The Dallas Cowboys have an opportunity to make their case for the NFC East’s crown this season if they win on Thanksgiving Day against the Washington Redskins. Given everything that’s led to this point this season, it’s one of the bigger games of the Jason Garrett era.
Week 11 was quite the gift for the Cowboys as far as playoff positioning goes. They picked up a much-needed win themselves in Atlanta, Washington lost to Houston (we never celebrate injuries but they did also lose their starting quarterback for the season), Philadelphia suffered the worst loss ever by a defending Super Bowl Champion, and the New York Giants hurt their draft position by winning.
There are a lot of factors in play for the Cowboys playoff chances across the league in Week 12 and all three Thanksgiving Day games will play a part in them. Here’s what we want to happen.
Last week when the Chicago Bears hosted the Minnesota Vikings I wrote that we should root for the latter. This was to help keep the Bears within reachable distance for the Cowboys should things come down to a wildcard situation, but there was definitely logic to wanting Chicago to run away with things. That simply isn’t a guarantee though, but it’s looking more like they’re going to thankfully.
At this point we absolutely are rooting for the Bears to be the kings in the north and to help push the Detroit Lions further down in the wildcard picture. Detroit is only a game behind the Cowboys at this point (although they did lose to Dallas) so let’s hope they continue to plummet.
Obviously we’re rooting for the Cowboys to beat the Redskins, and we’re rooting for the Saints over the Falcons the same way we are the Bears over the Lions. Run away, Saints. Run fast! (maybe run so hard you trip next week on Thursday...).
SUNDAY 1 PM GAMES: Buccaneers, Giants (most important), Panthers
There are four pure AFC games in the early slot on Sunday and we really won’t be impacted by what happens in any of them. We do however have three games that we need to monitor.
First off, we’re rooting for the Buccaneers over the 49ers because, well, because we don’t like the 49ers. It’s rivalry week (the NFC East is obsessed with the Cowboys by the way) and we want to see our rivals lose whenever possible and since this game doesn’t have playoff implications it would be nice to see them lose. This one doesn’t have anything to do with the Cowboys current playoff positioning.
Getting back to business, it would absolutely behoove the Cowboys to have the Eagles lose at home against the Giants this week. New York is now, amazingly, only a game behind Philadelphia but they did lose the matchup earlier in the season. The Eagles have two home games (this one and Washington) in front of them before they travel to Dallas... that game on December 9th against the Cowboys could be quite large. A loss here by Philly would be great.
While the division certainly seems to be the most probable way for the Cowboys to get into the playoffs, things around the conference did open up a bit last week and a wildcard is not exactly out of the realm of possibility. Part of the reason why is that the Carolina Panthers lost last week. Carolina did beat Dallas early on in the season but we sort of need them to rebound on Sunday.
There’s logic to rooting against the Panthers when they host the Seahawks because they have a better record, but allow me to explain. First of all, it’s possible for the Panthers to cruise to the top wildcard spot in the conference and have the the Cowboys earn the second, but even beyond that it still likely benefits Dallas for Carolina to win.
The Panthers might be a game better than the Seahawks currently, but they have two games against the New Orleans Saints remaining. Meanwhile the Seahawks still get the 49ers twice and the Cardinals once so odds are they’ll win a few more games and the Panthers could lose some. Things will likely balance down the stretch which is why Carolina winning this particular game is the ideal scenario. Consider it losing the battle to win the overall war.
The Los Angeles Chargers host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday afternoon and while the latter isn’t exactly a playoff threat it never hurts to see an NFC team lose. It’s obviously not critical.
Similar to how we chose to root for the Buccaneers over the 49ers the spirit of rivalry week dictates that we root against the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve bounced back hard from a slow start to the season and are now surging to be one of the AFC’s top teams. Any Cowboys fan will quickly remind you that Dallas trails Pittsburgh in the overall Lombardi collection so keeping them away from another is a good thing. Go Broncos, but the world won’t end if they don’t get the job done.
PRIMETIME GAMES: Packers and... that’s it
Monday Night Football features two AFC teams and if you really want to root against the Houston Texans then no harm will come of it. We’ll be rooting them on in a month when they visit Philadelphia, though.
Sunday Night Football is a different matter, though. The Minnesota Vikings will, for the second week in a row, play under the call of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, this time at home against the Green Bay Packers. Minnesota has a one-game lead on the Packers and while these two teams tied in their first meeting of the season this one needs to go a certain way for the Cowboys sake as far as the wildcard race is concerned.
It’s understandable if you’d rather take your chances with a Vikings win because you want the Packers as far out of the picture as possible, I get that. In a literal and mathematical world, though, it benefits the Cowboys for Green Bay to win that way (assuming a Dallas victory) they’ll jump ahead of both them and the Vikings.
Official Week 12 Rooting Guide
Let’s hope we get some help.
|Time||Away team||Home Team||Result|
|Thanksgiving Day||Chicago (7-3)||Detroit (4-6)||Win|
|Thanksgiving Afternoon||Washington (6-4)||Dallas (5-5)||Win|
|Thanksgiving Night||Atlanta (4-6)||New Orleans (9-1)||Win|
|1:00 PM||San Francisco (2-8)||Tampa Bay (3-7)|
|1:00 PM||N.Y. Giants (3-7)||Philadelphia (4-6)|
|1:00 PM||New England (7-3)||N.Y. Jets (3-7)||N/A|
|1:00 PM||Cleveland (3-6-1)||Cincinnati (5-5)||N/A|
|1:00 PM||Seattle (5-5)||Carolina (6-4)|
|1:00 PM||Jacksonville (3-7)||Buffalo (3-7)||N/A|
|1:00 PM||Oakland (2-8)||Baltimore (5-5)||N/A|
|3:05 PM||Arizona (2-8)||L.A. Chargers (7-3)|
|3:25 PM||Pittsburgh (7-2-1)||Denver (4-6)|
|3:25 PM||Miami (5-5)||Indianapolis (5-5)||N/A|
|7:20 PM||Green Bay (4-5-1)||Minnesota (5-4-1)|
|MNF||Tennessee (5-5)||Houston (7-3)||N/A|