After three tough losses and some recent hot streaks by other teams in the NFC, here is the Dallas Cowboys’ most likely path to the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys bye week came at a very good time in regards to the health of the team. Many big-name players utilized the week off to recover from minor injuries.
Tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins each played against Philadelphia while not being at 100% due to lower leg injuries. Defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch both exited that same game with injuries but will be ready next week versus New York.
The Dallas Cowboys bye week was not all positive, however. While they were off, Dallas sat back and watched each and every NFC playoff competitor earn a victory in Week 8.
At one time, this team was riding high, winners of three straight games. In true Cowboys fashion, however, three steps forward were quickly followed with three steps back.
Even though the Cowboys got back on the right track with a dominant showing against Philadelphia, those three losses may ultimately leave just one option for a playoff berth. Each loss was especially painful in its own way.
Both Green Bay and New Orleans are very good teams. Both teams have victories over the Cowboys.
Dallas had several opportunities to beat the Saints but could not get out of their own way, turning the ball over three times. Not only did the turnovers continue against Green Bay, but their defense also went missing in action for most of the game before a late push made it closer than it really was.
Then there was the debacle against the 1-6 New York Jets. That game, while not a conference game, might be the reason why Dallas ends up with just one path into the postseason.
Currently, the Dallas Cowboys lead the NFC East at 4-3, a half-game ahead of the Eagles. The other three division leaders are 7-0, 7-1 and 7-1 respectively. There is almost no chance at Dallas catching San Francisco, Green Bay or New Orleans for a first-round bye.
Both Green Bay and San Francisco have teams on their heels, keeping them sharp and on edge. Minnesota (6-2), Seattle (6-2) and the Rams (5-3) are not only vying for their divisions but are fighting for a wild card spot.
Lastly, Carolina (4-3) and Philadelphia (4-4) are hanging on, although each team has some major hurdles ahead of them.
The Cowboys have essentially exhausted all their mulligans. Six teams have better records than they do. Another has the same number of wins and losses.
Aside from matchups against the Giants and Washington, there are no “lay-ups” left on the schedule. The Vikings, Bills, and Rams all visit Cowboys Stadium. Dallas probably needs to win two of those three games.
Meanwhile, road games at Detroit, New England, Chicago (in December), and Philadelphia await the Cowboys. Dallas also needs to find two wins in this grouping, with another one over the Eagles being most optimal.
If they are able to accomplish these tasks, Dallas will end the season with ten wins and another NFC East crown. If not, the Cowboys could very well be on the outside looking in with so many tough competitors in the conference.