Cowboys Playoff Road Map (Updated)

The New York Times
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The Dallas Cowboys enjoyed a “mini bye week” with a win over Washington last Thursday night. In addition to the win, their playoff hopes were boosted thanks to losses by the Lions, Falcons, and Panthers. The two games that didn’t go their way in Week 13 were wins by Seattle and Green Bay. Seattle is now sitting in the 5th seed at 8-4, and the Packers are one week away from an Aaron Rodgers return as they sit at 6-6. Important to note Dallas has a huge head to head matchup with the Seahawks in Week 16, which is also Ezekiel Elliott’s return date. The Packers own a head to head tiebreaker over Dallas. If they end up tied in the standings, the Cowboys season would end thanks to Green Bay for the third time in the last four seasons.

In Week 14, Dak Prescott and company need to take care of business. Winning out is the first order of business. Dallas will head to MetLife Stadium to join in on the circus act known as the New York Football Giants. When the news came out of the Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese firing, it reminded all of Cowboys Nation of 2010. Wade Phillips was fired and Jason Garrett took over as the interim head coach. The very same week those lowly Cowboys headed to New York and beat the Giants led by Jon Kitna and a big day from Felix Jones. Now, seven years later, the situations are reversed.

When a coaching change or front office shakeup occurs, players are under a bigger microscope than before. Motivation increases as jobs are on the line. Steve Spagnuolo decided to go back to Eli Manning as the starting quarterback which throws another wrench in the Cowboys game plan. Emotions will be high in Manning’s return in front of the home faithful, as they were on the road last week. The best way the Cowboys can calm these emotions is by controlling the time of possession. Controlling the clock from the very start will prevent the Giants from getting hot and feeding off of the crowd. The Cowboys have shown this season in Atlanta and Denver, they are not a team who plays well when trailing. I expect a tough game for Dallas but there is no reason why they shouldn’t win this game.

However, even with a win, help is still needed to boost playoff hopes. Here are the games to keep an eye on this week.

Thursday:

New Orleans(9-3) @ Atlanta(7-5)

Sunday:

Vikings(10-2) @ Carolina(8-3)
Green Bay(6-6) @ Cleveland(0-12)
Detroit(6-6) @ Tampa Bay(4-8)
Seahawks(8-4) @ Jacksonville(8-4)
Eagles(10-2) @ Rams(9-3)

The three most important games that need to go the Cowboys way are New Orleans beating Atlanta, Minnesota over Carolina, and Jacksonville over Seattle. If Atlanta and Carolina continue to lose, the Cowboys playoff hopes improve dramatically. It’s important to note the Falcons cannot get to ten wins, as they own the head to head tiebreaker against Dallas. If the Seahawks lose one more game before their showdown in Arlington week 16, it will put the Cowboys in a fantastic spot. A Dallas victory there would theoretically place them ahead of  Seattle in the wild card standings.

“So you’re saying there’s a chance….”.

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