Thanks to their loss last week to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Dallas Cowboys all but lost their shot at taking the NFC East and getting the top seed in the NFC playoff bracket. But despite that blow, Dallas is still well positioned for the 2022 postseason and could secure their place as the top wild card team in Week 16.
True, the Philadelphia Eagles haven’t clinched the division yet. And now with QB Jalen Hurts battling a shoulder issue and potentially missing time, a window seems to have opened. But it would still take the unlikely scenario of Philly losing their last three regular season games, plus the Cowboys winning all of theirs, for Dallas to steal the NFC East.
Here’s how things currently stand in the NFC playoff picture:
- Philadelphia Eagles (13-1 overall, 8-1 vs NFC)
- Minnesota Vikings (11-3 overall, 6-3 vs NFC)
- San Francisco 49ers (10-4 overall, 8-2 vs NFC)
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-8 overall, 6-3 vs NFC)
- Dallas Cowboys (10-4 overall, 7-3 vs NFC)
- New York Giants (8-5-1 overall, 4-5-1 vs NFC)
- Washington Commanders (7-6-1 overall, 4-5-1 vs NFC)
In Range (Wild Card)
- Seattle Seahawks (7-7 overall, 5-6 vs NFC)
- Detroit Lions (7-7 overall, 5-4 vs NFC)
In Range (NFC South winner)
- Carolina Panthers (5-9 overall, 4-5 vs NFC)
- New Orleans Saints (5-9 overall, 4-6 vs NFC)
- Atlanta Falcons (5-9 overall, 4-6 vs NFC)
- The Seahawks hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions from their Week 4 victory.
- The Panthers hold tie breaker over Saints and Panthers based on head-to-head win percentage
- The Saints hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Falcons, winning both games this year.
At this point, it’s more reasonable to set our sights on the Cowboys being the NFC’s top wild card team and facing the eventual “winner” of the NFC South. But with Tampa Bay only 6-8 and the Panthers, Saints and Falcons hot on their tail, Dallas’ first-round opponent is becoming harder to project.
In other news, the scenario of all four NFC East teams making the tournament is looking more possible every week. Even with Washington losing last Sunday night, the Seahawks’ loss to the Niners kept the Commanders in the playoffs for now.
Let’s see how the Week 16 schedule for these NFC teams could advance the Cowboys’ interests and help crystallize the eventual postseason matchups.
Eagles @ Cowboys
Dallas winning preserves the dream of back-to-back division titles and a potential claim on the number-one seed in the NFC, but only a little. Not only would we need Dallas to win out and Philly to lose out, but it would also require losses by Minnesota and San Francisco for the Cowboys to somehow steal the top spot and all that comes with it.
One thing that a Dallas win could help secure this week is that they couldn't slip further than the fifth seed in the eventual bracket. They would also need a loss by the Giants to make it official, but none of Detroit, Seattle, or Washington could hope to catch the Cowboys in the wild card race if we get our 11th win.
Giants @ Vikings
The possibility of Dallas still getting the first seed is still out there and we need a Minnesota loss to help. New York can be a buddy this week by beating the Vikings, which seems pretty reasonable given Minnesota’s other losses this year. It would take a huge swing over the next three weeks for the Giants to somehow get ahead of the Cowboys in the wild card race, so a Vikings’ loss is ultimately our greater potential gain.
Commanders @ 49ers
Dallas and San Francisco are both 10-4 and the Niners have a superior 8-2 record against NFC opponents than the Cowboys’ current 7-3 mark. We need them to take a hit somewhere to have a shot at the number-one seed in the NFC, and this is probably the best opportunity left on San Fran’s schedule for it to happen. They only have the Raiders and Cardinals left after this week.
Seahawks @ Chiefs
Would you rather see Seattle get a wild card spot over the Commanders, Giants, or Lions? That’s an interesting debate, but the Seahawks’ run game and mobile quarterback would make them an ugly matchup if Dallas ever had to face them. Also, I’m kinda’ rooting for this “all NFC East” scenario. Go K.C.!
Lions @ Panthers
Detroit has won six of their last seven and is starting to look like a real force. The Panthers are one of the teams in the fight for the NFC South. So it depends on which team you want to win that division to potentially face the Cowboys. While Detroit can’t catch Minnesota in the NFC North now, they could be a classic “got hot at the right time” team if they eventually break into the playoffs. Dallas has been knocked out of the tournament by a Jared Goff-led team before. Take the Panthers and the hope that they can eventually knock the Tampa Bay Brady’s out.
Bucs @ Cardinals
Whoever wins the NFC South is going to be a welcome first-round opponent for Dallas. But as we’ve talked about for weeks now, only one of those teams has Tom Brady. Give me New Orleans, Carolina or Atlanta over Tampa Bay just to avoid the Brady factor and the possibility of a veteran team waking up for the postseason.
Saints @ Browns
Did you know that Andy Dalton is currently the starting quarterback in New Orleans? That would make for a fun playoff game with Dallas. New Orleans would need to finish the year with a better overall record than Tampa, though, thanks to the Bucs’ securing the head-to-head tiebreaker over them this year.
Falcons @ Ravens
Like the Saints, Atlanta will need to get ahead of the Bucs in overall record if they want to steal the division. They’ll get a shot to put a loss on Tampa in the Week 18 finale, but need at least one more to make that matter.