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Cowboys Playoff Picture: Outside Looking In

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Things have gotten worse, but are not dire yet.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn't that long ago that the Dallas Cowboys were resting comfortably in the middle of the playoff picture in the NFC. With a record of 2-3 in their last five games, they now find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture with some work to do.

Rank Team W/L DIV CONF
1 Arizona 9-3 2-1 7-2
2 Green Bay 9-3 4-1 6-3
3 Philadelphia 9-3 3-0 5-3
4 Atlanta 5-7 4-0 5-4
5 Seattle 8-4 2-1 6-2
6 Detroit 8-4 3-0 5-2
7 Dallas 8-4 2-2 5-4
8 San Francisco 7-5 1-3 6-4


NFC East

Schedules:

Cowboys - @ Chicago, @ Philadelphia, Indianapolis, @ Washington
Eagles - Seattle, Dallas, @Washington, @New York

The Philadelphia Eagles took control of the NFC East for the moment with their 33-10 beatdown of Dallas on Turkey Day. This not only gave the Eagles a better record than Dallas, but also gave them the lead in the head-to-head tiebreaker as well as extending their lead in the division tiebreaker (3-0 versus 2-2). The Cowboys face a real problem with the Eagles in the NFC East. Even if they beat the Eagles in two weeks, that only evens up the head-to-head tiebreaker. Dallas would still lose the next tiebreaker, record in the division, unless the Eagles drop a game against the Redskins or Giants at the end of the season. That's possible, but the odds are against it. The Cowboys are paying the price for losing to the Redskins earlier this year.

Realistically, to win the division, Dallas will need to win out and have the Eagles lose to Seattle in addition to losing to the Cowboys. Or, catch a lucky break and have them lose to either the Giants or Washington in addition to losing to the Cowboys. There are other scenarios, but these are the most likely ones.

Wild Card
Schedules:

Seahawks - @ Philadelphia, San Francisco, @ Arizona, San Francisco
Lions - Tampa Bay, Minnesota, @ Chicago, @ Green Bay
49ers - @ Oakland, @ Seattle, San Diego, Arizona

If Dallas can't pull off the NFC East title, they'll need to grab a wildcard spot. Currently, Seattle and Detroit hold those positions. The 49ers are one game behind Dallas in the hunt. Even though Dallas has the same record as Seattle and Detroit, the head-to-head win over Seattle only counts in a two-way tie, since there are three, Dallas loses out based on conference schedule. The scenarios here are very complex so I won't go into them all. But the Cowboys losing games in the division and in the conference have made their path to the playoffs that much harder.