Go ahead and twist it anyway you want. Sift through the scenarios this way and that, creating every conceivable playoff concoction. Knock yourself out.
Ain't no getting around it. Tiebreakers, they aren't looking real good for the Cowboys. It could very well take 12-4 to get in to the tournament in the boom-or-bust lay of the land ahead. It's looking like either a first round bye, or bye-bye altogether.
And so be it, I say. They might as well start playing playoff games right now.
The teams in question are Arizona, Seattle, Philadelphia, Detroit, Green Bay, and possibly San Francisco. The situation is, win the NFC East, or be cast into tiebreakers against the runners-up in the West and North for the two wild card spots.
The problem is, the Cowboys only hold the tie-breaker advantage (most likely) against Seattle. Dallas doesn't far well against the rest in NFC, including Philadelphia in the event of a divisional tie.
The schedules remaining (with final record prediction in bold):
Green Bay: Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa, Detroit…13-3 (9-3 in conference)
Seattle: San Francisco, at Arizona, St. Louis….12-4 (10-2 in conference)
Philadelphia: Dallas, at Washington, at New York….11-5 (5-1 in division; 7-5 in conference)
Dallas: at Philadelphia, Indianapolis, at Washington…11-5 (4-2 in division; 8-4 in conference)
Arizona: at St. Louis, Seattle, at San Francisco….11-5 (8-4 in conference)
Detroit: Minnesota, at Chicago, at Green Bay….11-5 (8-4 in conference)
San Francisco: at Seattle, San Diego, Arizona…7-9 (6-6 in conference)
That scenario doesn't bode well. Philadelphia would take the NFC East, and Dallas would probably lose the tiebreakers to Arizona and Detroit based on common-game opponents.
Let's just say the prospects are murky, at best. Such is the NFC this year, so if Dallas wants to play on, they'd better just win the East and be done with it. That means 12-4 or else.
Philadelphia gets to play New York and Washington on short road trips against teams planning offseason vacations, while the Cowboys still have Indianapolis on the schedule with its postseason still in front of it. That will be a tall order for this defense to contain Luck and his offensive weaponry.
Arizona could lose out, I suppose, as they struggle with Stanton. Or, Detroit could drop a game to Minnesota, I guess. If so, it still means Dallas has to finish 3-1 in December to get to 11-5.
It's not going to be easy for the Cowboys, but worthy things never are. It beats the 6-10 blah-fest so many predicted.