Dare To Dream: Dallas Cowboys Enter The Playoff Hunt

Can Tony Romo lead the Cowboys in leaping over teams and into the playoffs?

With nine games now in the books for 26 of the 32 teams, the NFL season has started to whittle away the pretenders. Two NFC teams still have a ninth game to play, with Minnesota (2-6) traveling to play undefeated Green Bay (8-0) tonight. The NFC South leading New Orleans Saints have a game up on every one else, and will take a Week 11 bye to let the rest of the conference catch up.

The Cowboys dominating victory over Buffalo propelled them to an above .500 record for the first time since a Week 3 home victory over the Washington Redskins, who just so happen to be the team up next on their schedule. At 5-4, the Cowboys have clearly placed themselves in prime position to receive an invitation to "the tournament" as former head coach Bill Parcells used to refer to the playoffs.

Dallas sits alone in second place of the NFC East, a full game behind the New York Giants (6-3), who lost to San Francisco (8-1) in the late game on Sunday. Of course, Dallas fans know the only team that was able to pen a mark on the 'L' side of the 49ers ledger. Dallas sits two games clear of both early-leader Washington and preseason favorite Philadelphia, both a disappointing 3-6.

If the playoffs were to start today, Dallas would be on the outside looking in. The Cowboys currently are seventh in the conference behind would-be wild card teams Detroit and Chicago. Yes, that home collapse against the Lions hurts every time you check the standings. However, the playoffs don't start today, so Dallas has the opportunity to continue it's upward trend and see if they can make some magic happen.

Here's a look at the current NFC Standings:

Seed Team Record Remaining SOS Home Games Left Note
1 Green Bay 8-0 yawning n/a NFC North leader
2 San Francisco 8-1 still yawning n/a NFC West leader - lost to Dallas at home Week 2
3 New Orleans 7-3 0.491 4 NFC South leader - not on schedule
4 NY Giants 6-3 0.571 4 NFC East leader - two games remaining with Dallas
5 Detroit 6-3 0.597 4 Wild Card 1 better Div. Record - defeated Dallas head-to-head
6 Chicago 6-3 0.492 3 Wild Card 2 - not on schedule
7 DALLAS 5-4 0.429 3 Better Conf. record than Atlanta
8 Atlanta 5-4 0.469 4 Already has 4 NFC losses
9 Tampa Bay 4-5 0.484 2 Plays Dallas Week 15

Here's a link to the tie-breaker procedures. To summarize, head-to-head record goes first, then record against NFC, followed by records against common opponents.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys remaining schedule: @Washington (3-6), vs Miami (2-7), @ Arizona (3-6), vs NY Giants (6-3), @ Tampa (4-5), vs Philly (3-6), @ NY Giants (6-3)

For the sake of this post, we'll assume that Green Bay and San Francisco hold on to their division leads.

THE COMPETITION

New Orleans Saints: Remaining schedule: vs NY Giants (6-3), vs Detroit (6-3), @ Tennessee (5-4), @ Minny (2-6), vs Atlanta (5-4), vs Carolina (2-7)

NY Giants: In the way of Dallas' easiest path to the playoffs, a division championship. They have a murderous remaining schedule: vs. Philly (3-6), @ New Orleans (7-3) coming off a bye, vs Green Bay (8-0), @ Dallas (5-4), vs Washington (3-6) @ NY Jets (5-4) vs Dallas (5-4)

Detroit Lions: Already defeated Dallas head to head. Remaining schedule: vs Carolina (2-7), vs Green Bay (8-0), @ New Orleans (7-3), vs Minny (2-6) @ Oakland (5-4) vs San Diego (4-5) @ Green Bay (8-0)

Chicago Bears: Appear to have a clear path to a wild card. Remaining schedule: vs San Diego (4-5), @ Oakland (5-4) vs Kansas City (4-5) @ Denver (4-5) vs Seattle (3-6) @ Green Bay (8-0), @ Minny (2-6)

Atlanta Falcons: Defending top NFC seed. Remaining schedule: vs Tennesse (5-4), vs Minny (2-6), @ Houston (7-3), @ Carolina (2-7), vs Jacksonville (3-6), @ New Orleans (7-3), vs Tampa Bay (4-5)

Tampa Bay Bucs: Tied for third-worst points differential in the league. Remaining schedule: @ Green Bay (8-0), @ Tennessee (5-4), vs Carolina (2-7), @ Jacksonville (3-6), vs Dallas (5-4), @ Carolina (2-7), @ Atlanta (5-4)

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