On the heels of the Dallas Cowboys huge upset of the New Orleans Saints, it’s entirely excusable for Dallas fans to start dreaming about the NFL playoffs. The Cowboys will end Week 13 in first place in the NFC East, and will either be tied with Washington at 7-5, or a game ahead of both Washington and Philadelphia depending on how that Monday night contest plays out.
So while the team is on their mini-bye, let’s head over the ESPN Playoff Machine and play around with some scenarios. You can pick each game individually for the rest of the year to get whatever combination of scenarios you want to draw up, but the playoff machine also allows you to run the rest of the season’s games based on five scenarios. You can use win percentage, home team, away team, offensive rank and defensive rank.
Let’s walk through how Dallas fares in each situation.
This scenarios projects the winner of all the rest of the games as the team with the better record. So basically, picking the favorites based on their current record. In this scenario, the Cowboys would project to win all four of their final games and end up with an 11-5 record. Washington would also be projected to win the rest of their games and go 11-5, level with Dallas but losing the division on a tiebreaker. Dallas ends up as the fourth seed.
If you’re a big believer in home field advantage, this scenario is for you. The machine projects the home team to win all of their games and gives Dallas a 9-7 record, one ahead of Washington, and an NFC East division title along with the fourth seed. They are the only NFC East team to make the playoffs in this iteration.
This one is for the super-fanciful underdog fan. All away teams win their games, and even under this scenario Dallas wins the division with a 9-7 record, beating Washington on a tiebreak and getting the fourth seed in the conference.
Now we got to the one scenario where the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs. If you base all wins on the team with best offensive rank, the Cowboys end up going 7-9 and yield the division to Philadelphia who go 8-8. Of course, this takes into account each team’s offensive rank accumulated over the entire season. As we’ve seen, the Cowboys offense is nowhere close to the one that started the year, with the addition of Amari Cooper and the change in offensive line coach. (This scenario also brings into play the wholly unlikely event of Tampa Bay getting a Wild Card berth).
Here we go, this is the one we like. If you base each game’s winner on the defensive rank of each team playing, then the Cowboys zoom up the charts all the way to a number three seed. Dallas would go 11-5 and would leapfrog the Los Angeles Rams in the seeding. This scenario gets even better. Under this situation, Philadelphia doesn’t win another game this season and finishes 5-11. Delicious.
We get it, none of this means too much in the scope of things. Every game is different and upsets happen (see Dallas over New Orleans), but it is still fun to mess around with on a mini-bye. Talking Cowboys and playoffs is always a good thing.