As Sunday’s NFL games were getting late into the fourth quarter, particularly the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers game, as well as the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks game, there was a debate among Cowboys fans about who they wanted to face in the Wildcard Round. Fans had their reasons for who they wanted to face based on numerous factors, but there was also an argument about who the Cowboys might face in the next round that was on some fans’ minds.
Obviously, the first game of the playoffs is the most important because you have to win that or you go home and there is no next round. So the debate over facing the Rams, Cardinals, or 49ers was in full effect. The Cowboys would have to beat one of those three to move on, so picking which one you wanted became a good debate.
But looking at it from a bigger picture, moving up to the third seed was an important factor for a couple of reasons. The first is that it is one more step up on the home field ladder. Upsets can happen at any time in the playoffs, so the higher seed you have, the better shot you have hosting more home games. And we’ve seen the Cowboys offense play better at AT&T Stadium, especially in terms of red zone conversions for touchdowns.
As an offshoot to that home field argument is perhaps the most important thing that came out of the Cowboys getting the third seed. They avoid a Divisional Round matchup with the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
The Cowboys recent history with Green Bay is not good. Out of the last nine games for the Cowboys against the Packers, they have won only one, in 2016. That was the statement game from Dak Prescott’s rookie year when the team went on the road and beat Green Bay to let the rest of the league know they were for real.
That’s the good news. The bad news is the last two playoff games against Green Bay have ended in a heartbreaking defeat for Dallas. The Dez Bryant catch/non-catch game, and the Aaron Rodgers-to-Jared Cook game.
The Cowboys still might have to go through Green Bay to get to their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl, but they have at least opened the possibility of the Packers getting upset before then.
Let’s take a look at the NFC playoff schedule and play out the possibilities.
Green Bay got the bye so they will sit out the Wildcard Round. #2 Tampa Bay hosts #7 Philadelphia. #3 Dallas hosts #6 San Francisco, and #4 Los Angeles hosts #5 Arizona.
There is no way the Cowboys will play the Packers in the next round if they win in the Wildcard Round. If no upsets occur, Dallas will travel to Tampa Bay for the Divisional Round, and Los Angeles will go to Green Bay. If Philadelphia upsets Tampa Bay, they will go to Green Bay and the Cowboys will host the winner of Los Angeles/Arizona.
Dallas can only meet up with Green Bay in the NFC Conference Championship game. Further, if Green Bay loses in the Divisional Round, then the Cowboys could host that game if the Bucs are out of it, too. Philadelphia upsetting the Bucs in the Wildcard Round, and the Packers in the Divisional Round, would set up a Philly/Dallas Championship Game in Dallas as long as the Cowboys also win their games.
If all goes to form and the top four seeds advance to the Divisional Round, then if the Cowboys can beat the Bucs, and Los Angeles beats Green Bay, then the Cowboys host the Championship Game. The same would be true if Arizona beats Los Angeles and then Green Bay.
Getting the third seed over the fourth seed was very important for the Cowboys as long as they can avoid getting upset in the Wildcard Round.