Now that the Dallas Cowboys have woken up from their coma, it’s time to start talking about winning the NFC East and the playoffs. This isn’t to say that the Cowboys are fully resurrected, one game does not erase all that has gone wrong in 2019. It does, however, show everyone what the team is capable of when they play up to their abilities.
Given that, it’s not out of the realm of reality that the Cowboys could do some damage in the playoffs - if Sunday’s game was any indication of how they plan to play the rest of the season. That’s really the money question. How did the Cowboys turn it around for the Rams game and can they bottle that formula for future use?
They will get their first chance to replicate the formula against the Philadelphia Eagles this coming Sunday. That game will be played Sunday afternoon on FOX and will not be flexed to the Sunday night game in place of the Bears and Chiefs.
The Eagles game will go a long way to determining who will win the NFC East. But, contrary to what has been floating around in various places, that game isn’t necessarily the sole determinant of who wins the NFC East. It can be, but doesn’t have to be.
If the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Sunday, it’s over. The Cowboys will win the NFC East and host a playoff game at AT&T Stadium as the fourth-seed in the NFC. The head-to-head record would be the determining factor if both teams ended up with the same record. If the Cowboys win on Sunday, the best the Eagles could do would be tie the Cowboys at 8-8 to end the season and they would lose the tiebreaker.
That’s the easy scenario, but not the only one.
If the Cowboys lose on Sunday, there is still another path to the playoffs but would require a huge assist from the New York Giants. If the Cowboys lose to the Eagles, they would need to beat Washington in Week 17 and have the Giants beat the Eagles. That would leave both teams at 8-8 and their head-to-head record would be even. Then it would move to the division record, and under this scenario Dallas would win the tiebreaker with a 5-1 division record versus the Eagles 4-2 record.
Counting on the Giants to beat the Eagles when the Giants would have nothing to play for, while the Eagles would be fighting to win the division, isn’t an enticing scenario for the Cowboys. So while losing Sunday doesn’t necessarily end things for Dallas, that’s not a road they want to travel.
If the Cowboys do beat the Eagles on Sunday, they will then face the question of rest vs. momentum. Given that they couldn’t improve their playoff seeding in Week 17 under this scenario, should they rest their starters as much as possible, or is this team too fragile to lose any kind of momentum by tanking the Week 17 game against Washington?
Let’s hope they at least have to make that decision.