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Dallas Cowboys Playoff Picture: Scenarios for the NFC East, No. 1 seed in the NFC, top wildcard spot

There are a lot of variables in the air for the Cowboys right now as far as their position within the playoffs.

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are a playoff team. Regardless of what happens over the course of the final three weeks of the regular season, the Cowboys have a seat at this season’s proverbial playoff table. While things certainly feel a lot more likely in one direction than others, there are technically a number of possibilities for America’s Team depending on the results of their own games and a few others.

For the purposes of staying organized we have assembled Dallas’ path to various outcomes as we approach Saturday’s Christmas Eve matchup against the likely Jalen Hurts-less Philadelphia Eagles.

Here is how the Dallas Cowboys can win the NFC East

The first step in the Cowboys hypothetically earning the one seed in the NFC obviously requires them winning their own division. That likelihood took a big hit last week when the Cowboys lost pace with the Eagles by losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars (Philly beat the Chicago Bears to stretch their lead) but there is life left in the idea, however faint it is.

Once again, we are not suggesting that this is particularly likely, but it is a fact. In order for the Cowboys to win the NFC East things have to essentially go 100% their way.

  • The Cowboys would have to win out (PHI, at TEN, at WAS)
  • The Eagles would have to lose out (at DAL, NO, NYG)

It goes without saying that the Jalen Hurts injury is a factor here since we don’t really know how good the Eagles, a great overall team, will be with Gardner Minshew under center. It is interesting to consider what things would be like for Philly if they lost to say both Dallas and New Orleans and created a world where they need the Week 18 win against the New York Giants who will also be jockeying for playoff position.

We discussed the state of the division in great detail on the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

Here is how the Dallas Cowboys can clinch the #1 seed in the NFC

The merits of the first-round bye can certainly be debated, some people do not want to see their team rest and potentially lose steam, while some think the rest is most important plus one less game to win, and homefield advantage.

It goes without saying that the Cowboys would have to win the NFC East in order to take the conference’s top seed so everything that we just went over would have to happen first and foremost. But there is more.

The Cowboys lost last week and not only gave a further lead to the Eagles in the NFC, but also relinquished the one that they had over Minnesota back to the Vikings. Dallas has the tiebreaker over Minnesota but now trails them in the win-loss column.

Additionally, with the Cowboys taking a step back a team that they were clear of in the San Francisco 49ers has now become an issue given that Kyle Shanahan’s squad has the tiebreaker over them.

If it isn’t obvious the Cowboys need losses from them as well if they want the one seed.

  • The Cowboys would have to win the NFC East (so everything from up above)
  • The Vikings would have to lose a game (NYG, at GB, at CHI)
  • The 49ers would have to lose a game (WAS, at LV, ARI)

In this particular scenario the Cowboys would be the top seed in the NFC.

Here is the most quick and practical way to the Cowboys being locked in as the top wild card team (the #5 seed)

If it isn’t obvious by now the Cowboys are extremely unlikely to win the division and/or the top seed in the NFC. They secured a playoff berth, and it will very likely be as the top-seeded wild card team within the conference, the position that they have held for most of this season.

There is no result this week that could secure this for the Cowboys given that if they win they (by beating the Eagles) will keep life in their hopes to win the division. Interestingly the Cowboys play on Thursday Night Football next week so if they do beat Philadelphia on Sunday, they will technically have everything to play for against the Tennessee Titans.

If we live in a world where the Cowboys win on Saturday (not to overlook the Eagles, but the Cowboys are favorites in the aftermath of the Jalen Hurts injury news) then they can be just about set to lock up the #5 seed... if they get one piece of help.

  • The Cowboys would have to beat the Eagles
  • The Vikings would have to beat the Giants

Before the Cowboys host the Eagles, the Vikings will host the Giants which means Dallas and Philadelphia will know what is or is not at stake. A Vikings loss or tie opens the opportunity for Philly to clinch the division and one seed this week with even a tie against the Cowboys, but ties are obviously unlikely and this rests on two of them. Additionally, if the Vikings won and the Eagles tied with the Cowboys then Philly would actually clinch the NFC East but not the one seed, an interesting wrinkle of possibilities.

A Vikings win though would mean a Giants loss. The Giants just so happen to be the closest team to the Cowboys in the wild card portion of things so if they lose and Dallas wins then the Cowboys’ lead grows.

Even if these things happen the Cowboys would still not be locked into the top wild card spot within the conference because they would technically have life within the NFC East race. And as mentioned, with the Cowboys playing in the first game of next week a win in Nashville would guarantee them nothing.

There is actually another thing required for Dallas to be locked into the five seed. If the Cowboys and Vikings win on Saturday then the next Eagles win (presumably next Sunday against New Orleans) locks Philadelphia in as the number one seed and Dallas as the number five. This would set up a scenario where neither the Cowboys nor Eagles had anything to play for in a technical sense in Week 18, but interestingly they are the teams that the New York Giants and Washington Commanders will be facing and those two units are both working on their own playoff positioning.

Essentially wins from the Cowboys and Vikings this week guarantee that Dallas will be either the five seed (the overwhelming likelihood) or the NFC East winner (very unlikely) with potentially the number one seed working in their favor (even more unlikely).

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