Connect with us

Star Blog

Complete Breakdown of Cowboys Playoff Scenarios

Jess Haynie



A Cowboys Win vs Giants Can't Be Taken For Granted 1
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

With two weeks left in the regular season, the 8-6 Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt for a playoff spot. Despite all of the turmoil that has hit the Cowboys in 2017, they could still sneak into the tournament and end the year on a surprisingly positive note.

Before we dive into all of the scenarios, here is the current playoff picture in the NFL. Our focus today will of course be on the NFC, where the Cowboys play. I'm sure we'd all agree that if Dallas could actually play another AFC team this season, we'll be damn happy with whoever we get.

NFC Playoff Picture


Today, we're going to get into every possible scenario that would allow the Cowboys to make the playoffs. Our focus will be on the other NFC teams that have to lose for Dallas to make it in. Just know that the Cowboys have to win their next two games (vs Seahawks, @ Eagles) to even be in the mix for a playoff spot.

These scenarios aren't that complex, really. The Cowboys need for at least one of the three contending teams from the NFC South, New Orleans, Carolina, or Atlanta, to go 0-2 in these final two weeks. We'll look at each teams' remaining schedule for just how likely any of that is.

That's not all. Dallas also needs for the Detroit Lions to lose one of their final two games. Both are currently tied at 8-6 overall and, if they remain tied at the end of the year, would also have identical 8-4 records in the conference. That means it goes to the "common games" tiebreaker, and we'll explain shortly why that's not good for the Cowboys.

Drew Brees

New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees

Scenario 1: Saints Go Marching Out

  • WK 16 -- Atlanta Falcons
  • WK 17 -- @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It's hard to fathom New Orleans losing both of these games. They will be looking for revenge after losing to Atlanta a few weeks ago. And if they were to lose that games, the Saints would be playing for their playoff lives the following week against a weak Bucs team. They have too good a coach and quarterback to just completely collapse with so much on the line.

However, if the unthinkable happened, the Saints would be 10-6 and 7-5 against NFC teams. If Dallas wins out, they will also be 10-6 but have an 8-4 record against the NFC. With no head-to-head tiebreaker to worry about, the Cowboys would move ahead of New Orleans for playoff seeding. In this scenario, Dallas would likely be the 6th seed with Carolina winning the NFC South and Atlanta taking the 5th-seed Wild Card.

Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton

Scenario 2: Panthers Plummet

  • WK 16 -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • WK 17 -- @ Atlanta Falcons

I don't trust Carolina quite as much as New Orleans, but they get the benefit of playing the Buccaneers at home rather than in Tampa. While last night's game showed the Bucs are still willing to fight even with nothing to play for, the Panthers have won six of their last seven games.

If the Bucs can pull off the upset this week, that Week 17 game in Atlanta becomes a matter of survival for the Panthers. If the Falcons were to also lose this week in New Orleans, which seems likely, then it essentially be a "Loser Leaves Town" match as one of them would miss the playoffs.

Pressure goes one of two ways in sports; it either drives or distracts you. Cam Newton has a great play when things are running smoothly, but he doesn't always respond well to adversity. That could give the Cowboys the opening they need.

Matt Ryan

Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan

Scenario 3: Falcons Collapse, Again

  • WK 16 -- @ New Orleans Saints
  • WK 17 -- Carolina Panthers

This is, by far, the most-likely scenario for Dallas to get into the playoffs. The Falcons will have a hard time sweeping the Saints with the second game in New Orleans. The Saints can clinch a playoff spot with their 11th win and push for one of the top two seeds in the NFC. They will be plenty motivated.

After what we saw last night in Tampa Bay, and for most of this year, the Falcons are clearly not the same team every week. Which version shows up to these final two games? There is an Atlanta team that can absolutely beat the Saints and Panthers, but there's one that could easily lose out and slide right out of the playoffs.

If Atlanta splits the two games, that doesn't help the Cowboys. They have that head-to-head tiebreaker from beating Dallas in Week 10 and that would keep them on top. They have to lose both for Dallas to pass them in the playoff standings.

Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford

Detroit Lions & Common Games

  • WK 16 -- @ Cincinnati Bengals
  • WK 17 -- Green Bay Packers

So yeah, even if Dallas catches a break and one those NFC South teams goes 0-2, we also need the Lions to drop a game and get out of the way. If they win out, Detroit would match Dallas in overall record (10-6) and conference record (8-4). That would bring the common games tiebreaker into play, which work in the Lions' favor.

This year, Dallas and Detroit share the following opponents: Arizona, Atlanta, Green Bay, NY Giants. In this scenario, Dallas will have gone 3-2 against those teams and Detroit will have gone 4-1. The games against division rivals (NY for the Cowboys, GB for the Lions) do count twice.

Dallas lost to both Atlanta and Green Bay. The Lions will have one loss from the Falcons but will have swept the Packers and beaten the Cardinals and Giants. Therefore, Detroit would get the common games tiebreaker.

What's worse, Detroit has a pretty easy road ahead of them. This week they get a Bengals team who just announced that their head coach is a lame duck. Maybe Cincinnati's veterans fight hard to send Marvin Lewis out in style, but they're 5-9 and haven't beaten a good team all season.

If they get that win, the Lions then head home to welcome what should be a Brett Hundley-led Packers team. After losing last week and being eliminated from playoff contention, Green Bay will likely put Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve. I'm sure they'll still play for pride against a hated rival, but the Lions are the better team this year and will have way more motivation.

So again, three things have to happen for the Dallas Cowboys to still make the playoffs:

  1. Dallas has to win out and finish 10-6.
  2. Either the Falcons, Panthers, or Saints has to go 0-2 in the final weeks.
  3. Detroit has to lose one of their final two games.

Now, there is one other fantastic scenario where both the Panthers and Saints go 0-2 while Dallas and Detroit win out. That would put all four teams at 10-6 with the Cowboys and Lions having the better records against NFC teams. That means Dallas and Detroit are your Wild Cards while Atlanta wins the NFC South. This is so unlikely, though, that it's barely worth consideration.


Can the Cowboys still get in even if they finish 9-7?

Unfortunately not. The Saints and Panthers already have 10 wins. Even if the Falcons finish 9-7 as well, they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys from their Week 10 victory. Dallas has to win out and finish 10-6 to have any shot at the playoffs.

Is there any scenario where Dallas can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16?

None. At best, Dallas can jump from #9 to #7 in the NFC if they beat Seattle and the Lions also lose. But even if Carolina and Atlanta both lose this week, they would still hold on to their Wild Card spots thanks to better records (Panthers) and tie breakers (Falcons).

Why didn't we just win one or two more games this year and avoid all this mess?

This year is a great reminder of why every game counts in an NFL season. If just a couple of plays had gone differently against the Rams or Packers in Weeks 4-5, Dallas would not only be in the driver's seat for a Wild Card spot but could even be pushing the Eagles to still take the NFC East.

But alas, we have the situation we have. All Dallas can do is keep winning and hope the other playoff contenders don't do the same.

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. dallas1966

    December 19, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    Jess I can see the Panthers losing their last two games. With the Panthers owner making the announcement that he is selling the team, once the Panthers have played their last game, will be a distraction, because the players on the Panthers will have to address that subject matter, instead of the upcoming games. In addition, to LB Thomas Davis suspension.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Star Blog

Has the Time Come to Bid Farewell to WR Cole Beasley?

Brian Martin



Has the Time Come to Bid Farewell to WR Cole Beasley?

It was inevitable that we would reach this point eventually. I warned Cowboys Nation back in May to prepare yourselves that 2018 might be the last time we see Cole Beasley in a Dallas Cowboys uniform, and indeed that could be the scenario that plays out. Now a free agent, Beasley is free to sign with any team of his choosing.

The Dallas Cowboys have however shown an interest in bringing Cole Beasley back in the mix. They supposedly offered him a contract extension before the start of the season, but it was a number Beasley scoffed at. To me, this suggests the two sides may have a difficult time mutually agreeing on the money amount it would take to keep him in a Cowboys uniform for what could be the rest of his career.

Being a fan favorite too many Cowboys fans, it would be hard for many of us to see Cole Beasley playing in a different uniform. But more than that, his productivity in the passing game and bond with Quarterback Dak Prescott would surely be missed and not easily replaced.

Cole Beasley, Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

As much as I hate to admit it, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys extending Beasley's contract. Unfortunately, he's just not at the top of the list when it comes to handing out contract extensions. In fact, he could be at the bottom of the pecking order.

The Cowboys still have to extend DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, and quite possibly Ezekiel Elliott and Byron Jones. All of these players are probably more of a priority than Beasley due to the positions they play and their age. That means No. 11 is likely the odd man out.

I'm not ruling out his return to Dallas just yet though. He may find the Cowboys previous offer was more than fair to the way other teams value him on the open market. That would certainly increase the possibility of him staying put and not having to uproot his family to another city.

There is no denying the Dallas Cowboys value Cole Beasley and what he brings to the passing game. His value may even rise a little now that Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan is no longer in the picture. A new OC definitely adds an interesting twist in determining Beasley's future with America's Team.

What do you think? Should the Dallas Cowboys extend Cole Beasley's contract?

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Cowboys Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill



Cowboys Chill While Pats & Rams Set to Thrill

If you were to check out the line on the Super Bowl matchup between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams, you might wander over to Sportsbook Review, where you could read a 5Dimes review and see what all the best online sportsbooks, first and foremost among them 5Dimes, are dealing on this intriguing matchup. Tom Brady and the Patriots, much to everyone’s chagrin outside the six New England states, are back in it – again – and are currently slight favorites over the emerging LA Rams.

In New England’s 37-31 victory over the Chiefs, the Patriots did what they always seem to do, which is rally late and win in dramatic fashion. It’s become almost a ho-hum experience in New England while the rest of the country bites on a bullet, cursing the embarrassment of riches and success that has been the standard of this Patriots’ franchise for two decades. But this was supposed to be the season that the dynasty would end after viewing Tom Brady’s often mediocre performances and his All-World tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hobbling up and down the field without the same reckless abandon as we’ve seen in year’s past. And then their only truly talented speed merchant capable of stretching the field, Josh Gordon, left the team under a cloud of suspicion.

Unfortunately for the rest of the nation, the Patriots' once porous defense coalesced into a rather stout unit and apparently, the two weeks between the end of the regular season and the start of the Patriots’ postseason was enough time for Brady to heal from his rumored sprained MCL that he had been dealing with in silence all season long.

Gronkowski must have also visited the same shaman as Brady because he looked as dominating as ever in ripping the Chiefs on every critical third-down throughout the final quarter. Finally, the conduit to much of Brady’s success, Julian Edelman, is now being mentioned as a Hall-of-Fame candidate when his run is done.

It’s all a bit much for everyone else, but not for Patriots Nation.

The LA Rams will be the Patriots’ latest foe on the league’s grandest stage as they have a burgeoning superstar in Jared Goff. Los Angeles tore through the regular season off of the golden arm of Goff and his Juggernauts, winning 13 of 16 and earning a first-round bye. Their first foray into the 2018 postseason was a 30-22 win over the determined but overwhelmed Dallas Cowboys. The Rams then traveled to the lair of Drew Brees and the Saints down on the bayou and came away with a 26-23 overtime victory.

However, had it not been for an inexcusable non-call, it is far more likely LA would be watching, rather than participating in this year’s Super Bowl. If you didn’t see it or hadn’t heard about it, then the question begs; why are you reading this article?

Of course, you know that LA’s cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman steamrolled New Orleans’ wideout Tommylee Lewis as Brees’ pass was descending toward Lewis inside the five-yard line. It was a penalty without a flag and that one blown call forced the Saints to settle for a field goal that pushed them ahead 23-20. Yet, there was still enough time on the clock to give Goff and his prolific Rams’ offense one last gasp at either tying the game or putting a dagger through the hearts of Saints’ fans everywhere with a touchdown in the waning moments.

It was the former and not the latter that occurred, but an errant pass by Brees in overtime sealed the deal as the Rams picked it off and ultimately ended the contest off the thunderous foot of Greg Zuerlein.

If you want to check out the line movements over the next two weeks for Super Bowl LIII then get on over to Sportsbook Review, read the 5Dimes review, and see exactly where the money is moving the spread as well as the total in the game. Buckle up Cowboys’ fans, it’s gonna get even more interesting as February 3rd draws near.

Continue Reading

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches

Mauricio Rodriguez



Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches
Smiley N. Pool / The Dallas Morning News

Lamentablemente, la temporada 2018 de los Dallas Cowboys ha llegado a su fin. Lo hizo cuando el equipo visitó Los Angeles para intentar sorprender a los Rams en su propio campo en la Ronda Divisional de los playoffs. Ni siquiera con una invasión exitosa de la afición de Dallas pudieron ganarse un pase al Campeonato de Conferencia. En vez de eso, los Cowboys estarán viendo desde casa y la afición estará preguntándose: ¿qué sigue para los Dallas Cowboys?

Parece ya una tradición anual que no podemos dejar pasar. Este momento en el que comenzamos a cuestionar, una vez más, que entrenador es digno de quedarse en la franquicia y cual debe irse. En esta edición de "Cowboys en Español," hablaremos específicamente de los tres principales coaches en el equipo.

Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli Should Be On The Hot Seat

Coordinador Defensivo Rod Marinelli

El futuro del coordinador defensivo de los Dallas Cowboys no se puede tratar sin mencionar a Kris Richard. Fue la defensiva la que llevó al equipo hasta la postemporada y fue la unidad que cargó al equipo en muchas de sus victorias. Incluso con la llegada de Amari Cooper a Dallas, la defensiva fue siempre el pilar de la franquicia esta temporada.

Jaylon Smith y Leighton Vander Esch sorprendentemente se perfilaron como uno de los mejores duos de linebackers en toda la liga, la línea defensiva fue muy exitosa con Randy Gregory y DeMarcus Lawrence en los extremos y con la grata sorpresa que fue Antwaun Woods en el centro. La secundaria vio la mejor temporada en la controversial carrera de Byron Jones e hizo un excelente trabajo con un talento decente, pero no genial.

Todo esto, y el haber terminado como la sexta mejor defensiva en puntos permitidos (20.2) y la quinta mejor contra la corrida (94.6), hace a Rod Marinelli merecedor de una ronda de aplausos. Sin embargo, Richard probablemente merezca más aplausos.

Fue Richard quien revolucionó la defensiva de los Cowboys y la convirtió en un grupo mucho más agresivo. Fue él quien implementó jugadas de "blitz" en el equipo (algo no común con Marinelli) y quien en un punto de la temporada, comenzó a seleccionar las jugadas desde la banda.

En esta posición, me parece que los Dallas Cowboys tienen que enfrentar la dura decisión de decirle a Marinelli que es tiempo de dejarle el puesto a Kris Richard. Si bien no se llevó un trabajo de head coach, es muy probable que le llovieran ofertas a Richard si no se hace con el título de coordinador defensivo en Dallas.

Scott Linehan Acknowledges Need for New "Wrinkles" in Cowboys Offense

Dallas Cowboys OC Scott Linehan (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports)

Coordinador Ofensivo Scott Linehan

Con un equipo tan polémico como este, la afición de Dallas no concuerda en muchas cosas. Sin embargo, lo hacen al hablar del pésimo trabajo que Scott Linehan ha realizado mandando las jugadas en ofensiva. Realmente ha sido doloroso de ver y es en mi opinión, el mayor problema que tiene el equipo actualmente.

Semana tras semana, fuimos testigos de pésimas decisiones en la ofensiva de los Cowboys. Vimos como el equipo se aferraba a llenar la caja de defensivos antes de correr el balón con Ezekiel Elliott. Vimos incontables pases pantalla en tercera oportunidad y largo. Pero no solo es lo que vimos, sino lo que no vimos.

A pesar de la innegable habilidad para correr el balón de Dak Prescott, Linehan se rehusó a explotar esta versatilidad de su QB. Vimos pocos "QB sneaks," jugada donde el mariscal toma el balón bajo centro y consigue poco yardage detrás del empuje de su línea ofensiva.

Siendo honestos, los Cowboys llevan dos años sufriendo por este coordinador. Dejarlo volver en el 2019 sería una decisión ridícula. Los comentarios en la radio de Jason Garrett no lucen prometedores, pero realmente sería una sorpresa que fueran ciertos. Linehan no debe volver... punto.

Jerry Jones Delivers Vote of Confidence in "Real Deal" Jason Garrett

Head Coach Jason Garrett

El futuro en esta posición será muy debatido durante los próximos meses, pero de los tres que hemos mencionado es sin lugar a dudas el más seguro de todos. Nos guste o no, Jason Garrett estará al frente del equipo la próxima temporada.

Garrett está lejos de ser un gran coach y aún le hace falta demostrar que puede cumplir las aspiraciones de los Cowboys de traer un sexto Trofeo Lombardi a casa. Pero siendo honesto, este equipo debería tener suficiente con Garrett y un par de buenos coordinadores. ¿El problema? No hay un par de buenos coordinadores en el equipo.

Sin embargo, Garrett ha demostrado que cuenta con el amor y apoyo de sus jugadores. Ha demostrado que efectivamente, puede ganar la división (lo ha hecho en tres de los últimos cinco años). Este año el equipo le dio la vuelta a la temporada después de comenzar 3-5.

Lo más preocupante en mi opinión, es la falta de urgencia para despedir a Linehan, por ejemplo. Quizá a puerta cerrada Garrett quiere un cambio en su staff, pero nunca lo sabremos.

Jason Garrett no es un coach excelente, pero podría ser suficiente para llevar a los Cowboys a un Super Bowl si tiene un equipo adecuado. Todo parece indicar que su trabajo está seguro (incluso más de lo que pensamos) así que es tiempo de esperar que se arreglen sus coordinadores.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Hablemos de los Coaches" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!

Continue Reading

Enjoy 40% commissions on officially licensed products as a FanPrint affiliate. You can even make your own, fully licensed Cowboys and player designs! Get started here