The Dallas Cowboys were victorious on Saturday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Merry Christmas, one and all! While the victory is sweet, the fact that we are, in fact, in the final week of December, playoff positioning is all the rage in the NFL. Winning is always helpful as far as strengthening playoff spots but truth be told the Cowboys did not move a lot (really at all) by beating Philadelphia.
The win is certainly important and particularly so thanks to what happened across the rest of the NFL, mostly in the NFC. Here is where things stand for the Cowboys after Saturday’s action.
The Dallas Cowboys have secured the #5 seed in the NFC at worst
Entering this week the Cowboys needed any combination of two things between themselves and the New York Giants. Dallas needed two wins themselves, two Giants losses, or one of each. On Saturday, they officially got one of each.
Thanks to this sequence of events the Cowboys will be locked into the top wildcard spot in the NFC if and when the Eagles lock up the division. For what it’s worth, Philly has two games left at home against the New Orleans Saints and the Giants, and a win in either of them gives them the NFC East and therefore cements Dallas in at the #5 seed.
In order for the Cowboys to repeat as division champions they would have to win their final two games (both on the road) against the Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders. Additionally, the Eagles would have to lose their final two. The possibility is very faint but it is a non-zero quantity if you want to ask Santa for a late gift.
It is still possible for the Cowboys to win the division AND be the #1 seed
As far as this goes the Cowboys got absolutely no help except for what they did on their own this week. The Cowboys kept themselves moving and therefore kept the division in question by beating the Eagles, but they need help outside of the NFC East if they want the mega dream of the number one seed.
Obviously in order for the Cowboys to be the top seed in the conference they would have to win their division so they need their two wins and Philly’s two losses. In addition to that, in order to take home the only bye in the conference, they still need losses from both the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers. Unfortunately they both won on Saturday although Minnesota’s win over New York is what clinched the #5 seed at worst for Dallas if you want the glass-half-full spin.
The Tennessee Titans lost on Saturday which is significant for next week
While playoff positioning generally only has to do with the Cowboys’ division and conference, there are occasional instances where something from an AFC team is of importance as well. The Tennessee Titans lost to the Houston Texans on Saturday which could change the next game that Dallas will play.
You see the Cowboys will visit the Titans on Thursday night next week and when that game happens, Tennessee will have very little to play for from a playoff position standpoint. Thanks to Tennessee’s most recent losses and the Jacksonville Jaguars riding a winning streak (sigh) no matter what happens with Tennessee and Jacksonville in Week 17 will not impact their matchup between one another in Week 18. The Titans loss on Saturday established that their Week 18 game against the Jaguars will be a winner-takes-the-division contest.
This is a bit of a stretch, but it isn’t implausible that the Titans could see their upcoming game against the Cowboys as something that offers them no real benefit. Tennessee could choose to rest starters or approach things lightly in the spirit of focusing on their division rival and the game that is basically a playoff matchup for them, not to mention that they could have the mini-bye following TNF to work even more in their favor. Dallas should beat Tennessee anyway, but this is all relevant information.
The Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints are making the NFC South a bit of a late race
Speaking of relevant information, it appears more likely than not that the Cowboys will visit the winner of the NFC South in the Wild Card Round. It is assumed by many that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will win it once again, and while they do not play until Sunday night, the Panthers and Saints both won on Saturday and are sticking around in the conversation.
Dallas would likely be favored against any of those three teams but the Tom Brady factor is one that many fans are not fond of. Additionally, the Saints winning the division would push their first-round pick back farther than a team with a normally below-.500 record since they would be a division winner and that matters since it belongs to the Eagles.