With last week's loss in Atlanta, the Dallas Cowboys fell out of the NFC's top six. They sit on the outside with several other 5-4 teams hoping to push their way back into a playoff spot.
This week's schedule for NFC contenders features two major matchups and the Cowboys are in one of them. Before we get to the games, here's a look at the current standings for the conference:
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
- New Orleans Saints (7-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
- Carolina Panthers (7-3)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-2)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-4)
- Detroit Lions (5-4)
- Green Bay Packers (5-4)
- Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
- Minnesota is ahead of New Orleans because of a Week One head-to-head victory.
- New Orleans (5-1) is ahead of Los Angeles (4-2) thanks to a better record in NFC play.
- The cluster of 5-4 teams are ranked due to head-to-head tiebreakers. Atlanta has wins against Detroit, Green Bay, and Dallas so they sit on top. Detroit has a win over Green Bay. The Packers beat the Cowboys earlier this year. Therefore, Dallas is at the bottom of the pile.
While things feel dire in Dallas right now, your Cowboys still have only four losses. If they can figure out how to play without Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee, the Boys can get back in the race. With seven games left to play, a lot can happen with the teams ahead of them as well.
Here are the relevant games for the NFC contenders in Week 11:
Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
The thought of the struggling Cowboys bouncing back and beating arguably the hottest team in the NFL tonight probably seems a little too good to be true. However, rivalry games rarely follow the on-paper probability.
What effect coming off their bye week have on the Eagles? As we've seen many times, extra rest can also result in a loss of rhythm. If Philly comes out cold, the Cowboys still have enough talent to take advantage. A loss wouldn't pull the Eagles out of the NFC's top two, but it would help restore confidence in the Cowboys and close the gap in the NFC East.
Los Angeles Rams @ Minnesota Vikings
Before the season, who could've guessed that this game would have such significance? Yet here we are with these 7-2 teams colliding and major playoff implications at work. Both the head-to-head tiebreaker and conference record are on the line, making this the game of the week for the NFC.
Washington @ New Orleans Saints
Also 7-2, the red-hot Saints should be rooting for the Rams in the game we just mentioned. The Vikings currently sit above New Orleans with a head-to-head tiebreaker from their Week One meeting. Not only would a Minnesota loss pull them below the Saints, but the Rams still would have a worse conference record (5-2) than the Saints (6-1). That is, of course, assuming the Saints handle business today against Washington.
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears
The Lions are trying to stay alive at 5-4 and have a welcome game against the sorry Bears to help their cause. I thought Chicago would hang a loss on the Packers last week with Brett Hundley playing quarterback, but that was too much to ask. Now Matthew Stafford comes into town and should have an even easier time.
Baltimore Ravens @ Green Bay Packers
Coming off that big win last week, the Packers will host the middling Ravens. Baltimore has had some nice wins and some ugly losses this year, making them a tough opponent to predict from week to week. This one could go either way, and obviously Dallas fans should be rooting for the Packers to slide out of contention.
Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks
This is a win-win for the Cowboys. Atlanta taking a loss would knock a dangerous playoff threat, with same overall record and a head-to-head tiebreaker, down to 5-5. Seattle currently sits in the #6 spot and the final wild card, so they also need to lose to help Dallas' playoff chances.