We have known for some time now that the Dallas Cowboys are a playoff team. The specifics associated with their trip to the postseason have felt inevitable, but on Sunday fate smiled upon the Cowboys in a number of ways.
The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday which kept open the door for Dallas to barge in and take not only the NFC East title but the number one seed as well. In order for either of those things to be accomplished the Cowboys will have to win in Week 18 first and foremost, it will certainly not hurt their chances that they are visiting a Washington Commanders team that has already been eliminated from playoff contention. For what it’s worth, Dallas opened as 6.5-point favorites over their rival.
On Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings lost which is important given that they were ahead of the Cowboys in the win department and therefore in a potential seeding order if Dallas wound up winning the division. The Vikings and Cowboys now have the same record and Dallas has the tiebreaker thanks to beating them head-to-head right before Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco 49ers did not lose although they certainly flew very close to the sun, but nevertheless they remain with an equal record to the Cowboys and have the conference tiebreaker over them. Even if Dallas winds up winning the NFC East (they need to win and have the Philadelphia Eagles lose in order to do so), unless the 49ers lose at home to the Arizona Cardinals, they can be the #2 seed at best.
The Cowboys will be the #1 seed, #2 seed, or #5 seed in the playoffs, and their potential opponents are pretty well-known
It goes without saying that if the Cowboys are able to have everything go their way in Week 18 that they will be the number one seed in the conference and have a first-round bye that will send them straight to the Divisional Round.
But it is possible for the Cowboys to win the division without achieving the top seed, and thanks to their tiebreaker over the Vikings and the fact that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are locked into the #4 seed already, Dallas can be no lower than the #2 seed if they are NFC East champs.
Of course, it is also possible that Dallas wins and maybe even gets the San Francisco loss that they need, but if the Eagles win it is all for not as they would take the division and top seed themselves. This would leave the Cowboys as the #5 seed with a trip to Tampa coming in the Wild Card Round.
Here are all of the potential playoff matchups that Dallas would based on the results of next week.
- Dallas as the #1 seed: BYE in the Wildcard Round
- Dallas as the #2 seed: Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, or Green Bay Packers at home
- Dallas as the #5 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road
The more complicated issue at hand here is the path that features the Cowboys as the #2 seed. In this scenario the Cowboys are NFC East winners but would host a game in the Wild Card Round. They would face one of three different opponents.
Between the Seahawks, Lions and Packers, it is Green Bay who is in the most control. If the Packers win in Week 18 they are in the playoffs as the conference’s third wild card. Incidentally they play the Lions who are vying for the same spot and position. The Seahawks currently hold that spot but cannot earn it with just a win in Week 18 in their game against the Los Angeles Rams.
Here is what each of the three teams needs to get into the playoffs as the third wild card.
- Seattle: WIN against Rams + Lions WIN or TIE against Packers
- Lions: WIN against Packers + Seahawks LOSS or TIE against Rams (Detroit can also get in if they tie against Green Bay and Seattle loses to Los Angeles)
- Packers: WIN against Lions
If the Cowboys did wind up taking the #2 seed they would host whichever of these teams had things go their way. It sure would be something for Dallas to improve their playoff position only to host the Green Bay Packers of all teams, sometimes that is just the way that things go.