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It is a long-shot premise founded not in confidence or faith or fact-based pragmatism, but rather flimsily constructed on the time-untested tenet of irrational hope. Because, let’s face it, when you’re 5-6 and coming off a Thanksgiving scalping at the hands of a rookie quarterback on your most intense rival, hope is all you have.
Right, Cowboys fans?
Cowboys’ vice president Stephen Jones says his team “absolutely” has a shot to make the playoffs. Owner Jerry Jones holds out hope as well, but admits “we’re running out of time.”
In their 53-year history, the Cowboys have been under .500 after 11 games and advanced to the postseason exactly 1 time (1965). Their task, obviously, is akin to scaling Mount Everest … walking on your hands … in a Speedo … while juggling 3 bowling balls … with your feet.
This is where Jim Mora’s grainy, grumbly image pops in for the incredulous “Playoffs?!??!!”
But, alas, there is a way. And it’s not as complicated as you’d expect.
Despite the latest injury to Bruce Carter and the lack of a running game sans DeMarco Murray and a shallow IQ that prompts quarterback sneaks on 1st down while trailing by 22 points in the 3rd quarter, the hardest part of making the playoffs for the Cowboys is getting to 9 wins. That’s right, nine.
The Cowboys can indeed make the playoffs despite losing another game. Here’s how:
The NFC’s divisional champs will be the Giants (East), Falcons (South), 49ers (West) and either the Bears or Packers (North), the 2nd-place finisher qualifying as the 1st Wild Card. As for the 2nd Wild Card, buckle up, this is where it gets interesting.
6 teams are vying for 1 spot, including the Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings, Buccaneers, Seahawks and Saints. Of those teams over the remaining 5 games, Dallas has by far the easiest schedule with a combined opponents’ record of 25-30. The Vikings, for example, face teams with a record of 36-18-1. The Saints (31-24), Buccaneers (30-24-1), Seahawks (28-25-2) and Redskins (27-28) all have a more difficult road than the Cowboys.
Let’s start eliminating teams. The 6-5 Vikings – because they play the Packers twice, Bears and Texans – will not get to 9 wins. The 6-5 Buccaneers have to face the Broncos, Saints and Falcons and will likewise not win 9 games. The 5-6 Saints play the Falcons and Giants the next 2 weeks and won’t get to 9 wins.
The Cowboys – who lost in Seattle by 20 points in Week 2 – must finish with a better record than the 6-5 Seahawks. They’ll need some help. Seattle plays at the Bears, then hosts the Cardinals. That looks like 7-6 heading into games at Buffalo Dec. 16 and at home against the 49ers Dec. 23. Dallas desperately needs them to lose both games.
The 5-6 Redskins need to lose Sunday to the Giants and Dec. 9 to the Ravens.
If the Cowboys get those 4 results, then they only have to help themselves … by winning 4 of their remaining 5 games. What that means is beating the Eagles Sunday, the Redskins Dec. 30 and winning 2 of the 3 against the Bengals, Steelers and Saints to get to 9-7.
Here’s your cheat sheet. Again, do I think? Do I believe? No and nope. But without at least having a map, you’ll never arrive at your desired location.
Right, Cowboys fans?
Dec. 2: Seahawks (6-6) lose at Bears/ Redskins (5-7) lose vs. Giants/ Cowboys (6-6) win vs. Eagles
Dec. 9: Redskins (5-8) lose vs. Ravens
Dec. 16: Seahawks (7-7) lose at Bills/ Cowboys (7-7) win vs. Steelers
Dec. 23: Seahawks (7-8) lose vs. 49ers/ Cowboys (8-7) win vs. Saints
Dec. 30: Cowboys (9-7) win at Redskins (7-9)