Going into Week 17, the Dallas Cowboys weren't sure who they would face in the playoffs. They now know they will play the Detroit Lions. Even before Dallas played Washington in the final regular season game, the odds were that they would be the third seed in the NFC. Because they won the NFC East they would host a first-round game. The question was mainly between facing Green Bay or Detroit. Those two teams faced off at Lambeau Field for the rights to the NFC North championship, with Green Bay coming out on top, 30-20.
Dallas would have needed losses from both Seattle and Arizona to have some hope of changing their seed; Seattle beat St. Louis 20-6 while Arizona did lose to San Francisco 20-17. Carolina trounced Atlanta 34-3 to win the NFC South. Those results produced the following playoff standings:
1. Seattle (first-round bye, home field throughout)
2. Green Bay (first-round bye, host division playoff game)
3. Dallas (host wild-card game vs. Detroit)
4. Carolina (host wild-card game vs. Arizona)
5. Arizona (@ Carolina wild-card game)
6. Detroit (@ Dallas wild-card game)
The Cowboys actually tied Seattle and Green Bay with 12-4 records but because of a three-way tie, Dallas was the first team eliminated in the tie-breaker (record in the conference). Seattle then edges out Green Bay for the top seed.
Detroit comes into the game next week with a defense that is the best statistically against the run, and they feature prolific receiver Calvin Johnson. The Cowboys will need to continue their hot play to advance. If they do win, they get rewarded with a trip to Lambeau Field to see Aaron Rodgers and company. It's never easy in the NFL playoffs.
Over in the AFC, the playoffs look like this:
1. New England (home field throughout, first-round bye)
2. Denver (first-round bye, host division playoff game)
3. Cincinnati (host wild-card game as of now pending game with Pittsburgh tonight)
4. Indianapolis (host wild-card game)
5. Pittsburgh (away for wild-card game pending game with Cincinnati tonight)
6. Baltimore (away wild-card game)