Disclaimer: All wildcard discussion involves the Cowboys
losing only one more game, and that to the Bengals
or the Steelers
. The Cowboys can simply not afford any more losses to NFC opponents.
The first wildcard spot is all but wrapped up. Barring a monumental collapse by Green Bay and Chicago, one of those teams will get the first wild card. The second wild card is something of a mystery right now. Let's look into the teams contending.
#1 Seattle: 6-5
#2 Tampa Bay: 6-5
#3 New Orleans: 5-6
#4 Washington: 5-6
#5 Dallas: 5-6
I have examined the schedules for all of these teams and I firmly believe it will come down to Seattle and Tampa Bay (plus Dallas in this scenario) at 9-7 each. New Orleans is eliminated because they lose to Dallas and I believe they will lose to the Giants
. Washington is out because they lose to Dallas and, again, I believe they lose to the Giants.
So what happens if Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Dallas all finish 9-7? This is where it gets tricky. Let's say Seattle loses this week at Chicago, beats Buffalo on the road, and loses to San Fransico at home (very reasonable). And let's say Tampa Bay loses to Denver and New Orleans (also reasonable). In this scenario, all 3 are 9-7 and Dallas gets in due to the conference win % tiebreaker rule. This is actually the 3rd tiebreaker rule for three or more teams. The first, that of eliminating teams lower in their division standings, doesn't apply because all 3 teams would finish 2nd in their respective divisions. The 2nd tiebreaker, head to head sweep, doesn't apply because Dallas lost to Seattle but beat Tampa Bay. Seattle and Tampa Bay did not play each other.
Now, let's say Seattle loses to Buffalo on the road but beats San Fransico at home. They are still 9-7 but they get in as the wild card due to the 5th tiebreaker rule! Since the 49ers
game was a NFC opponent, they are now tied in conference win %. Now we go to #4 tiebreaker for a 3 way tie. Best win % in common games, which apparently would not solve the tiebreaker. So you have to go to #5, which is strength of victory. Evidently Seattle has the tiebreaker on that one.
In conclusion, Dallas must win 4 out of 5, and the loss must be to the Bengals/Steelers. Dallas has simply lost too many NFC games. Seattle has to lose to the 49ers at home. Tampa Bay simply has to lose 2 more games (their tiebreaker scenarios aren't good). I definitely see the wildcard winner going 9-7. The question is, can Dallas actually win some games?
Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.