What is the Dallas Cowboys playoff magic number?

Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

With all of this talk surrounding the demise of the Dallas Cowboys, there are numbers that both support and contradict these so-called worries. The Cowboys are welcoming back a few missed faces for what looks like a potentially deep playoff run.

The rest of the NFC East rivals are close to their full roster yet they still trail an ailing and Covid riddled NFL franchise. Every team in the division has a couple of key players missing but none more currently than the Cowboys.

Dallas played on Thanksgiving without their two top wideouts and their entire starting defensive line. Sprinkle in missing their starting safety, their highest-paid tight end, and a banged-up starting running back and you have a big reason why they have been in a slump.

So, can the Dallas Cowboys not win the NFC East this season and miss the playoffs? The answer is yes but I will show you how unlikely that scenario is.

The numbers don’t lie for the playoff chances of the Dallas Cowboys

Oddsmakers currently have the Cowboys as having a 92% chance of making the playoffs. The Cowboys could drop their next three games and still have a 51% chance of making the playoffs. If they win their next three games, the odds of them earning the first seed go up to 18%.

The Cowboys would have to drop their next two games with Washington winning both of their next contests just to tie. Since both of those teams have a head-to-head matchup in that span, Washington would end up with the tiebreaker in that scenario.

Washington is currently tied for having the league’s longest winning streak at three games. They travel to face a Raiders team that has had a roller coaster of a season. If they win that game and Dallas falls to New Orleans on Thursday night, cause for concern might be warranted.

Dallas would have to travel to Washington in a game that would give the winner the lead in the NFC East race. With the way the NFC has played this season, chances are Dallas would still be in the seventh and final playoff spot.

Dallas losing both of their next two contests still gives them a 70% chance of making the playoffs. Dallas, Washington, and the Giants have six games remaining while the Eagles, who have yet to have their bye week, only have five games remaining.

Since the Cowboys have already defeated the other teams in the division once this season, the worst they can do in the Division is 2-4. Washington has only played and won against the Giants so they still have five division games remaining.

With six games remaining and Dallas having a two-game lead in the standings, the Cowboys magic number stands at four games with an asterisk. If Dallas wins four games and one of those is against Washington, the Cowboys cannot be caught and would lock up the Division. That doesn’t even count the losses or ties the head-to-head matchups the Division still has to account for.

So let’s say Dallas wins this week and next week. They would be 9-4 and have a stranglehold for the East. That would mean Washington would be 6-7 with four games to play. That is if they beat Las Vegas this weekend.

That would also put Washington and the rest of the East on Wild-Card notice. That scenario would give the Cowboys an opportunity to lock up the Division Week 15 in New York.

With Philadelphia playing the Jets this weekend and then having their bye week, the Week 15 matchup against Washington could be of interest for Dallas if they do indeed win their next three games. Unless that is if the New York Jets do us a solid this weekend and upend the Eagles.

I know that is greedy especially when I believe we owe them a thank you card for not agreeing to ship safety Jamal Adams to Dallas. It doesn’t matter what the Giants do against Miami this weekend or the Chargers the next as a Week 15 win by Dallas would make the inevitable official. That is if Dallas can start another winning streak.

That means a Cowboys three-game winning streak coupled with a single loss by each division team would allow the Cowboys to punch their playoff tickets. That would also ensure they would host at least one game in Big D.

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It is getting close to setting up travel plans if you are a Cowboys game attendee but there still lies work that has to be done. Although there are so many different ways the standings can change, the scenario that I find most plausible is a Week 15 division-clinching win.