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The cost of winning: What the Cowboys stand to lose by finishing the season on a winning streak

Winning is good, but it comes with a price for the Cowboys.

Washington Football Team v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys have won three straight games and will enter Week 17 with an opportunity to make the playoffs. Regardless of what you make of this 2020 season, that’s still a pretty nice situation to be in considering the team started the season 2-7 and looked as if they were left out for dead. In fact, whomever ends up winning the NFC East will be a part of history as they will become the first team ever to make the playoffs after starting the season with a 2-7 record as all the previous teams are 0-258 in that situation.

While it feels good to enter the regular-season finale with a chance for bonus football, there is another side of that coin that weighs heavily on the mind of many Cowboys fans - botching up their draft position. For a while now, there has been a line drawn in the sand between “Team Tank” and “Team Just Win Baby.” Last month, we offered up an argument of why sneaking into the playoffs is better than finishing with a top three draft pick, so feel free to check it out, but we’re not going to revisit that debate in this article.

Instead, we’re going to try to big picture this thing focusing solely on the three possible outcomes for the Cowboys on Sunday. Before we get started, let’s take a look at the current draft positions of the bottom 24 teams in the NFL courtesy of Tankathon.

As you can see, the Cowboys currently hold the no. 11 overall spot in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. Of course, that’s likely to change after Sunday. There are three likely outcomes that will move the Cowboys draft pick around, and they are as follows:

  • 7th-10th = if they lose against the Giants
  • 11th-15th = if they beat the Giants, but Washington wins and takes down the NFC East
  • 19th = if they win the NFC East

Now, this is helpful in preparing our minds for what’s coming. While most fans are pulling for a division crown and playoff football, a loss guarantees a the Cowboys a top 10 draft pick. There are silver linings in both of those scenarios.

As far as the playoffs go, this team is playing its best football at the right time. Nobody is expecting it to amount to anything special, but if Andy Dalton continues to play well and the defense keeps taking the ball away, this team can end the year with something to build off. They’re not likely going to go on some miraculous run and strike down all of games top quarterbacks as that’s nothing more than a pipe dream.

But can they make a little noise? What if they catch Tom Brady on an off day at AT&T Stadium and get an upset Wild Card win and then travel back to Lambeau Stadium so Mike McCarthy could face his old team? Wouldn’t that be a nice scenario to help bring about optimism for the future? Maybe McCarthy is on to something? Maybe players are starting to figure this system out? Another divisional loss is not what we dreamt up when the season began, but considering what this team has gone through this season, that would be a huge achievement.

Okay, so now that we hypothesized a somewhat imaginable best-case scenario, let’s go the other way. If the Cowboys season comes to an end by losing to a Giants team who have lost three straight, that is going to be devastating blow. We’re talking losing to a Giants offense that has scored only two touchdowns over their past three games. If they somehow come alive against this Cowboys defense en route to ending Dallas’ season, that’s going to be a hard pill to swallow. Wouldn’t it be just like Jason Garrett to find a way to let down Cowboys fans one last time.

As bad as that would be, believe it or not that’s not the absolute worst scenario for Sunday.

Let’s say the Cowboys roll the Giants on Sunday. Dalton looks as sharp as ever, and something’s clicking with this defense that this Cowboys team unleashes a MetLife massacre. And as much as we try to resist it, hope creeps in that the Cowboys might actually have become a good football team. Remember, teams that get healthy and ride hot down the stretch are the ones everyone is talking about in January.

But then, taking that high into Sunday night, we witness those untrustworthy Philadelphia Eagles completely wet the bed. Maybe Jalen Hurts makes horrible choices. Maybe Hurts gets hurt and that Carson Wentz fella comes in and starts doing Carson Wentz things, only this time we’re not laughing about it. What if Washington emerges victorious in some 7-6 game where the only touchdown comes from some keystone capers shenanigans that results in a defensive touchdown? You know this thought has crossed your mind.

In that scenario, the Cowboys miss the playoffs, and depending on what happens with the other 6-9 teams this weekend, the Cowboys could move as far back as pick no. 15 in the draft. That would be terrible. And considering the Cowboys were sitting at pick four just a few weeks ago, then dropped to eight, now to 11, missing the playoffs and falling all the way to pick no. 15 would be such a 2020 thing to happen.

Of course, keep this in mind when you’re fretting over draft position...

Poll

Obviously, nobody wants that middle scenario to happen, but of the other two choices, which do you prefer?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Lose and take home a top 10 pick
    (503 votes)
  • 60%
    Win the NFC East, say goodbye to draft capital
    (757 votes)
1260 votes total Vote Now