What a crazy week in the National Football League!
This week's action was layered with playoff implications as there were so many moving parts that alter the playoff picture. For the Dallas Cowboys, there remains a few different possible outcomes as they could end up with the fifth seed if they don’t win the division, but they could also be the first, second, or third seed if they are able to beat out the Philadelphia Eagles. With so much going on, we decided to offer up 10 thoughts on Sunday’s action and how it impacts the Cowboys.
1. You say there’s a chance!
Just over a week ago, the Cowboys' chances to catch the Philadelphia Eagles were slim to none. A lot has happened since. For starters, the Cowboys took care of their own business by beating the Eagles in Week 16, keeping an inkling of hope alive. Then, the Cowboys beat the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night. But the biggest surprise came when the New Orleans Saints pulled off the road upset over Philadelphia with a 20-10 win.
Just like that, the NFC East is still up for grabs. The list of scenarios that need to happen for the Cowboys to win the division has gone from five to just two over the last eight days. For Dallas to pull off the impossible divisional comeback, they need to beat Washington next week and have the Eagles lose to New York.
2. The G-men have clinched
You’d have to go all the way back to Dak Prescott’s rookie season in 2016 to find the last time the New York Giants were in the playoffs. Since that season, the Giants have had five-straight losing seasons, never eclipsing six wins.
Well, that is no more as the Giants beat the Indianapolis Colts 38-10 on Sunday, clinching a playoff spot. In fact, their win actually locks them into the sixth seed in the NFC, meaning their season finale against the Eagles next week won’t have any effect on their playoff position.
3. The party is over in Washington
After finishing the month of November with a 7-5 record, Washington was in the driver's seat to earn a playoff spot. Such a feat would put all four NFC East teams in the playoffs for the first time ever. Unfortunately for Washington, they didn’t win a single game in December and started January off with a loss as well. Both Detroit and Green Bay won on Sunday and will play each other next week, making it impossible for Washington to earn a playoff berth.
4. The Giants have nothing to play for next week, but...
It would have been more favorable for the Cowboys if the Colts pulled off the upset over the Giants on Sunday because that would mean the Giants may need to win next week to get into the playoffs. That would make for a great finale where the Giants go full speed ahead against the Eagles. Now, we have no idea what Giants head coach Brian Daboll will do next week. Will he rest his players or will he bring the house?
5. Payback’s a... buster
While a Giants win next won’t help them in the grand scheme of things, it would be poetic justice for New York to knock the Eagles out of that coveted top seed in the NFC. That’s because back in 2020, the Giants had a shot to win the NFC East and make the playoffs after defeating the Cowboys in the season finale. They just needed a little help from the Eagles who were playing Washington in their season finale. The Eagles didn’t have anything to play for as they were already eliminated from playoff contention, and they decided to just phone it in and play reserves. Washington won that game and with it, the division.
While revenge shouldn’t dictate one's motives, it would be karma to see the Giants go out and deliver the blow that forces the Eagles to play the following week in the wild card round. Fingers crossed!
6. So bad it Hurts
The Eagles are now 0-2 without Jalen Hurts. And while their offense looked good last week against the Cowboys, they did not look so good on Sunday against the Saints. It’s not clear when Philly will get their starting quarterback back on the field, but if he’s not ready to go next week, that could make things interesting. In fact, there are no guarantees that Hurts’ ailing shoulder won’t have any lingering effects. We all remember when Dak hurt his shoulder late in 2019 and it impacted his play, including a dismal Week 16 game against the Eagles with the division on the line.
The injuries are starting to pile up for Philadelphia. Last week, they lost their right tackle Lane Johnson, and on Sunday edge rusher Josh Sweat was carted off the field. This is how the wheels can come off in a hurry.
7. The Bucs stop here
While the Eagles gave the Cowboys life, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might’ve earned themselves a little advantage over Dallas by beating the Carolina Panthers. With the win, the Bucs locked up the NFC South and the fourth seed in the playoffs. They will host either Dallas or Philadelphia next week. And with their playoff seeding cemented, Tampa Bay could choose to rest their players next week and give themselves their own bye week.
8. Beware of the Pack
Can you believe there was a point in the season when the Green Bay Packers were 4-8? In fact, had the Cowboys not blown a 14-point fourth-quarter lead in Week 10, the Packers would have lost eight-straight games this season. Fast forward to now where this team has won four straight and now controls their own destiny. They will now play an all-important season finale against the Detroit Lions next week. If they win, they’re in.
9. A-A-ron doing the dirty work for us
While Aaron Rodgers still having life may not be pleasing to the ears of Cowboys fans, this could be more advantageous than we realize. First, they have upset ability in the playoffs. If the Cowboys get stuck with the five seed and both Green Bay and Dallas win on wild card weekend, it would be the Packers and not Dallas that would have to travel to Philadelphia in the divisional round.
10. Still alive for the bye
A Cowboys win combined with an Eagles loss is all that is needed to win the NFC East, but could the stars align even better for Dallas? Yes, yes, they could.
The Cowboys still have a shot at the top seed and a first-round bye. A Vikings loss puts Minnesota at 12-4 this year, the same as Dallas; however, the Cowboys hold the tie-breaker over them by virtue of beating them in Week 11. If the Cowboys win next week and Philly loses, Dallas will finish no worse than the second seed in the NFC.
To get the #1 seed, they will also need the San Francisco 49ers, who had a thrilling overtime win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, to lose next week against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers are also 12-4, but hold the tie-breaker over Dallas by having a better conference record.