We have reached the time of year where the winter coats have come out, the holiday treats are on the kitchen counter, and the poinsettias are all the rage. As the most wonderful time of the year is upon us, that also means that various teams in the NFL are in a position to clinch playoff spots whether as a wildcard or by way of securing a division title. It has felt like a foregone conclusion for a while that the Dallas Cowboys would be winning the NFC East in 2021, and while they gave us a bit of a scare in November, the waters have stabilized and it seems that hats and t-shirts are but a moment away.
Since the team won in Washington there has been some confusion as to when exactly that moment would arrive. Originally it appeared as if the Cowboys only needed to defeat the New York Giants and pick up a Washington loss (against the Philadelphia Eagles) in Week 15 in order to wrap up the NFC East, but early discussions around the football cognoscenti suggested that this might not be the case and that a few other things would be necessary.
The NFL releases playoff-clinching scenarios later in the week, but on Wednesday their own television network was discussing the Cowboys and put scenarios on the screen. According to NFL Network the Cowboys can lock up the division with a win and Washington loss OR tie this week.
Again, this runs counter to what many people have been saying all week long as the general assumption has been that a larger number of dominoes have to fall in the right direction for the Cowboys to win the NFC East, but NFL Network clearly feels confident that this is not the case.
Where the roadblock has seemed to be for people is that wins from Dallas and Washington would put the Cowboys at 10-4 with a perfect 4-0 record in the division, but the Eagles would be 7-7 with a 1-2 record in it. Theoretically there then could be a world where Dallas and Philadelphia both finished the season 10-7 with a 4-2 record in division which is why it didn’t seem like Dallas could lock things up this week with these two things alone and that some strength-of-schedule pieces might need to fall into place as well.
To state the obvious, the simpler that things are the better, but above all the Cowboys need to make sure that they continue to win their games and do their part.
Let’s hope that continues on Sunday afternoon.
Update: 3:00pm ET
As fate would have it the NFL did release the playoff-clinching scenarios for Week 15 shortly after this post originally went out.
Washington losing to Philadelphia would in fact help the Cowboys’ odds of winning the division this week, but they would also need to have every strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Philadelphia.
Here is everything pertaining to the Cowboys in Week 15:
Dallas clinches NFC East division title with:
DAL win + WAS-PHI tie OR
DAL win + WAS loss + DAL clinches strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PHI
Dallas clinches playoff berth with:
DAL win + NO loss or tie OR
DAL win + SF loss OR
DAL tie + MIN loss or tie + NO loss or tie + ATL loss or tie OR
MIN loss + ATL loss + NO loss + PHI-WAS tie OR
MIN loss + ATL loss + NO loss + DAL clinches strength-of-victory tiebreaker over PHI
Generally speaking scenarios involving ties rarely come into play, but it is the NFL, anything can happen, you get the picture.
Ultimately we are rooting for the Cowboys primarily and the Eagles as a secondary thing (consider it rooting against Washington if you must). And while the Cowboys can clinch a playoff berth with a New Orleans loss it should be noted that the Saints are visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week and our hope remains that Dallas can surpass Tampa in the overall NFC hierarchy which means we need a Saints win. It’s about the long game.