Thanks to some early season dubious losses and a recent rash of injuries, the Dallas Cowboys are in a position of need as the playoff run nears.
As the holiday season descends upon us, it’s the Dallas Cowboys who are in need of the NFL’s version of giving.
Regardless of what you might think, the Cowboys are in a position where help from others may be their only shot at the playoffs. These are the positions you find yourself in when you blow double-digit leads at home. That issue becomes even more prevalent when you realize both teams Dallas gifted wins to earlier are now ahead of them in the standings.
Dallas has seven games left in the regular season to help themselves. Spoiler alert. They won’t win all seven. They likely need to win six and definitely need to win at least five of those seven to have any shot at all.
This Sunday will go a long way towards determining which route the Cowboys will need to take in order to get in. If Dallas upsets the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football, an outside shot at the division still remains. Lose and you can forget anything else besides scrapping and clawing for the final wild card spot.
Heading into this weekend, the Eagles sit atop the NFC at 8-1. The other three division leaders are all at 7-2. Carolina owns the first wild card spot at 7-3 while Seattle is last in at 6-3.
Then there is the gaggle of four teams, including Dallas, that are all 5-4. Two of those teams have head-to-head wins over the Cowboys. As you can see, even though Dallas trails Seattle by just one game, the land mines are everywhere.
Let’s take a look at the Dallas Cowboys two routes towards January football and break down how they possibly can get their foot in the door.
Winning the NFC East, even with a win on Sunday, seems unrealistic. The Eagles have the Bears and Giants still to play meaning, unless things go drastically bad, they have ten wins in the bag. If they lose all their other games (at Seattle, at L.A. Rams, vs. Oakland and two against Dallas), Dallas could win the division by finishing 5-2.
The history of teams who start out 8-1, only to end up going 2-5 is non-existent. It’s not a fluke to win eight of your first nine. Let’s just forget about the division and go wild card hunting.
Could Carolina stumble? Absolutely. They go as their quarterback goes. When Cam Newton plays well, they are borderline unbeatable. When he plays average or worse, they rarely win. Carolina still has games at New Orleans and at Atlanta, along with a home game versus Minnesota. If they lose all of those, that gets them to six losses. Their other games (at N.Y. Jets, home versus Green Bay and Tampa Bay) all look winnable to say the least. Let’s give the Panthers 11 wins and the fifth seed.
That leaves Seattle as the target. The good news is that they have injury issues as well. Even better they have a pretty rough schedule remaining. Home games against the Falcons, Eagles, Rams and Cardinals flank road contests at San Francisco, Jacksonville and Dallas.
Even if they beat the 49ers and Cardinals as they should, it’s feasible they lose the rest of those games. This scenario puts the Seahawks right around 9-10 wins. Dallas will need to beat them to have a shot at any tiebreaker and is absolutely rooting for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons remaining schedule.
Atlanta has two games with New Orleans, along with home games against Minnesota and Carolina. The other two games are against divisional rival Tampa Bay. It seems reasonable to assume the Falcons lose at least three and possibly four games here meaning they would finish at 8-8.
Another team in the 5-4 pile that Dallas may be able to breathe easy about is Green Bay. Without Aaron Rodgers, they have only won once, against the Bears. The Packers do not have a daunting schedule ahead of them but it’s hard to envision them winning five games sans Rodgers.
Lastly, there is the Detroit Lions which may be the team Cowboys fans should be directing their bad juju towards. Detroit, also at 5-4, does not play Dallas this year so the Cowboys cannot control their destiny as it pertains to the Motor City Kitties.
Detroit also has a fairly easy remaining schedule. Two games with Chicago, along with home games against Minnesota and Green Bay complete their divisional duties. Outside of that, they play at Baltimore, at Cincinnati and at Tampa Bay. Not exactly a murderer’s row there, even if they are all outdoor road games late in the year.
Ten wins seems pretty likely. If Detroit gets to 11, that could spell doom for Dallas.
So, if you’re so inclined, over the next seven weeks, if you are a Dallas Cowboys fan, you will want to root against Seattle, Detroit and the Eagles. You also need to see your team win at least five and possibly six of their final seven.
Tis the season for wishing.