Admittedly, I don't think I've been as low in a long time as I was the moment after Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Dan Bailey's game-tying field goal attempt. In that space of time, I basically wrote off the Cowboys season. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, a few days removed from the debacle allows for some more sober reasoning. With that in mind, the Cowboys playoff chances are far from hopeless.
The truth is, they control their own destiny. That's right, if these very erratic Dallas Cowboys can win their final three games, they win the division.
There are numerous playoff possibilities that could occur between now and the end of the regular season, but the easiest scenario has the Cowboys winning their final three games, including the regular-season finale at MetLife Stadium against the New York Giants, to give them the NFC East title.
All right, that's a tall order with the 2011 version of the Cowboys. Winning one in a row is a crapshoot, so counting on three in a row is a stretch. Still, it can be done. The Cowboys schedule isn't ridiculously hard the rest of the way, save for the on-the-road, end-of-season clash with the Giants. Both Tampa Bay and Philadelphia are "winnable" games, making for an interesting last game if the Cowboys do pick up two wins in a row.
But, besides Dallas winning out, there are a multitude of playoff scenarios where they could get in.
Make the jump...
If you really want to get into details about the way the scenarios could play out, visit Dan Graziano over at ESPN. He's laid it out in painstaking detail in his post. Here's a couple of brief scenarios before he gets into all the detail.
If either team wins its next two while the other loses its next two, for example, the former team would win the division before the Jan. 1 rematch even happens. If the Giants win either of their next two games and beat the Cowboys in Week 17, they win the division.
You can visit SB Nation Dallas for more playoff stuff.
Even if the Cowboys don't win the division, they could still get in by wild-card, although they would have to have some complete collapses by other teams. Remember, if the Cowboys go 3-0 the rest of the way, they wrap-up the division. They could also lose a game, especially to the Bucs, and still get the division if New York stumbles. The Giants schedule:
Giants: WAS, @ NYJ, DAL
But if they get involved in the wild-card, it means they went 2-1 at best. They're chasing the 8-5 Falcons and Lions, and are tied with the 7-6 Bears. Now, the Bears appear to be in real trouble. But the Falcons and the Lions have okay schedules the rest of the way.
Falcons: JAX, @ NO, TB
Bears: SEA, @ GB, @ MIN
Lions: @ OAK, SD, @ GB
If you use the ESPN Playoff Simulator and use Win % as the basis for all the teams winning or losing the rest of their games, the Cowboys win the division.
And for a little fun, this playoffs odds site has the Cowboys broken down like this:
Make playoffs: 47%
Win division: 45%
Based on that, they better win the division.
Based on the Cowboys record the rest of the way, it breaks out like this: