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NFC Playoff Picture: Cowboys Keep Hanging Around

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Some how, some way, the Cowboys live.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

One more week at least. That's the Cowboys position after beating Washington 19-16 on Monday night. One more week of entertaining playoff hopes by winning what may be the worst division in sports - ever. After the Cowboys were demolished on Thanksgiving by the Carolina Panthers and starting quarterback Tony Romo was unceremoniously sent to the sidelines for an extended period, it was pretty much assumed the Cowboys were dead. But like the monster in a horror movie, they keep coming back to life for one more go around.

If you take a peek at the NFC playoff picture, you'll need to scroll all the way down to the bottom to find the Cowboys. Based on record and all of the different permutations of tiebreakers, the Cowboys are dead last in the NFC. Tied with four other teams at 4-8, they actually lose all the tiebreakers and end up 16th out 16 teams. That's a team that should be thinking about the 2016 draft. Instead, they are dreaming about sneaking into the playoffs as the NFC East champs obligatory participant. One game out with four games to go.

Watching the Cowboys bumble and stumble through last night's game doesn't give anybody confidence that they are going to make that run to the playoffs, but in the NFL a win is a win. Matt Cassel winging passes in all directions but mostly off target doesn't inspire. Darren McFadden fumbling twice seemed like an omen of doom. Costly penalties and poor kick coverage surely was going to put the final shovel of dirt on the Cowboys' grave. Yet a scrappy defense and the golden leg of Dan Bailey managed to reanimate the Cowboys season for one more week.

I think the most interesting thing to come out of the game was the Cowboys and Rod Marinelli deciding to finally throw caution to the wind. Dallas was a blitzing machine on Monday night, something Marinelli is loathe to do on a regular basis. But do it they did and the defense was a force. Dallas ended the night with three sacks and seven tackles for loss, limiting Washington to 266 total yards on offense. At least on one side of the ball, the Cowboys decided that being conservative wasn't going to be the answer.

On the other side of the ball, there may be nothing they can do. Matt Cassel continues to be unimpressive, missing multiple opportunities on passes and failing to read the defense pre-snap. This may be the thing that Tony Romo does the best that goes unnoticed. Reading the defense pre-snap and then getting Dallas into the right play. The Cowboys offense is a sputtering engine right now, held together with wire and low on fuel. They may just need to go with a heavy diet of Lucky Whitehead jet sweeps.

Still, here we are, with a quarter of the season left and the Cowboys still in playoff contention. NFL teams are built each season to try and make the playoffs, and you can bet the Cowboys coaches and players will continue to try and do that. As fans, there may be some ambivalence about that, winning games and losing draft position in what could be a quixotic effort to make the playoffs. For now, though, we'll get on board and look ahead to Green Bay.

The Cowboys season may be a horror show, but go ahead and root for the monster to keep reanimating. At least until someone finally puts it out of its misery.