The Dallas Cowboys are guaranteed a spot in the 2023-24 NFL playoffs, but heading into Week 18 action, how are they going to strategize who they might end up playing in the Wild Card round? The San Francisco 49ers will be starting Sam Darnold this weekend against the Los Angeles Rams, and have wrapped up the top seed in the NFC. The highest seed the Cowboys can attain is the no. 2 seed, and they can't get any lower than the no. 5 seed.
That means Dallas will play the 7th seed in the Wild Card round, the 6th seed, or the 4th seed, and there are a variety of potential matchups within those possibilities. What would be an ideal scenario for Dallas? Which matchups would be easiest, and which would be the toughest?
4. Whoever wins the NFC South
Whoever ends up winning the NFC South -- the Saints, Falcons or Buccaneers -- would almost undoubtedly be the "easiest" first-round opponent the Cowboys could possibly have.
Whichever one of the teams makes the postseason is not going to have a quarterback who has really "been there, done that" in terms of the playoffs, although If you had to individually rank these teams in the order you'd rather play them individually, it would probably look like this:
- Atlanta Falcons
- New Orleans Saints
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I think it would be somewhat of an ugly scenario for the Cowboys to lose on Sunday and then have to go to Tampa Bay to play the Bucs. And the New Orleans Saints have been hot and cold all season long, so that's not exactly a team you'd want to go on the road to face, either.
Dallas might be hoping the Falcons win the NFC South, but I think this first-round matchup would arguably be the "easiest" for Dallas, and not all of these would be road matchups. It's possible the Cowboys could host the Saints, who have a shot at the 7th seed as well.
Regardless of the "how", I think you can safely say that whatever teams come out of the NFC South, though slightly unpredictable, are likely the "easiest" potential first-round matchups for the Cowboys.