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Dallas Cowboys still on the outside looking in

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The Cowboys didn't get any help today in their quest to slide into one of the two NFC wildcard spots. Currently the NFC South is foiling the Cowboys' hopes as Carolina (9-3), Tampa Bay  (9-3) and Atlanta(8-4) are all ahead of Dallas in the conference. Dallas and Atlanta have the same record, but Atlanta holds the tie-breaker due to a better conference winning percentage.

Green Bay, New Orleans and San Diego all had a chance to win their games in the last minute but fell on their faces in the end. Most frustrating was watching Drew Brees, the darling quarterback of all media, force a bad throw on second down with plenty of time left to drive for the game tying field goal. Aaron Rodgers also forced a throw into coverage while attempting to lead his team from behind. So much for the NFC quarterbacks poised to overtake Romo as a Pro Bowl quarterback. Tony Romo now has the best quarterback rating in the NFC and trails Philip Rivers for the NFL lead by just a tenth of a point. [Note by Brandon W, 12/01/08 6:55 AM EST ] I guess the stats guys at NFL.com took a while to update Rivers' numbers....Romo now is the highest rated QB in the league.

But I digress.

The good news is that the NFC South contenders still have a couple of games against each other. Here is a breakdown of their final four games:

Carolina - vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Denver, at NY Giants, at New Orleans
Atlanta - at New Orleans, vs. Tampa Bay, at Minnesota, vs. St. Louis
Tampa Bay - at Carolina, at Atlanta, vs. San Diego, vs. Oakland

So mathematics tell us these teams will have to lose at least one more game this season. The best to hope for is for Carolina to win out and for Atlanta to lose to Tampa Bay, dropping Atlanta behind Dallas and putting the Cowboys ahead of Tampa Bay due to head to head tie-breakers. New Orleans winning out would help out a lot as well.

All this hinges on Dallas winning the rest of their games this season. The Cowboys hold the keys to their own destiny and at this point it is looking like 10-6 would mean missing the playoffs. 11-5 does not necessarily assure Dallas a wildcard berth either but it sure helps things. If the Cowboys lose only five games and miss the tournament, that loss to the Rams will hurt, hurt, hurt.

All they have to do is go 4-0 in December during the toughest four game stretch the team has faced in a very long time.

That's not too tough a thing to ask is it?