By Shawn Lealos
Dallas received a first-round bye in the playoffs and that has given them a chance to get some of their stars rested and prepared for whoever the Cowboys face in the second round of the playoffs. In an interesting turn of events, no matter who the Cowboys face in that second round, it will be a team that they have already played in the regular season. Here is a look at the Cowboys’ possible playoff opponents this season.
The Dallas Cowboys have the best record in the NFC, which means they will play the team with the worst record coming out of the Wild Card round. The teams Dallas definitely won’t be playing in that second round are the Atlanta Falcons, who received the other first round bye, and the Seattle Seahawks, the team in the Wild Card round with the best record.
The Detroit Lions
If Detroit upsets the Seattle Seahawks, Dallas will play the Lions. This is a great scenario because the last time these two teams met, they played their starters and Dallas ran all over them, winning 42-21 on Monday Night Football. In that game, neither team had anything to play for. Dallas had already wrapped up their first round bye and the Lions were playing for the NFC North the next week against Green Bay, whether they beat Dallas or not.
However, the 42 points that Dallas scored against Detroit was their highest output of the season. Dak Prescott was almost perfect in the game, and Ezekiel Elliott ran for 80 yards while sitting out the fourth quarter. That is also the game that Dez Bryant roared back to life. Matthew Stafford, who set the record for come-from-behind victories in a season this year, couldn’t pull it off against Dallas.
The Green Bay Packers
If Seattle wins, Dallas will play the winner of the Green Bay Packers vs. New York Giants game, and that is not where the Cowboys want to be in their first playoff game. The Cowboys beat up Green Bay 30-16 back on Oct. 17, but this is a very different Packers team. Green Bay went 1-5 over a six-game streak starting with that Cowboys loss. Aaron Rodgers said the team would win out after that, and win they did, racking up victories in their next six games to clinch the NFC North.
Aaron Rodgers has been on fire during that winning streak, throwing 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. While the Packers struggled through their first 10 games, they are playing better than anyone in the NFL right now. Dallas also remembers two years ago when the Packers knocked them out of the playoffs on the Dez Bryant “no catch,” 26-21.
The New York Giants
The team that has to scare Dallas the most is the New York Giants. In the opening game of the season, the Cowboys lost to the Giants. After winning a franchise-best 11 games in a row after that, the Giants beat Dallas again. Other than a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular season finale, when Dallas rested their starters, the Giants were the only team this season to have the Cowboys’ number.
However, that doesn’t mean Dallas can’t beat the Giants. The opening game of the season was a one-point loss (20-19) and the other game was a three-point loss (10-7). It is also interesting to point out that the last time Dallas went 13-3, they made the playoffs and faced New York that year as well. In that season, Dallas beat the Giants both times in the regular season and then lost to New York in the playoffs, proving that the two regular season wins didn’t mean as much. That is the year the Giants won the Super Bowl.