The Dallas Cowboys took care of business on Thursday, and they got some help on Sunday as all three of their NFC East opponents went down to defeat, with the most important game being the 31-23 loss by Washington to the Arizona Cardinals. With that result, Dallas is now the first NFL team to clinch a playoff berth.
It continues this amazing season for the Cowboys. At this time a year ago, we were all reconciling ourselves to the fact that it was over for Dallas in the playoff hunt. All we had to look forward to was a high draft pick. The Cowboys got that, and with the selection of Ezekiel Elliott and later Dak Prescott, they laid the foundation for what is now the best record in the league at 11-1, and a strong argument that they are the best, most complete team, period.
There are several other implications from the three losses within the division when combined with some other results. For Washington, they are now in real danger of missing the playoffs. The Atlanta Falcons lost and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their games, which has them both at 7-5, which is ahead of Washington’s 6-5-1 record. They still have to play both the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants to finish out the season, and that last game against the Giants could be for a wild card spot. Their other two games look winnable, but they don’t have much margin for error.
The Giants were handled pretty easily 24-14 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who picked Eli Manning off twice (a stat mentioned just for the fun of it). That opens up a three game gap between them and the Cowboys, which puts Dallas in great position to lock up the NFC East crown in Sunday’s game at the Giants. Meanwhile, the Eagles are all but out of the playoff race now at 5-7 after dropping their game 32-14 (in which Carson Wentz was also intercepted three times, another amusing tidbit given the fact that Prescott has only thrown two interceptions all season).
Washington’s loss was one of two possible paths for the Cowboys to lock up a trip to the postseason. A loss or tie by the Buccaneers would also have put them in, but the Bucs beat the San Diego Chargers 28-21. However, that may have been a better outcome given the Washington game, since it could help push Washington out of the playoffs. It is hard to beat a team three times in a season, and with the Cowboys having already swept their regular season matches against Washington, in two very close games, it would be nice to not have any chance of facing them again.
All in all, Sunday’s games could not have gone better for the Cowboys. They are assured of a playoff spot, have the aforementioned cushion over the Giants, and have at least a two and a half game margin over the Seattle Seahawks for home field advantage all the way through the playoffs, pending the outcome of their game against the struggling Carolina Panthers on SNF.
It’s good to be 11-1.