clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 weird playoff factors including why it might be better for the Cowboys if the Eagles win this week

There are a lot of other elements that could stand in the way of the Cowboys winning the NFC East.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are in an interesting situation. On one hand, they are still alive for the NFC East title and the meaningful top seed in the conference, which comes with a prize of a first-round bye in the playoffs. But on the other hand, they need a lot of things to go right to get to that spot.

Skipping right to the second round and having home-field advantage in the playoffs is a huge benefit over having to play on Wild Card weekend on the road. Securing that top spot is quite significant. So, it seems like the plan is quite simple, keep fighting for it until they are officially out of the running. Once the Eagles clinch, then the Cowboys can reassess the situation and prioritize being healthy for the playoffs.

That plan sounds easy in theory, but there are some other factors that could throw a wrench into things.

The Titans are looking past the Cowboys on Thursday

Sometimes we get caught up on a big upcoming divisional game that we aren’t always amped up for what’s lying right ahead of us. People claim that is what happened to the Cowboys against Jacksonville, the game right before the Philly matchup. But sometimes looking ahead is okay, and that’s what the Tennessee Titans appear to be doing as we are hearing that they could sit certain players who need rest against the Cowboys as they shift their focus on the all-important divisional game against the Jaguars in Week 18. The Titans must win that finale to win the division, and what happens against Dallas doesn’t mean anything in the standings.

This doesn’t change a whole lot for the Cowboys as they will still have to handle their business as usual, but there are a couple of things that might make things a little different. First, there’s a much better chance to get that one of the final two wins they’ll need if they are to win the division. And second, with the Titans playing reserves, the Cowboys might be able to get up big and play some reserves themselves.

That definitely works in the Cowboys' favor, but after that, there are many others that don’t.

The Buccaneers might be able to rest on Week 18

Similar to how the AFC South will come down to the Titans/Jags game in Week 18, the winner of the NFC South rests heavily on what happens this weekend. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers square off on Sunday. The Bucs have a one-game lead over the Panthers, but if Carolina wins, they’d be tied and the Panthers would hold the tie-breaker by virtue of sweeping the division series.

However, if Tampa Bay wins, they would lock up the division as they would move two games ahead of the Panthers with one left to play. That’s a big achievement because it would allow the Bucs to essentially rest their players in Week 18. Whoever gets that fifth seed in the NFC (likely Dallas) would go on the road and play a well-rested Bucs team.

Don’t forget about the Saints

The Philadelphia Eagles would love to clinch the top spot by beating the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Not only that, but it would also give the Saints another loss and drive up the value of their 2023 first-round draft pick (which the Eagles own). But don’t expect the Saints to lay down and die because they still have something to play for.

If Tampa loses and the Saints beat Philly, there would be a three-way tie at 7-9 between the Bucs, Panthers, and Saints. That leaves a chance for the Saints to backdoor a division title. It seems like a longshot, but keep in mind the Saints are coming off two-straight wins and the Eagles are likely to be without Jalen Hurts once again. Anything is possible.

The Commanders will be fighting in Week 18

If the Cowboys win and the Eagles lose, then the division (and possibly the no. 1 seed in the NFC) will come down to Week 18. The final week of the regular season could be meaningful for the Washington Commanders as well as they are still fighting for a Wild Card spot. There is a scenario where the Commanders can clinch a playoff spot this week, but that would require a lot of things going their way (win + DET loss + SEA loss + GB loss). A more likley result is that Washington will need a win to get in on Week 18 and that means bringing everything they got against Dallas.

The Giants will be resting in Week 18

Unlike the Commanders, New York has a much easier path to get into the playoffs. If they win this week against Indianapolis, they’re in. That means the Giants could lock themselves into the sixth seed with nothing to play for in Week 18. In that scenario, they would likely play backups in Week 18 to keep their starters healthy for Wild Card weekend. That means if the Eagles needed a win to lock up the top spot in the NFC in the regular season finale, they would get to do it against the Giants’ backups.


They say fight until you don’t have a reason to fight anymore, but the path for the Cowboys to win the division is filled with many obstructions. There may come a point where the odds are so stacked against them that preserving health and preparing for Round 1 of the playoffs could be the smarter move.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys