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Cowboys 2021 Playoff Scenarios: Week 15 Impact Games

Despite many adjustments in scheduling due to a COVID-19 outbreak throughout the NFL, the Week 15 games are all still set to happen sometime over the next few days. Some of the key matchups have been pushed as late as Tuesday, but hopefully that is the most delay we’ll see with just a few weeks left before the playoffs,

Last week’s results saw some big movement at the top of the NFC standings. Arizona’s home loss to the Rams dropped them from first to third and allowed the Packers to slide up to that tentative lone first-round bye. Now there’s a big logjam among the top five in the conference.

Beneath them is another cluster of team vying for the last two wild cards. Four teams are currently on the outside looking in by just a tiebreaker, making the eventual NFC playoff picture incredibly murky with four weeks still to go.

Current NFC Playoff Standings

  1. Green Bay Packers (10-3)
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3)
  3. Arizona Cardinals (10-3)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (9-4)
  5. Los Angeles Rams (9-4)
  6. San Francisco 49ers (7-6)
  7. Washington (6-7)
    ——————————————
  8. Minnesota Vikings (6-7)
  9. Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
  10. Atlanta Falcons (6-7)
  11. New Orleans Saints (6-7)
  12. Carolina Panthers (5-8)
  13. Seattle Seahawks (5-8)

TIEBREAKERS

  • The Packers (8-2) are ahead of the Bucs (6-3) and Cardinals (6-3) based on a superior record in conference games.
  • The Bucs are ahead of the Cardinals based on strength of victory.
  • Washington (5-3) is ahead of the Vikings (4-4) and Falcons (3-6) based on a superior record in conference games. They are ahead of the Eagles based on a head-to-head victory.
  • The Vikings are ahead of the Eagles based on a better record against common opponents. They are ahead of the Falcons based on a superior record in conference games.
  • The Falcons are ahead of the Saints based on a head-to-head victory.
  • The Panthers (3-6) are ahead of the Seahawks (2-6) based on a superior record in conference games.

With most of the remaining schedule focusing on interdivision games, there’s so much that can still change between now and the playoffs. These last four weeks are going to have a lot of playoff energy and, for some teams, even games in Week 15 could be life or death.

For your Cowboys, the key goal remains finding a way up from the fourth seed and having to face the NFC West runner up in the first round. Whether it eventually is Arizona and Los Angeles, either projects to be a much bigger threat than whoever winds up in the sixth and seventh seeds.

With Tampa Bay holding their head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas from the season opener, all the Cowboys can do now is keep winning. Because they only have one loss so far against NFC teams this year, Dallas could eventually win that tiebreaker over Green Bay if they were to finish tied for the top seed.

Week 15 Impact Games

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants

With New York’s roster hit hard by COVID, they’re down to signing Jaylon Smith and the grown-up cast from “Little Giants” to get through this game. Even as the road team, Dallas has no business losing today if they want to fancy themselves as a playoff contender.

If they do fall short the Cowboys are still a virtual lock to win the NFC East. One of either Philly or Washington is taking a loss today and Dallas still has opportunities to deliver personal death blows to either team in the coming weeks.

At this point, Dallas has to keep their foot on the gas if they have any hope of moving into a higher seed. A loss today would be a big backwards step.

Washington @ Philadelphia Eagles

Not only does one team’s candle get snuffed in the NFC East but a loss would be a major blow to one of these wild card hopefuls. We all probably have different views on wanting to see our division rivals anywhere in the playoffs, but personally it wouldn’t bother me in the least. If one of them were to actually upset and advance to the second round, I wouldn’t mind seeing them.

Green Bay Packers @ Baltimore Ravens

This would’ve been a much more intriguing game before Lamar Jackson’s injury. Still, Baltimore is fighting for its own playoff life in the AFC and won’t make things easy for Aaron Rodgers’ crew. This is probably one of our best chances to see a loss hung on the Packers the rest of the season.

New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Bucs

The Saints are still alive in the NFC wild card race, only kept out currently by tiebreakers, and will hopefully make a game of it in Tampa. But the Bucs are in their own tight race for the top seed and will still be giving max effort until that goal is either realized or no longer in reach.

Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions

The Lions are one of the scrappier bottom-feeding teams we’ve seen but still a mess overall. This should be a good week for the Cardinals to bounce back and pad a critical win as they try to fight off the Rams in the division and keep pace with the other 10-win frontrunners.

Seattle Seahawks @ Los Angeles Rams

Fresh off the big road win last week in Arizona, the Rams now get a much lesser division opponent and should be heavily favored. All but locked into the top wild card spot, they’re now focused on overtaking the Cardinals to claim the NFC West and perhaps even challenge the other NFC contenders for positioning.

Atlanta Falcons @ San Francisco 49ers
Carolina Panthers @ Buffalo Bills
Minnesota Vikings @ Chicago Bears

If you have any vested interest in the eventual wild card teams then these games remain intriguing. But if Dallas remains in the fourth seed then it probably won’t matter too much. We’ll wind up playing the Cardinals or Rams and probably never see any of these teams in the tournament.

What do you think?

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Written by Jess Haynie

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!

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