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Playoff Scenarios: NFC East Champ Cowboys Are The Third-Seed In NFC Now, Outside Shot At First-Round Bye

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The Cowboys are in, but who and when will they play.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys' annihilation of the Indianapolis Colts probably has some other teams thinking twice about wanting to meet up with the NFC East champs. The Cowboys have had issues playing at home, mainly around Tony Romo's health, but today they showed that home games may not be a problem if the quarterback is fully healthy. Which is good news, because they will certainly be hosting at least one home game in these playoffs.

As it stands right now, the Cowboys are the third-seed and a division winner. All division winners will get to host one home game. The Cowboys are the third-seed even though they have an identical record with Detroit, but the Lions have a better conference record so if they win the NFC North they will be ahead of Dallas. If Green Bay were to beat the Lions next week, they would win the North and also beat Dallas in a tie-breaker because of the conference record. So Dallas has virtually no shot at moving into the top slot, unless Seattle wins tonight then loses next week, the Cardinals lose twice and Green Bay and Detroit tie next week - and Dallas beats Washington.

But, they can get a first round bye. Sure, it's a long-shot, but here is how.

Dallas could get a bye in the first round, depending on how things play out in the Sunday night game between Seattle and Arizona. A Cardinals win locks Dallas into the third seed, unless next week's game between the Packers and Lions ends in a tie. If Seattle wins Sunday night, Dallas' hopes for a bye rest with a win over Washington and losses from both Arizona and Seattle in Week 17, or a tie between Green Bay and Detroit.

So first things first, root for Seattle to win tonight. Then root for Seattle to lose next week along with the Cardinals.

Dallas will host the lowest-seeded wild card at worst in the playoffs, because they can drop no lower than third-seed, given that the fourth division winner from the NFC South will have a losing record. Right now, the sixth-seed is Seattle. The other wild card is Green Bay (fifth-seed).