Dallas' Path To The Playoffs Is Wide Open
By Kenny Decker
Holding a 4-3 record and first place in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys can look ahead at a remaining schedule that has only four teams currently holding winning records — 0.431 remaining win percentage of their opponents. Their next opponent, the Detroit Lions, has been up and down thus far (4-3 overall), and has struggled on the defensive side of the football. A home game against the Vikings the following week shouldn’t’ be too much trouble considering their disastrous quarterback situation. A trip to New Orleans will be challenging before their bye week when the Cowboys will prepare for the homestretch.
The Cowboys’ six games following their Week 11 bye are split three at home and three on the road. Three of the games are divisional games along with a Thanksgiving matchup with Oakland, a Monday night matchup with Chicago and a mid-December home game versus Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Following Week 7, it’s acceptable and feasible to start discussing teams’ playoff chances. The Cowboys are in a position, like several teams at this point, where they control their own destiny. However, Dallas can really take control of their division.
With all three other teams in the NFC East struggling to find consistency, picking up at least two wins before their bye week could have Dallas sitting pretty before the final stretch. Already off to a great 3-0 divisional start, the Cowboys can put themselves in a position to hold any or all tiebreakers if it were to come to that. They have games against Detroit, Chicago and Green Bay: all teams that will be fighting for playoff spots come December.
The offense has proven it can score lots of points, and now the defense has played well in the Cowboys past two divisional games against the Redskins and the Eagles. The Cowboys defense has given up just 16.7 points per game on the road and also just 16.7 points per game in divisional games — both are very important in order to make a run towards the playoffs.
It can be tough to score points on the road, and divisional games are always battles. Five road games are left on the Cowboys’ schedule, and the defense will need to step up in case the offense sputters in hostile atmospheres. There are three divisional games left, and all three will most likely be tougher than the first time Dallas played them.
So given the Cowboys’ remaining schedule, the road will not be easy, but it’s wide open for them. The Cowboys are undefeated in conference play, their divisional rivals are struggling and all the pieces are starting to fit together: offensively, defensively and special teams. So the Cowboys road to the playoffs is paved, and now they just need to start running away with it. Don’t save it for late season drama; take control now and prove the capabilities of this roster to be a Super Bowl contender.