The Cowboys (6-7) will remain in first place in the NFC East coming out of NFL Week 14 despite suffering their third straight loss, 31-24 at the Bears (7-6) on Thursday night.
That’s because with three games left to play in 2019 NFL season, they would still hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the equally maddeningly inconsistent Eagles (5-7), who host the Giants (2-10) on Monday night.
The Cowboys have gone from a 3-0 start to 3-7 in their past 10 games, which has put coach Jason Garrett on the hottest of seats with their owner/general manager, Jerry Jones, growing increasingly frustrated. Dallas likely has to at least make the playoffs as the No. 4 seed for Garrett to save his job.
Let’s lay out what needs to happen in the final month for the Cowboys to stay in the NFL playoff picture, one way or the other, for the third time in four seasons.
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The easiest way for the Cowboys to guarantee their spot as division champs is to win out. Before playing at the Eagles in Week 16, they host the Rams in Week 15. They close at home in Week 17 against the Redskins. In that scenario, Dallas would be 9-7 and Philadelphia would be no better than 8-8.
The Cowboys remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .416 (15-21), so that’s certainly possible. Dallas’ hardest game is against Los Angeles at home.
Say the Cowboys go 2-1, but one of the wins comes against the Eagles. They would be division champs at 8-8 by virtue of the season series sweep.
Say the Cowboys go 2-1 to also get to 8-8, but they don’t beat the Eagles. The Eagles could easily go 3-0 in their other three games against the Giants (twice) and Redskins and then they are 9-7 division champs. But if either Giants or Redskins beat the Eagles so they’re also 8-8, the Cowboys would win the division with a superior division record at 5-1 vs. 4-2.
As far as falling back on a wild card, that would require a minor miracle. If the Cowboys go 3-0, they are division champions, so that wouldn’t be a factor. If the Cowboys go 2-1, beating the 7-5 Rams but losing to the Eagles, they would be 8-8 in that case, too.
Because the Cowboys lost to the Vikings, the Vikings losing out and faling to 8-8 wouldn’t be enough. They also need the Rams to go 1-3 to finish 8-8, to create a three-way tie. In that scenario, the Cowboys would get in over both the Vikings and Rams by having the best conference record, 7-5 vs. 6-6.
However you slice it, unless the Cowboys get a lot of help against the Eagles, Vikings and Rams, winning the Week 16 de facto NFC East title game is their only realistic, legitimate path remaining back to the playoffs.