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Three reasons why the Cowboys can be proud if they win the NFC East

The goal is bigger, but winning the division still means something.

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It has been a rocky season, but the Dallas Cowboys can secure their second straight division title with a win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Considering this can be accomplished with an unimpressive 8-8 final record isn’t anything to brag about, but it would still punch their ticket to the postseason, and that’s a big deal.

Maybe it doesn’t feel that way, but here are a few reasons why taking down the East crown still matters.

Division dominance

The NFC East is a fickle beast as no team has been able to gain any traction as a consistent winner over the last 15 years. During that span, no East team has been able to win back-to-back division titles. The Cowboys can end that streak on Sunday.

Dallas has the most division titles in that span, winning the East five times as they spaced them out: 2007, 2009, 2014, 2016, and 2018. A win on Sunday would be their fourth division title in six years. I’d say that’s a little bit of traction. And when you consider the Cowboys have won 12 of their last 13 games against NFC East opponents, the Cowboys have started to assert themselves as a consistent winner in these divisional matchups.

While lately it feels like this has been a two-team division between Dallas and Philadelphia, it’s been the Cowboys who have won four straight games between these two rivals.

Division supremacy has value as these teams see so much of each other. When you look at all the gambling the Eagles do with their roster and the constant struggles the Giants and Redskins have rebuilding their team - you have to feel good about where the Cowboys sit within their division. Showing the ability to win these all-important games goes a long way as that is the first step of the process in working themselves into a position to where they can achieve postseason success. Speaking of that...

It’s just the beginning

Being awarded a playoff spot despite having an inferior record may seem unjust, but this stuff happens all the time. Five times in the last 10 years a team with a weaker record earned a playoff spot over a team with a better record. And usually, it’s the NFC East that’s been on the short end of the stick. The Carolina Panthers (2014) and Seattle Seahawks (2010) each hosted a playoff game despite having just seven wins, leaving an NFC East team with three more wins out in the cold come playoff time. It happens.

The regular season is a journey. It’s great if that journey consists of a lot of wins, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Getting the team into a position where they can make some noise in the playoffs is what truly matters. Even though things have been down and out at times, the Cowboys can still do that. The upside is there, and a postseason berth will give us all a chance to see just how much noise they can make.

Sure, the playoff teams in the NFC are formidable opponents. Does it mean a team like Seattle travels back into AT&T Stadium for a Wild Card game? Or could they have to face the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees. How about playing the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, or road games against the San Francisco 49ers or Minnesota Vikings?

That sounds difficult, but would you believe that Dak Prescott is 6-0 against all of those scenarios above. And even though this Cowboys team has struggled to win against good teams this year, I’m sure it’s not hard to fathom them showing up and beating a good team in January. They just dismantled the defending NFC Champs, and when they are playing to their ability - this team has as good of chance as any to make a deep push in the postseason.

Earning some rest time

The Cowboys have dug themselves into a hole as Sunday’s game is essentially a “must win” game, but should they emerge victorious, the East would be officially clinched. There is no sequence of events that could happen in Week 17 that would cause them to not be the division champs. That means they would earn themselves a Week 17 bye, and even though they would have to play wild card weekend, they could use that extra week to rest up and get ready for the postseason.

That’s a nice advantage as many other teams will still be fighting for positioning in Week 17. For example, many expect the second-place finisher in the NFC West to be the team that lands as the NFC East opponent for wild card weekend. As luck would have it, San Francisco and Seattle battle it out in Week 17, with the winner earning a first-round bye and the loser heading off on the road to play in the wild card round. That’s a big difference.

Older Cowboys fans know this first hand as they may remember a huge regular-season finale against the New York Giants in 1993. The Cowboys pulled out all the stops to win that game, even if it meant running Emmitt Smith into the ground with a dislocated shoulder. To the victor goes the spoils and that meant the no. 1 seed for Dallas, whereas the Giants had to travel to San Francisco and got trounced by the 49ers in the playoffs. The bottom line is that the Cowboys may be a lot more well refreshed than their opponent who would most likely be coming of a disappointing Week 17 loss.

Being a division winner has it’s perks and we can’t just gloss over this potential small advantage to kickoff a postseason run.

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