Forecasting the Cowboys First Playoff Opponent

For the last several weeks I’ve been giving you a rundown of all the NFC playoff-relevant games and how they could alter the seeding. This week was no different as there is plenty still undecided in the conference.

Only two things are certain right now; the Dallas Cowboys are the #1 seed and the New York Giants are the #5 seed and first Wild Card team. Everything else is still in flux.

In just a few days the Giants will learn if they’re traveling to Atlanta, Detroit, Green Bay, or Detroit for their first-round game. All four of those teams have the potential to be the #4 seed. Of the four, the Packers are the only team who don’t have a shot at being the #2 seed and getting the other first-round bye.
Obviously, Dallas has to wait a little longer to know who they’ll be hosting in the Division Round. But if we look at the Week 17 games and project the likely winners, it narrows the field quite a bit.

  • Ezekiel ElliottPackers @ Lions
  • Giants @ Washington
  • Saints @ Falcons
  • Seahawks @ 49ers

There is the slimmest of possibilities that the Tampa Bay Bucs could sneak into the playoffs, but it would take such a unlikely mix of game outcomes that we’ll just leave it alone. This article is all about probability.

Looking at those four games, let’s go ahead and assume that the Falcons and Seahawks will handle their business against lesser opponents. That would immediately lock in Atlanta as the 2nd seed and Seattle as the 3rd. It would narrow Dallas’ potential opponent down to the Giants, Lions, Packers, or Washington.

The last meeting between the Giants and Washington was a narrow 29-27 victory for New York at home. The rematch takes place in Washington with the home team playing for their lives. The Giants have nothing to gain or lose.

It’s been reported that the Giants plan to treat the game like any other, playing starters and going for the win. However, let’s give Washington the benefit of the doubt as the home team with far greater motivation.

A Washington victory guarantees them the 6th seed and final playoff spot. The loser of the Packers-Lions game would miss the playoffs and the winner would be the 4th seed.

It’s hard to pick against the Packers this week. Despite being the road team, they have momentum and more offensive firepower. The Lions didn’t look very good last week in Dallas, although that could’ve been due to looking ahead to this week’s division showdown. I’m going to go ahead and predict a Packers win.
Quick recap; Atlanta, Seattle, Green Bay, and Washington all win. Your NFC Playoff seeding would be:

  1. Dallas Cowboys Player Profile: QB #4 Dak Prescott 1Dallas Cowboys
  2. Atlanta Falcons
  3. Seattle Seahawks
  4. Green Bay Packers
  5. New York Giants
  6. Washington

This lineup means that the Wild Card Round of the playoffs would have Seattle hosting Washington and either Green Bay or Detroit hosting the Giants. As the top team in the NFC, Dallas would play whoever the lowest-seeded team is that’s still alive after the first round.

If Washington were to upset Seattle then they would be Dallas’ opponent. Far more likely, though, is that Dallas would get the winner of the Giants-Packers game.

Eli Manning won’t be afraid of Lambeau Field. He has won their twice in previous playoffs, both of which came on the way to an eventual Super Bowl championship. Overall he is 2-2 in Green Bay and 4-4 against the Packers in his career.

One of those road loss came this year in Week 5; the Packers won 23-16 despite two interceptions by Aaron Rodgers. Both teams are playing at a much higher level now than they were at that point in the season.

Picking a winner in that game is fairly empty. I could talk myself into either team. If you want to give the Packers the benefit of the doubt as the home team then you can, but Eli’s won games there before with arguably less talented teams.

So, if everything in Week 17 and the Wild Card round goes according to probability, Dallas will be hosting either the Packers or Giants in their first playoff game. Obviously, underdogs and upsets emerge often. Dallas could wind up playing just about anybody.

Much like the weather, forecasting in sports is tricky business. For now, this is the closest thing to a prediction that we have.

What do you think?

Jess Haynie

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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