First things first, the easy part.
The Dallas Cowboys cannot lose another game. Due to some horrendous early season giveaways, the margin for error does not exist. There is no way a nine win team makes the playoffs in the NFC. If Dallas were to lose one more, their ceiling would be 9-7.
If you want in the tournament, you better hope the Dallas wins out. Thankfully, the Cowboys have a few things going their way in this department.
Next week, Dallas plays a New York Giants team experimenting with the quarterback duo of Geno Smith and Davis Webb. An already underwhelming offense looks even more ripe for the picking as neither signal caller exudes confidence. After that, the Cowboys play another underachieving team in the Oakland Raiders.
If Dallas can win both of those games, Elliott returns to face the Seahawks in an absolute must win followed by a rematch against the Eagles. It is entirely possible that Philadelphia might rest a lot of starters as they should have the division and maybe even a #1 seed clinched by then.
So, if you’re scoring at home, Dallas must run the table in December and get to 10-6. Now, for the others.
Here is a breakdown of the other four teams ahead of Dallas and their schedules.
CAROLINA – at New Orleans, vs. Minnesota, vs. Green Bay, vs. Tampa Bay, at Atlanta
ATLANTA – vs. Minnesota, vs. New Orleans, at Tampa Bay, at New Orleans, vs. Carolina
SEATTLE – vs. Philadelphia, at Jacksonville, vs. L.A. Rams, at Dallas, vs. Arizona
DETROIT – at Baltimore, at Tampa Bay, vs. Chicago, at Cincinnati, vs. Green Bay
Is it possible that Carolina loses three of the remaining five and only gets to ten wins? With that schedule, it sure is. New Orleans, Minnesota and Atlanta will all be tough games. While it might seem counterproductive on the surface, Dallas may actually root for Atlanta in Week 17. If Carolina ends up tied with Dallas at 10-6, the Cowboys would get in before them based on conference record.
How to root regarding Carolina: losses at New Orleans, vs. Minnesota and at Atlanta, win over Green Bay.
The head-to-head loss in November means Dallas cannot end up tied with the Falcons. At 7-4, Atlanta probably also needs to lose three games while also beating Carolina. Thankfully for Dallas, this is very feasible based on their schedule too. If Atlanta ends up 9-7, the Super Bowl loser will watch Super Bowl LII from home.
How to root regarding Atlanta: losses vs. Minnesota, vs. New Orleans, at New Orleans, and a win over Carolina.