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Cowboys playoff rooting guide: Injuries and possible returns muddy the picture

Keeping up with the rest of the NFL helps to get a clear view of the Cowboys playoff chances.

Detroit Lions v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

For the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs, they essentially have to win out. They have four games left and they need to sweep them to go 10-6 and hopefully make the playoffs. Even if they get to 10 wins, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are in, they still need some help. So how are the teams they are battling looking going into Week 14?

Detroit Lions - The Lions sit at 6-6, essentially tied with Dallas, but leading the common-games tie-breaker to sit at 8th in the pecking order, while Dallas is still in 10th. The Lions have to play Tampa Bay in Tampa this week, and they might be without their most important player, Matthew Stafford. Much like Dak Prescott, Stafford injured his throwing hand in their game, except Stafford’s hand was stepped on. There are no broken bones, but his hand is very sore.

“We’ll just kind of see how that goes to be honest with you,” [Jim] Caldwell said, via the Detroit Free Press. “Obviously, anytime that you’re dealing with a throwing hand it’s not going to be easy. We’ll see how it heals.”

Stafford remained in the lineup after suffering a finger injury late last season and he finished with five interceptions while the Lions went 1-3 in their final four games. Anything similar would snuff out the few lingering playoff hopes that may exist in Detroit, although even winning out doesn’t guarantee the Lions anything other than a chance to slide into the postseason ahead of a team that stumbles down the stretch.

Green Bay - The big news in Green Bay is that Aaron Rodgers could be returning the game following this upcoming contest. He is now practicing which has the Packers fired up. What would be optimal for the Cowboys is for Green Bay to go ahead and lose this week to Cleveland on the road before Rodgers’ potential return. Of course, beating the Browns, even without Rodgers, is likely to happen, but if they could drop that game Dallas would jump ahead of them assuming they win over the Giants.

We really need that to happen, because the next three weeks we need Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to be a machine. We need them to beat the Panthers in Week 15. The Cowboys are trying to chase down Carolina. Then in Week 16 if Green Bay could beat the Vikings, that would also help us. The Eagels are battling the Vikes for the #1 seed in the NFC and we want Philly to have that wrapped up by Week 17, so they will rest their stars in a game Dallas will need to win. The Packers finish with the Lions, and who knows, we may still need the Lions to lose at that point. So go Packers, except for this week when you need to totally bomb and lose to Cleveland.

Atlanta Falcons - It’s short turnaround for the Falcons, who host the Saints on Thursday night. This game is also huge for Dallas, who needs Atlanta to lose at least two of their remaining four games. The Falcons also have to travel to New Orleans in two weeks. A nice scenario would be for the Falcons to lose to the Saints twice, then beat Carolina in Week 17. That would set up ideally for Dallas.

Carolina Panthers - The Panthers have a tough game on Sunday, they host the Vikings. At some point, we want the Vikings to lose a couple of games, but we really need them to knock off the Panthers, another team the Cowboys are chasing down. Carolina lost pass rusher Charles Johnson to a four-game suspension, so that helps the cause of the Cowboys. Tight end Greg Olsen is dealing with a foot injury and his status the rest of the way is iffy, he should play but he might not be 100%.

Seattle Seahawks - Dallas needs the Seahawks to lose one more game, in addition to a hypothetical win by Dallas over them in Week 16 to hold the tie-breaker. That’s the week that Ezekiel Elliott returns. The Seahawks have a tough Week 14 match with the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars. Jax is 8-4 and making playoff noise in the AFC. The Legion of Boom is decimated in Seattle, but Russell Wilson is somehow managing to keep that team afloat.

There is your early rooting guide for this week.

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