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How the Cowboys can still catch the Eagles in the NFC East

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The Eagles are the team to beat in the NFC East, and the next five weeks are going to determine whether or not the Cowboys can give it their best shot.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have 11 games remaining on their schedule. Anything is possible.

Now that we’ve established that, let’s discuss what we know as of October 13th, 2017 in terms of the Dallas Cowboys and their position in the NFC East.

The Cowboys sit at 2-3, on their bye, facing a potential six-game stretch sans Ezekiel Elliott. Their next six games are by no means easy:

How will the Cowboys realistically do over the next few weeks?

It’s fair to say that there are two layups (SF and LAC) in that bunch with four difficult games sandwiched between them (WASH, KC, ATL, PHI). Could the Cowboys lose one of the layups and win a majority of the perceived tough games? Of course, again anything is possible.

For the sake of argument let’s assume the Cowboys beat the 49ers and lose to the Chiefs. We’ll call the Redskins and Falcons games a push right now, but some would argue that even that’s too optimistic. This would put the Cowboys at 4-5 entering Week 11’s date with Philly.

What about Philly, though?

Philadelphia woke up on Friday morning tied for the most wins in the NFL with a shiny 5-1 record. Their next slate of games until they visit AT&T Stadium is quite favorable to be honest:

  • Washington Redskins (2-2)
  • San Francisco 49ers (0-5)
  • Denver Broncos (3-1)
  • BYE
  • At Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Eagles, again now 5-1, have three consecutive home games laid out in front of them. What’s more is they get to host the Washington Redskins in Week 7’s edition of Monday Night Football, after coming off of Thursday Night Football in Week 6. Washington plays San Francisco this Sunday at noon, meaning they’ll be coming off of eight days rest while the Eagles will be coming off of 11. Quite the advantage.

It’s conceivable that Philly will beat Washington, and they’ll easily handle San Francisco. For the sake of being conservative let’s give them a loss to Denver (an AFC loss hurts less but at this point we’ll take what we can get), putting them at 7-2 entering their bye.

If our projections here are correct (we can’t quite predict the future like Tony Romo) this would mean that the Cowboys and Eagles would be entering their Week 11 Sunday Night Football matchup with 4-5 and 7-2 records, respectively. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on that game for Dallas.

Again, anything is possible here, but sticking with what we’ve got that would make the Eagles game a must-win for the Cowboys. Narrowing the gap to 5-5 and 7-3 would help significantly, especially considering the Cowboys would still have their season finale in Philadelphia to help swing things their way.

It certainly doesn’t help the case of the Cowboys that the week before they square off against one another, Dallas has to travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia is on a bye. There is, just like with their next game against Washington, an enormous advantage at play for the Eagles here.

Things lighten up a bit after the Week 11 Eagles game

If things can work out the way we just laid them out, well first of all we all need to come back to this and have a pizza party (sign up for cups, plates, and sodas in the comments please). After our party, we can look towards the rest of the schedule with a little bit more confidence.

Assuming the Cowboys and Eagles emerge from the next five NFL weeks with the aforementioned 5-5 and 7-3 records, here’s what Dallas is looking at next:

Thanksgiving Day against the Chargers is the last game that the Cowboys have to go through without Ezekiel Elliott (as of right now, and obviously no Elliott makes what we just went through all the more difficult). Even still, that’s likely a win for Dallas.

Washington on Thursday Night Football is a tough game for the Cowboys, but the next three aren’t too intimidating as of mid-October. The Giants are a dumpster fire, the Raiders have disappointed, and the Seahawks offense looks like the Giants team. You could argue that this is three potential wins for the Cowboys.

This would give them four wins in five weeks, and this is assuming a loss to the Redskins at home. That would be good enough for a 9-6 record heading to Philadelphia for the season finale.

What do the Eagles have going on after they visit the Cowboys?

Unfortunately, the Eagles won’t be tested too much after they visit AT&T Stadium. Even if they were to lose that game, things still look favorable for them entering Thanksgiving week:

The Eagles are beating the Bears, Seahawks, and Giants without question. In the spirit of being conservative (we’ve used that word a lot) let’s give them a loss in Los Angeles. This puts them at 10-4 entering their penultimate game of the regular season, a home contest against the Raiders.

Truth be told Philly likely wins that game, which, barring anything from the Redskins who we haven’t discussed, likely gives them the NFC East crown. Dallas would be visiting the Eagles with what-would-probably-be only wildcard hopes remaining.

What does all of this mean ultimately?

Look, it’s Week 6. As we’ve said throughout, anything is still possible.

What we can glean from what we’ve seen and what we can conservatively (ding) predict, the Cowboys are in a position where they’re looking up at the Eagles. They’re going to need to win a game we haven’t allotted for, and the Eagles are going to need to lose one we gave them.

This whole analysis isn’t even considering the Redskins making legitimate noise in the NFC East, but that’s because at 5-1 the Eagles are the clear team to beat. Can the Cowboys do it? It’s certainly possible, but it’s going to be tough sledding, and a lot of it is going to be determined in the time leading up to and through our date with them on November 19th.