How the Cowboys can somehow still win the NFC East


How the Dallas Cowboys, unbelievably, can still win the NFC East after a victory over the Washington Redskins on Monday Night.

With just over ninety seconds left in the game, it looked as though the Dallas Cowboys would be facing the very real possibility of losing their third game with quarterback Matt Cassel at the helm and the defense holding an opponent under 13 points.

What transpired over the final 1:47 may have been the thing that turns this abysmal season around and rewards this team for continuing to fight, regardless of what situation is put in front of them.

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A mind-boggling horrible decision by Washington receiver DeSean Jackson leading to a Cowboys touchdown, followed by incredibly bad kickoff coverage and equally bad pass coverage by Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne, leading to a tie brought all the drama you could ever ask for.

If ever there was a time to think this would go the same way the rest of this season has, this was it.

Then, the special teams finally was special.  Returner Lucky Whitehead gave the Cowboys excellent field position and Mr. Consistent Dan Bailey ended the night with a 54-yard field goal, right down the middle.

In the end, the Cowboys, for all the doom and gloom, somehow are right in the hunt to win this remarkably bad division and achieve one of the goals set all the way back in OTA’s.

Truth be told, I had an entirely different column in mind as I watched this game evolve.  This space was going to be filled by yet another cry for a switch to backup Kellen Moore.

A gutsy performance by this team and a stay of execution does not change my feelings on that subject either, but it does work towards delaying that column for another week.

Just know that regardless of the score, this team cannot pull off this miracle with Matt Cassel at quarterback.  Dallas has played three games, scoring just one touchdown, thanks to his pathetic performances.  The defense cannot continue to bail out a guy who is 48/84 for barely over 500 yards with no touchdowns in games that they have allowed 10, 13 and 16.

Throw in the three interception day versus the New York Giants and it’s clear that he’s incapable of leading a team to a division title.

But all that is for another day.

Today is about rejoicing over a win that makes things all kinds of muddled and simultaneously intriguing.

At 4-8, unbelievably, this team is just one game out of first place.  Atop the division sits three teams at 5-7.

The Redskins, who have not won a game on the road all year, have three of their last four away from home with the one home game being against a Buffalo Bills team that will assuredly blitz just as much, if not more, than Dallas did last night.

The Eagles are in the exact opposite position.  They have three of their final four at home but that’s not necessarily a good thing for them.  They have three home losses, all to teams with losing records, and face the 6-6 Bills and 10-2 Cardinals along with the Redskins, who they already lost to earlier.

Lastly, the Giants still have both the undefeated Panthers and the 8-4 Vikings to contend with, along with the Eagles to end the season.

That means the Cowboys still have a pulse.  A pulse that gets stronger by handling their own business and winning as many games as possible.  A task that will not be easy with games against Green Bay, the Jets and the Bills still on the docket.

The best scenario possible is for the following to occur.

  • Washington loses to Chicago next week and the Bills the week after, beats the Eagles and loses to Dallas, finishing 6-10 and out of the picture.
  • Philadelphia loses to the Bills next week and the Cardinals the week after as well as the Redskins, but beats the Giants, also finishing 6-10.
  • New York loses out to Miami, Carolina, Minnesota and the Eagles to finish 5-11.

This would allow Dallas the opportunity to finish as badly as 6-10 and still win the division as long they beat Washington to get to 4-2 in the division.

Oddly enough, that best scenario isn’t exactly far-fetched.  I’m sure that all three teams will win at least one, if not two more games but it’s hard to see any of them doing better than 7-9.  That’s where the divisional record comes into play.

With everyone stuck on two wins, except Dallas who’s at three and the Giants only able to get to three, the Cowboys can do themselves a world of good if they beat Washington to end the season and get to four wins.

The Eagles are the only other team that can to four so either Washington or New York needs to beat them in order for Dallas to make it on tiebreakers.

Next: Cowboys edge Redskins in a furious fourth quarter, 19-16

The only thing we truly know is this.  No one can predict what this division is capable of doing.  Every one of these teams will likely lose at least one more game.  Which games they win or lose seem to be the most important aspect at this point.

For one night at least, the Cowboys are right back in the mix.

Seems like that they have some “unfinished business” to tend to…