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Cowboys fall to 3rd in NFC East, but still very much alive this season

Dallas, New York, and Philadelphia would all be in the playoffs if they started now.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The mood in Cowboys Nation after last Sunday’s loss to the Eagles has been surprisingly cheerful. While much of that comes from Dak Prescott’s expected return, there’s also the comforting reality of where Dallas sits among its NFC peers in the current playoff picture. Despite being third in their own division, the Cowboys would still qualify as one of the three wild card teams.

It was yet another strong week for the NFC East. Philadelphia remained the NFL’s only unbeaten team in its win over Dallas, while the Cowboys earned plenty of respect for how they hung with the Eagles in a second-half rally. Also, the Giants continued their shocking success by improving to 5-1 with a victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Even Washington got a win, being slightly less awful than the Chicago Bears in the latest Thursday Night Football debacle. Bet you Amazon wishes they could return that package right about now.

While the Eagles are certainly enjoying life right now, their lead in the division and conference is hardly comfortable. The Giants and Minnesota Vikings are right on their heels with 5-1 records, and New York and Philadelphia still haven’t played each other yet. Plus there’s the Cowboys, still in close range and about to get QB1 back.

No other NFC teams currently have more than three wins. That means, if the playoffs started now, Dallas and New York would both be wild card teams.

Of course, there’s still a lot of the season left and this landscape could change dramatically even within the next few weeks. But the current circumstances are why Dallas fans aren’t the usual degree of downcast following a loss to Philly.

  • Philadelphia Eagles 6-0 (2-0 in division)
  • New York Giants 5-1 (0-1 in division)
  • Dallas Cowboys 4-2 (2-1 in division)
  • Washington Commanders 2-4 (0-2 in division)

The Week 7 schedule offers a good opportunity for both the Cowboys and Giants to maintain the status quo and keep the Eagles within reach. Dallas will return home to host the 1-4 Detroit Lions while New York is visiting the 2-4 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Philadelphia will be on an early bye this week, which may not be coming at an ideal time given their current momentum. That’s a whole extra week to do some cheese eating, as Bill Parcells used to say.

Given how the Cowboys have performed over the last five games with Cooper Rush at quarterback, it’s hard to fathom them losing at home to Detroit with Prescott back in action. But the Lions have a scrappy team, giving both Philly and Minnesota tough battles in two of their losses. But after going down 29-0 to the New England Patriots last week, their prospects against Dallas’ defense don’t seem promising.

The Giants have a similar opponent in the Jaguars, who actually have a +24 points margin on the year despite their losing record. There’s a decent chance here for an upset, which would pull Dallas and New York even in overall record. That also would put the Cowboys back in second place in the NFC East, thanks to their head-to-head win over the Giants from Week 3.

If there’s any hope of catching the Eagles in the division and conference, these games are crucial to that goal. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule is very soft and they seem destined for at least 12-13 wins, if not better. Neither Dallas nor New York can afford to blow these opportunities against their easier opponents.

How Dak Prescott looks in his expected return will go a long way to either inspiring or destroying confidence about the Cowboys’ prospects in 2022. It’s easily the biggest story in the NFC East this week, and potentially critical to how the entire NFC conference plays out this season.

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