Despite looking dead to rights just two weeks ago, back to back wins have put the Dallas Cowboys into the playoff hunt with just three games remaining.
In order to even have a chance at sneaking in as the sixth seed, Dallas will need to win each of its remaining games to finish 10-6. In some ways, the playoffs started two weeks ago when Dallas took on the Washington Redskins. But even though this Sunday's contest is another must-win, elimination game for the Cowboys, it's also a classic “trap” or “look ahead” game as well.
Before the season started, most expected the Oakland Raiders to be competing for AFC supremacy. Like the Cowboys, Oakland bursted onto the scene in 2016 with a young quarterback, a dynamic offense, and an exciting roster. But, like the Cowboys, they have faltered a bit this season due to underperforming stars, injuries, and a somewhat undermanned defensive unit.
The Raiders are now 6-7, and while still alive in the AFC West race, saw their best shot at overtaking the division go up in a smoke last Sunday as they were demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Simply put, the Raiders are not a very good football team right now. And though this will be a road game for the Cowboys, it is one they should win if they are truly a playoff team. In fact, it's one they have to win if they want to keep their slim playoff chances alive.
The reason why this could potentially be a “trap” game of sorts is who the Cowboys are scheduled to play after traveling to Oakland. A team who has been a perennial playoff contender in the NFC, and a team directly in front of the Cowboys in the current NFC standings – the Seattle Seahawks.
Not only will that Seattle game be massively important to the Cowboys if they can sneak out of Oakland with a victory, it will also feature the return of star running back Ezekiel Elliott from his six game suspension.
December 24th will be a huge day in Dallas if the Cowboys can get to 8-6 this week, but they can ill-afford to look ahead to that potentially important showdown with the Seahawks. Because if they do and the Raiders upset them at the home in primetime, the Cowboys season will end before Elliott even gets the chance to come back.