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NFL Playoff Picture: Cowboys still on track for playoffs

How the NFL Playoff picture is shaping up for both the NFC and AFC.

Las Vegas Raiders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

Despite a small mid-season slump, the Cowboys remain easily on track for the 2021 playoffs. They still have a two-game lead in the division in the win column, and the other NFC East teams have not been able to take advantage of the Cowboys’ struggles over the last four games.

But those games were likely nothing more than an aberration that will right itself with a win against the Saints on Thursday. And as Peter King points out, the Cowboys are getting healthy at just the right time, with an easy schedule to get ready for the playoffs.

Lost three of four, and there are things to worry about, such as an overmatched and grabby secondary. I put my faith here in Dak Prescott, a reliable run game, and the most impressive rookie in football. When I see 6-3, 246-pound Micah Parsons chase down a quarterback from behind, visions of Lawrence Taylor dance in my head. Parsons has miles to go before he’s in the same league with Taylor, of course, but Parsons with Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence—they could all be on the field together soon if Lawrence and Gregory heal on schedule from injuries—would be a brutal trio to stop for any offensive front, particularly a battered one as the regular season winds down.

The slate: at New Orleans (Thursday), at WFT, at the Giants, Washington and Arizona at home, at Philadelphia.

But is the team good enough to make waves in the playoffs? ESPN has some doubts:

Uh-oh. The Cowboys were expected to take off once they got quarterback Dak Prescott back from injury. Instead, they have lost three of their past four games, most recently to the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day. As we have said often in recent years, the NFC East leader is protected by poor competition from its division rivals. The Eagles’ loss Sunday to the Giants means no one is within two games of the Cowboys. But it remains an open question whether the Cowboys will head into the playoffs as a genuine contender or will be in the postseason simply because they’re the least-flawed team in a weak division.

Here’s what the overall playoff picture in the NFC looks like today.

Seed Team Record Rationale
1 i.0.png Arizona 9-2 Divison winner
2 i.0.png Green Bay 9-3 Division winner
3 i.0.png Tampa Bay 8-3 Division winner
4 i.0.png Dallas 7-4 Division winner
5 i.0.png LA Rams 7-4 Wild card #1
6 San Francisco 6-5 Wild card #2
7 Minnesota 5-6 Wild card #3: Wins tiebreak over ATL
8 i.0.png Atlanta 5-6 Wins tiebreak over NO
9 i.0.png New Orleans 5-6 - -
10 i.0.png Philly 5-7 Wins tiebreak over CAR

As it currently stands, the Cowboys would host the Rams in the wildcard round of the playoffs. But the Rams themselves are in a bit of a mini-slump, having lost their last three games. And that is opening the door for a team like the 49ers a chance to move into the #1 wildcard spot.

Of course, the Cowboys could also move up the playoff seeding, even if the #1 seed is likely out of reach by now.

On to the AFC playoff picture:

Seed Team Record Rationale
1 i.0.png Baltimore 8-3 Division winner
2 i.0.png New England 8-4 Div. winner: Wins tiebreak over TEN
3 i.0.png Tennessee 8-4 Division winner
4 i.0.png Kansas City 7-4 Division winner
5 i.0.png Cincinnati 7-4 Wildcard #1: wins tiebreak over LAC
6 i.0.png Buffalo 7-4 Wildcard #2
7 i.0.png LA Chargers 6-5 Wildcard #3: Wins tiebreak over DEN & LV
8 i.0.png Las Vegas 6-5 Wins tiebreak over DEN
9 Denver 6-5 - -
10 i.0.png Indianapolis 6-6 Wins tiebreak over PIT

A lot will change with these playoff rankings over the next six weeks. Do you think the Cowboys can climb the playoff seeding ladder, and if so, how far?

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