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Do Cowboys Still Have A Chance In The Playoff Hunt?

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Amazingly, after the dismal losing streak, it still isn't over for them. But is it really just a cruel prolonging of the inevitable?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of numbers from the frustrating, heart-breaking 13-12 loss the Dallas Cowboys suffered at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks. I'll leave those to rabblerousr later today. Instead I want to look at another set of numbers: The losses each team in the NFC East has. Yes, the Cowboys now have five. But all the other division rivals have four. Do the math.

Amazingly, Dallas is just one game out in the loss column. They face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, and still have both games against Washington to play. They have to depend on some help in catching the division leading Giants, but the New Yorkers still have the Patriots ahead of them. It isn't over until it is over, and with nine games still to play, it is a long way from over.

The burning question is whether or not this Cowboys team has it left in them to stop the losses and get some wins. At this point, there is no reason to have a great deal of confidence. But there are some things that may help.

First off, the defense is definitely playing much better now. Greg Hardy is a real factor, as shown by his athletic tipped pass interception that gave the Cowboys the best chance to win the game. They kept the Seahawks from running it down their throats for the most part and only gave up one strong touchdown drive. If the defense does not get too frustrated with the failures of the offense, they can keep Dallas in many games.

Darren McFadden has proven he is a solid running back. For the second game in a row, he was the most productive offensive player, accounting for a total of 111 yards running and receiving. While the team waits to find out what is going to happen with Joseph Randle, DMC at least offers hope that the running game is not done for. Christine Michael even got a little action and chipped in 4.0 yards a carry. The offensive line is finally looking something like the powerful unit the team rode last season. La'el Collins is turning into a real power at left guard.

All this does not dispel the hard truth that the Cowboys have dug themselves a deep hole. If they do not find some way to salvage this season, hindsight may show that the decision to stick with Brandon Weeden as the backup quarterback was the key mistake. Matt Cassel has not yet shown that he can do much better. He either throws the ball away by getting too aggressive or is unable to move the team through the air when he is protecting it. However, Dez Bryant will not be covered by Richard Sherman again this season. Whether he can make a difference in the two games before Tony Romo makes his expected return remains to be seen.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have not shown they can win games they really have to yet, and now the Eagles game is the next "must-win" on the schedule. If the lose that, they are going to be two games back in the loss column and even Romo's magic may not be enough to get them back into a position to win the division. Running the table after missing eight weeks is a tall order for even the most talented quarterback, and we just saw what happened to one of the best in the league when Aaron Rodgers had an even poorer game throwing the ball than Cassel did. (Think about that for just a minute.)

After a five game losing streak like this, the season ought to be pretty much over. But the weakness of the NFC East is keeping at least a mathematical chance alive for Dallas. It may just be a cruel thing at this point unless the team can do something in the next game, but that hope is still feebly flickering. The eventual end of the Cowboys' chances may be inevitable. It is going to be up to the team, and they have to be feeling shell-shocked by what they have suffered through since Romo went down. The coaching staff has a monstrously hard job to keep them motivated. It really depends on the players themselves, and the string of losses is taking its toll. But until they are truly and irrevocably eliminated, that chance is still out there. We can only hope it is more than just an impossible mirage.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB