Nobody wants to see the Dallas Cowboys back into the playoffs by virtue of just being the best of the worst in the NFC East. But nobody is going to complain about it either. Playoffs are still playoffs, and once you get into the dance, anything can happen. Yes, we are all aware that these Cowboys offer nothing to make us believe they can do anything meaningful in the playoffs, but we’ll jump off of that bridge when we get to it. For now, let’s just focus on what it’s going to take to make the playoffs.
Basically, we’ve been sitting on the idea that the Week 16 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles will be the ultimate decider in determining which team wins the division. That’s largely because there is a two-game window between these teams where it doesn’t really matter who’s leading who because the winner of that big game will most likely take down the division crown.
For example, the Cowboys can be trailing the Eagles by a game when Week 16 rolls around, and still control their own destiny. A win over Philly would even them up, but it would also give them the head-to-head tiebreaker by sweeping the Eagles in the regular season.
But at the same time, the Cowboys can be ahead by a game, and still lose the division if the Eagles win that matchup because they currently trail the Eagles in the common opponent tiebreaker scenario, which is what it would come down to if both teams split and have the same divisional record. It puts all the emphasis on that late December matchup at Lincoln Financial.
While all that still holds true, this loss to the Miami Dolphins makes things a little interesting. First off, it’s bought the Cowboys another game of cushion. Even if the Eagles win their other three remaining games, the Cowboys can lose two of their next four as long as one of the games they win is against Philadelphia.
There’s also something else to consider in all this as well. The Eagles just lost to the Dolphins. That’s really bad. Sure, the “any given Sunday” rule is always in effect and we know that all too well as the Cowboys lost to the New York Jets earlier in the season. But this is the third team the Eagles have lost to this season that only has three wins on the year. Suffice to say, the Eagles are vulnerable to losing to anyone. Not only does that make us feel a little better about that Week 16 matchup, but there’s actually a scenario where the Cowboys don’t have to beat them to get in. And it’s a rather simple one.
The Eagles last four remaining games are all against NFC East opponents. Outside of the game against Dallas, they have two against New York and one against Washington. If the Eagles lose just one of their final four remaining games, the Cowboys path to the division title is pretty breezy. In fact, it wouldn’t even require them to beat Philadelphia the next time they meet. The Cowboys could go 2-2 from this point on and still win the East as long as one of those wins come in the final two weeks of the season where they play at Philly and host Washington.
That would allow the Cowboys to finish in a tie with the Eagles and still win the division because they would hold the division-record tiebreaker.
Again, nobody wants to make the playoffs that way, but the NFL is a fickle beast. We know this team has it in them to play better, and thanks to the awful play of the Eagles this season, they’re going to have extra chances to prove it.
Thanks, Miami. And thanks to Philly for being so terrible.