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Cowboys Must Win Games Now To Stay In Playoff Contention

There is plenty of football still left in the season, but with each additional loss the Cowboys slides back. Better days are coming, but there are a few concerning thoughts about falling too far behind.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It's still early in the year, but what happens over the course of the next three weeks is going to have a significant impact towards shaping the Cowboys' playoff chances. The team will be facing off against two divisional opponents as they play the New York Giants on Sunday and then the Philadelphia Eagles a couple weeks after that, with a battle against the Seattle Seahawks right in the middle. Any of these games could go either way, but the Cowboys need a couple of them go their way if they want to keep their season alive.

On the heels of a three-game losing streak, fans are starting to get a little uneasy. Sure, nobody in the NFC East is posing a real threat to run away with division so there is some leeway there. Not only that, but there is another level of comfort from the idea that Dez Bryant and Tony Romo will be joining the team at some point this season. All these things provide a sense of relief, but all that could change if the Cowboys don't start winning some games soon.

For the Cowboys to get into the postseason, it is going to come in the form of a second straight divisional title. That's the only way Dallas gets in. There will be no Wild Card backup plan. So just staying ahead of their eastern foes is the only point of concern when it comes to the standings. The good news is that the team is sitting with a 2-0 record within the division and the Giants and Eagles already having two divisional losses. Should Dallas beat both New York and Philadelphia over the course of the next three weeks, the Cowboys will secure all tie-breakers should they finish the year with the same record. In fact, winning just one of these games will give them a great shot of holding the tie-breaker via a better divisional record. That's an important thing to lock down because it essentially gives the team an extra half a game advantage throughout the season. This would give Dallas some extra margin for error as they would only need to finish with the same number of wins as the next best team. And the way things are going, they're going to need that.

But finishing with the same record might become a problem if the Cowboys don't start knocking out some wins. A tie-breaker will do nothing for them if the team finishes the season one game back in the standings. And there are a couple things about the remainder of the season that is a little concerning.

NFC North opponent

All the NFC East teams will have identical opponents for 14 of their 16 games on the schedule. When it comes to their NFC North opponents, the Cowboys' foes will have it a little easier.  The Eagles will get a struggling Detroit Lions team that is 1-5 this season. The Giants will get the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys aren't so lucky. Because they finished first in the division last season, they will draw the Green Bay Packers.

Now this is only one game, but in this divisional race - one game could make all the difference.

An Eagles run

After a 0-2 start, Philadelphia is starting to play better football. They have won three of their last four games, which has helped them go from worst to first in the division. This Eagles team still looks very beatable each week, but if they go on a short run of wins, it could push them out in front of the pack a little further.

Which leads me to....

Losing control of their own destiny

We all long for the day that Romo and company are back on the field. Make no mistake about it, when this team gets healthy, they are going to be a very good football team. The Cowboys could run the table once the cavalry arrives, but they may still need some help to catch the NFC East leader. One of the draw backs of finishing out their games with the Eagles so early in the year is that they won't have a shot to make up some ground later. If Dallas is trailing the Eagles in the second half of the season, Philadelphia is going to have to hit some bumps in order for the Cowboys to catch them.

So the best thing to avoid this problem is to just not fall too far back in the first place. That means the Cowboys have to get some wins right now. This is an important three-game stretch and Dallas needs to come away with two victories. And this Sunday's matchup against the Giants is the easiest of the three.

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