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Watching Atlanta succeed in playoffs reminds Cowboys fans of what could have been

One game kept Dallas out of an incredibly easy path through the NFC playoffs.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Many have noted that had the Dallas Cowboys beaten the Seattle Seahawks on Christmas Eve that they wouldn’t have made the playoffs anyway.

This is true because one week later the Atlanta Falcons, who the Cowboys would have needed to lose, defeated the Carolina Panthers in a win-and-in game.

As true as that is, the Cowboys were still one win away from the playoffs, it just wasn’t the Seattle game. Had Dallas defeated Atlanta back on November 12th, the first game without Ezekiel Elliott, it could have been them in that slot over the Falcons.

Atlanta, fresh off of a 26-13 wildcard win in Los Angeles over the Rams, deserves to be where they are. Coming off of what might be the worst loss in playoff history (Super Bowl LI), the Falcons are due for some good fortune heading their way.

While they had a down season, perhaps 2017 was the pendulum swinging their way. Dallas, Detroit, and Seattle all had opportunities to be sitting where the Falcons are if they had beaten them, but Matt Ryan and Co. were victorious against all three.

As Cowboys fans, it hurts looking at what the Falcons have both in front and immediately behind them. They caught the Rams on an incredibly off night (pretty interesting how nobody is questioning LA’s decision to rest starters in Week 17) and are a game in Philadelphia against Nick Foles away from the NFC Championship Game.

Imagine if that was all it took for Dallas to reach a point that it hasn’t in over 20 years. Beat the young, inexperienced Rams in one of the NFL’s least-intimidating stadiums and beat a Nick Foles-led Eagles squad. It’s one of the easiest routes to the penultimate game that there’s ever been.

Unlike other would-be games in 2017, the Cowboys had the doors blown off of them against the Falcons. They initially led by seven, but failed to do anything else offensively and, after many sacks given up by Chaz Green, lost 27-7.

There are plenty of other games the Cowboys were much closer to winning this past season. Los Angeles, Green Bay, and Seattle were all opportunities that were lost and/or squandered.

Had the Cowboys won one of those games, they still wouldn’t have been in, but that’s not what hurts today. Looking back and knowing that if they’d just beaten the Falcons, they could have been on Atlanta’s current path... that’s hard to swallow.

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