attack when Julio Jones is healthy, a running game capable of closing out games and a manageable schedule over next five weeks
Gaping holes: Erratic offense on first down, plenty of QB pressure but not enough sacks and WR drops on catchable balls (22 and counting).
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles
These clubs had the potential to make a playoff run, but both will fall short.
The Bucs are an easy call to make. As my NFL.com colleague Mike Lombardi so articulately pointed out, they are playing like the Headless Horsemen at a time when they can't afford a lapse in leadership.
The Eagles can't suffer any more blows, self-inflicted or courtesy of Adrian Wilson. As talented as this team is, at 3-6, it will take no less than winning out to secure the sixth and final playoff spot. With Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin ailing, and an unpredictable defense running the gamut of disruptive to completely passive, 2011 looks like a lost season in Philadelphia.