It is that time of year. Thanksgiving is next week.
Every year there are different NFL fan bases that get to experience their team playing on Turkey Day for either the first time period (a rarity at this point) or first time in a long time. The newness of it all is a fun energy that adds to their holiday experience.
Of course, as Dallas Cowboys fans, we are well-accustomed to all of this. If you are a Cowboys fan odds are the Thanksgiving Day game is incorporated into your family’s yearly traditions and/or rituals. It is woven into the fabric of the holiday for all of us.
We discussed this idea on the latest episode of The Ocho on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
As the Cowboys will be playing on Thursday, that means that by this time next week they will have played two games. On paper they are both rather intimidating as the Minnesota Vikings are 8-1 while the New York Giants are 7-2, but considering they are currently ranked 17th and 19th, respectively, by DVOA (Dallas is 4th) they may not wind up being as tough-it-out contests as they seem on the surface.
Still, though, based on the way that the playoff picture looks within the NFC East, and within the NFC overall, this is a massive stretch that we are about to begin for the Cowboys. When we factor in what will happen over the weekend following Thanksgiving Day then things become all the more spicy.
The next 10 days could significantly change this Dallas Cowboys season and the landscape in the NFC
Entering Week 11 the NFC East is on all sorts of fire while the Minnesota Vikings are the number two seed in the conference trailing the East leader in the Philadelphia Eagles. That makes things a bit sticky here.
Either Dallas or Minnesota are going to win on Sunday which means that Eagles fans are in a bind. Do they root for the Cowboys to win and give themselves more breathing room for the top seed in the conference? Or do they trust themselves to keep pace and root for the Vikings to push the Cowboys further out of contention for the division?
Whatever the case, for the purposes of this conversation, we are going to assume that Dallas wins their next two games. That would put them at 8-3 as of next Thursday night with a season sweep of the New York Giants under their belt, and a 3-1 record within the division. It doesn’t seem far-fetched to assume that the Giants win their final game before Thanksgiving against the Detroit Lions, which would mean that they would also sit at 8-3 after Thanksgiving but would lose the tiebreaker to Dallas.
At present moment, FiveThirtyEight has Philadelphia (64%) with the strongest likelihood of winning the NFC East. Dallas is next in line at 24% while the Giants are at 14%. It is not difficult to understand that Dallas beating New York on Thanksgiving would change the math completely.
Before the Cowboys and Giants face off, the Eagles will visit the Colts in a game that they will likely win. Assuming that is the case, then that will set up a showdown for them next Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers who will be coming off of the mini-bye thanks to their Thursday night game this week. What’s more is that Green Bay will have the extra rest and will have played two games in a row at home. Needless to say they will be as “rested” as they possibly can be which (despite our feelings about the Packers) is good for us relative to the Eagles and the NFC East race.
While it would suck greatly (just being blunt) to see the Packers get hot and enter the playoffs, the best chance that Dallas has in the postseason is by winning the NFC East. While that feels like a difficult proposition right now, a handful of “those could totally happen” things really impact the way things could look at the end of next week.
If we assume the following things:
- Dallas beats Minnesota
- Philadelphia beats Indianapolis
- Dallas beats New York
- Green Bay beats Philadelphia
This would give the Dallas Cowboys a 50% chance to win the NFC East according to FiveThirtyEight (Philadelphia would sit at 46% in this scenario).
This is by no means an inconceivable potential timeline. The Cowboys lost last week and that is unfortunate, but they put together a performance that saw them take a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter against a solid (ish) team. Meanwhile, the Vikings were down by 17 points this past week and won thanks to an insane comeback. Obviously Dallas already beat New York this year and did so with Cooper Rush at quarterback and on the road for that matter. All of this is well within the realm of possibility.
The reason that the math shifts so much in Dallas’ favor in this scenario is because they would control their own destiny against the Eagles, again assuming that Philly lost (all Philly has to do is lose one more time in general for this to be case). If the Cowboys get another Eagles loss then they can hand the Eagles another and with Philadelphia already having another division loss, Dallas can give them two and only have one. But the Eagles would be just one of the six remaining games for the Cowboys beginning in Week 13.
Who are the other five? Oh no big deal, just the entire AFC South and a Week 18 game against the Washington Commanders. The fact that 4/6 of Dallas’ final games are against the worst division in football offers them a huge potential boost. But wait, there’s more.
While we have focused on the NFC East side of things, the Cowboys would be in very legitimate contention to secure the top overall seed in the conference as a whole thanks to a win against the Vikings who are the top challenger for that position outside of the Eagles (and we have already outlined the path for the Cowboys to overtake them). It would, at that point, just take one more Minnesota loss on the season for Dallas to pass the Vikings in that department and it is certainly worth mentioning that they would still have games remaining against the New York Jets, New York Giants, and Green Bay Packers.
The Cowboys can go a long way towards setting up an NFC East title and first-round bye if they win their way to next Friday morning. Two games. Get through them then sit back, relax, and hope for some help.