Believe me, I know that the mere mention of the playoffs in connection with the Dallas Cowboys is sending you all into a Jim Mora-like tizzy. However, until the Cowboys actually have eight losses, sneaking into a Wild Card spot is not outside the realm of possibility.
All it takes is a couple of wins over the next three weeks and then Ezekiel Elliott returns. It's hard to say what's a “winnable game” anymore for Dallas, but we can say that the next three opponents all below .500 this year.
Here are the current NFC playoff standings:
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (8-3)
- New Orleans Saints (8-3)
- Carolina Panthers (8-3)
- Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
- Detroit Lions (6-5)
- Green Bay Packers (5-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
- Washington (5-6)
- Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
- The Rams are ahead of the Saints thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker from Week 12.
- The Saints are currently ahead of the Panthers thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker from Week 3. They play each other again this week.
- The Falcons are ahead of the Seahawks thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker from Week 11.
- The Packers have a head-to-head win over the Cowboys and a better conference record (4-4) than the Cardinals (3-5). Dallas is ahead of Washington thanks to a head-to-head win, so that puts Green Bay ahead of all three.
- Washington (4-5) is ahead of Arizona (3-5) due to a better record against NFC opponents.
While we know the Cowboys making the playoffs is an incredible longshot at this point, these things have happened before. They will need help for it to happen, so that's why we'll now check out all of the relevant NFC matchups in Week 13 to see what would improve Dallas' playoff chances.
Washington @ Dallas Cowboys
Obviously, it all starts with Dallas getting off this wretched losing streak and handling business tonight. Washington is also 5-6 but, at least over the last few weeks, has looked like a better team than the Cowboys. Hopefully Dallas has figured out some ways to surprise their longtime rival and better utilize the players they have.
Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons
We should all be supporting the guys in purple pants. Atlanta is a tremendous threat given that they have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas and likely can't win their division with the Saints and Panthers above them. The Falcons have to start losing now to fall out of the Wild Card, and the 9-2 Vikings will hopefully hang one on them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Green Bay Packers
With talk that Aaron Rodgers could be returning in Week 15, it'd be nice for the Packers to take a few more losses before then. They have the tiebreaker over Dallas from the victory earlier this year. It looks like Jameis Winston is going to return for Tampa, so maybe that will be enough for them to get the road win over Brett Hundley.
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints
There really isn't much advantage here for Dallas one way or the other. With no head-to-head tiebreakers to consider, whoever wins the NFC South between these two doesn't look to really help or hurt the Cowboys. Either way, a team with a good record stays in the Wild Card picture. What we really need is for both teams to beat the Falcons (two versus Saints, one versus Panthers) in their remaining games.
Detroit Lions @ Baltimore Ravens
A game ahead of Dallas right now, Detroit is another team we need to root against. They're just good enough to hang around and make the Wild Card picture murkier. Go away, Lions.
Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona Cardinals
It makes more sense for Dallas fans to pull for the Rams here. Arizona isn't really relevant, especially since the Cowboys have a head-to-head tiebreaker against them. More importantly, we're better off with the Rams winning the NFC West and keeping Seattle in the Wild Card. Not only do the Rams have a tiebreaker against us, but Dallas has a chance at getting a win over Seattle in Week 16. That will be Ezekiel Elliott's first game back.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks
Painful as it may be, we have to root for the Eagles this week. A Seattle loss, given the Seahawks threat in the Wild Card race, is better for the Cowboys now then anything that happens with Philly. There is so little chance of Dallas catching Philly in the NFC East now that the Seattle loss is far more useful.