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NFC Playoff Picture: The most probable path for Dallas Cowboys is as top wild card in conference

The Cowboys seem destined for the #5 seed for the second year in a row.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

It has now been several days since the Dallas Cowboys last played and odds are you are still savoring the tasty Thanksgiving Day win over the Washington Commanders. The Cowboys have already taken care of business which affords us the opportunity to sit back, relax and watch the rest of the NFL action unfold. Perhaps in the specific instance of today if you are like me then you also threw up the Christmas decorations.

With regards to Sunday, if you had any specific rooting interest that was based around what was best for the Dallas Cowboys then Santa Claus did not come early. The most important thing to have happen on Sunday would have undeniably been a loss from the Philadelphia Eagles, but despite being pushed to overtime by the Buffalo Bills, they were victorious yet again.

There is still one game to play in Week 12 that has implications on the NFC playoff picture, but for all intents and purposes we know what things look like as December draws nearer.

The Dallas Cowboys seem destined for the #5 seed in the NFC

With the Eagles winning again they are keeping pace in terms of their lead over the Cowboys. While we are just two weeks away from the teams meeting for the second time this season, the cold, hard truth is that the game in question is losing a bit of meaning because the NFC East is just about wrapped up.

This sounds absurd to say with six weeks left in the season but the Eagles beat the Bills who the Cowboys have yet to play, which means Dallas could have picked up a leg in common opponents had Philly lost and Dallas won in Buffalo. Obviously that is no longer possible and while anything can happen in the NFL, it is worth noting that the New York Times playoff simulator currently has the Eagles as overwhelming favorites to become the first repeat winner of the NFC East since the 2004 version of their franchise.

Please note that the Minnesota Vikings play on Monday night so this is not technically through Week 12. They are 3-point favorites (at home) against the Chicago Bears so perhaps we could see something fun, but that really does not matter.

What is important now is that the Cowboys are just about destined to enter the playoffs as a wild card team by virtue of Philly winning the division. Dallas has a clear lead to be the top wild card in the conference, a lead that will grow if Chicago wins on Monday night, and interestingly plays one of the other current wild card teams on Thursday night, the Seattle Seahawks.

The Cowboys were the top wild card in the NFC last year and as a result got to visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who “won” the NFC South with a record below .500. As you can see, that division has a new leader as of this week thanks to the Atlanta Falcons defeating the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta is currently below .500 but if the playoffs started today they would host the Cowboys.

Over the coming weeks the playoff picture as a whole will stabilize and that will really begin a week from now once we know the results of games between Dallas and Seattle as well as the one between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia. It is worth mentioning that Dallas also still has to host the Detroit Lions in the penultimate game of the regular season which we now know will be the night that Jimmy Johnson enters the Ring of Honor.

But this is where things stand with just one game left to make an impact in Week 12. If the Cowboys do wind up the top wild card team as we believe they might, and particularly so if they pick up the tiebreaker over Seattle on Sunday, and perhaps are entrenched firmly into their specific position entering the regular season finale then maybe we will see the team manufacture their own bye so to speak in Week 18. But that is a lot of ifs and ands away from now.

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