The Cowboys are one of three 6-6 teams still hoping to find a way into the NFC playoffs. Even if they win out and get to 10-6, they will need help based on tiebreakers and the superior records of the teams ahead of them.
Last night, Dallas' hopes took a kick in the teeth when the Atlanta Falcons defeated the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta not only moved to 8-5 but also holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys, making them a major threat in the Wild Card race. The Falcons need to start losing, fast, for Dallas to have a shot at overtaking them.
Atlanta's not the only team that Dallas should be concerned about, though. Here are the current NFC playoff standings, including last night's result:
- Minnesota Vikings (10-2)
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-2)
- Los Angeles Rams (9-3)
- New Orleans Saints (9-4)
- Seattle Seahawks (8-4)
- Carolina Panthers (8-4)
- Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
- Detroit Lions (6-6)
- Green Bay Packers (6-6)
- Dallas Cowboys (6-6)
- The Vikings are ahead of the Eagles thanks to the common game tiebreaker, since they are both 8-1 against NFC opponents.
- Seattle (6-3) is ahead of Carolina (4-4) thanks to a better record in NFC games.
- Detroit has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Packers and a common games tiebreaker over the Cowboys.
- Green Bay has a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys.
With the Falcons' win over New Orleans already in the books, here are the other playoff-relevant games for the NFC in Week 14.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
This is the easiest game let on Dallas' schedule (assuming Philly doesn't rest starters in Week 17). The Giants will have a new coach and have changed back to Eli Manning as the starting QB. Will they be galvanized by these changes or only in even greater disarray? We certainly hope for the latter.
Green Bay Packers @ Cleveland Browns
At 6-6 and with Aaron Rodgers potentially returning next week, the Packers are looming as a real threat. They have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas from a win earlier this year. The hapless Browns winning this one is certainly faint hope, but it's still Brett Hundley out there at QB instead of one of the league's MVPs.
Detroit Lions @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The other team in the 6-6 tie, Detroit needs to go away. The Bucs are 4-8 and a non-factor now, so we can root for the pirate people without hesitation.
Minnesota Vikings @ Carolina Panthers
The Panthers are another key target for us in the Wild Card race. Minnesota should run away with the NFC North, so they're a non-factor for Dallas' concerns. A Carolina loss is clearly better for Dallas, dropping the Panthers to 8-5 and within reasonable range with three weeks left to go.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Los Angeles Rams
Last week, Dallas fans were put in the unfortunate position of having to root for the Eagles against the Seahawks to help our playoff chances. We're back in that same boat this week as a Rams's loss would be more damaging for the Cowboys than Philly losing.
Because L.A. has a head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas, our best bet is for them to win the NFC West and stay out of our way. We have a much better shot at catching the Seahawks, especially since we get to play them in Week 16 when Ezekiel Elliott returns.
Seattle Seahawks @ Jacksonville Jaguars
So yeah, as just said, the Seahawks are one of the teams we have the best chance of beating out for a playoff spot. Last week's win over Philly hurt, but a road loss against the 8-4 Jaguars is certainly possible and would go a long way to helping our cause.