How the Dallas Cowboys can make the playoffs
It looked as if the Cowboys’ season was over when they dropped three straight games immediately following Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension. But after two wins, Dallas is right back in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt. Here’s what needs to happen for the Cowboys to finish their turnaround and make it back to the postseason…
Step 1: Win out
The Cowboys could still make the playoffs with a loss — though it can’t be in Week 16 against Seattle because of tie-breakers — but all of their realistic paths to the postseason start with them winning their final three games…
Week 14: at Raiders
Week 15: Seahawks
Week 17: at Eagles
The Cowboys will be getting Elliott back in Week 15 for the pivotal game against the Seahawks. If they can win that one, games against a flailing Raiders team and a banged up Eagles squad (that may have nothing to play for) are winnable.
Step 2: The Packers and Lions lose once
Green Bay and Dallas are currently tied in the standings but the Packers hold the tie-breaker having beaten the Cowboys earlier in the season. Dallas needs Green Bay to drop one game over the next three weeks in order to jump over it in the standings. Here’s a look at the Packers’ schedule:
Week 15: at Panthers
Week 16: Vikings
Week 17: at Lions
The same goes for the Lions. They’ll need to lose if Dallas is going to leap frog them in the NFC. Here’s a look at Detroit’s remaining schedule:
Week 15: Bears
Week 16: at Bengals
Week 17: Packers
The Lions should be able to get these next two games, so their best chance of losing comes in Week 17 against the Packers. That means Green Bay will need to lose before then for Cowboys fans to get what they want.
Step 3: The Falcons or Panthers lose twice
One of these teams is guaranteed to lose since they play each other in Week 17, so the Cowboys just need one to lose before then. Both play the Bucs, which we’ll mark down as wins. Carolina plays the Packers and Atlanta plays the Saints. So it really comes down to which team Cowboys fans expect to win the Week 17 matchup between the Lions and Packers…
- If it’s the Packers, Cowboys fans will be rooting for the Panthers to beat Green Bay in Week 15 and for Atlanta to lose to both Carolina and New Orleans.
- If it’s the Lions, Cowboys fans will be rooting for Green Bay and Atlanta to beat Carolina.
The result of the Packers-Panthers game next week will set Dallas fans’ rooting agenda for the rest of the season…
If the Panthers win, root for:
- Saints over Falcons, Week 16
- Panthers over Falcons, Week 17
- Packers over Lions, Week 17
If the Packers win, root for:
- Falcons over Panthers, Week 17
- Lions over Packers, Week 17
Of course, none of this matters if the Cowboys do not win out. The NFC playoff race will be a lot more fun if they do.