Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The 4-9 Cowboys can still make the playoffs in this not-so-crazy scenario

That's not what they did though.

Instead, Jerry Jones decided that Romo would remain on the active roster so that he'd be available if the Cowboys made the playoffs.

"Let's just put it like this, we didn't deactivate Tony for a reason, and that is if we should get to the playoffs, then he would be available for us in the playoffs," Jones said in early December.

Although Jones' reasoning for keeping Romo active sounded kind of crazy at the time, it doesn't sound so crazy now. With just three weeks left in the regular season, the Cowboys could sneak into the postseason as the NFC East champs if they can manage to finish the year with three straight wins.
So what would have to happen for the Cowboys to make the playoffs?

Let's take a look.

First, the Cowboys have to win out.

If the Cowboys lose just one more game, they'll be officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Cowboys would also be eliminated from the playoffs if any of the other three NFC East teams win this Sunday.

Here's the Cowboys' most realistic route to the playoffs, with a look at what needs to happen over the season's final three weeks.

Week 15

The 13-0 Panthers beat the Giants in New York (Giants are five-point underdogs).
The 10-2 Cardinals beat the Eagles in Philadelphia (Eagles are 3.5-point underdogs).
The 6-7 Bills beat the Redskins in Washington (Redskins are 1-point underdogs).
The Cowboys beat the Jets in Dallas on Saturday.
Is this all possible? You could argue that the most unrealistic scenario in Week 15 is the Cowboys winning. If Dallas does pull off the upset Saturday, and all three NFC East teams lose, the Cowboys would be just one game out of first place with only two games remaining.

Week 16

The Redskins beat the Eagles in Philadelphia in a Saturday night game.
The Vikings beat the Giants in Minnesota in a Sunday night game.
The Cowboys beat the Bills in Buffalo.
Is this all possible? The Giants have to go on the road to face a team that's currently 8-5, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them lose in Minnesota. As for the Redskins-Eagles game, if one of those teams wins in Week 15, then the Cowboys would need that team to lose in Week 16. So if the Redskins beat the Bills in Week 15, then Dallas would need the Eagles to beat Washington in Week 16.

Week 17

The Eagles beat the Giants in New York.
The Cowboys beat the Redskins in Dallas.
Is this all possible? The Cowboys already beat the Redskins in Washington, so a win in Dallas definitely wouldn't be a shocker. The crazy thing is that if the Giants and Eagles both lose in Weeks 15 and 16, then it won't matter who wins their game in Week 17.

On the other hand, if either the Eagles or Giants happen to have seven wins going into Week 17, the Cowboys would need that team to lose. So Dallas would need a potentially 6-9 Eagles team to beat a potentially 7-8 Giants team or vice versa.

Bottom line: If the Cowboys win out, they would finish 4-2 in the division and win any possible tiebreaker, whether that's a three-way tie or four-way tie at 7-9, which both could still happen.

Losing out wouldn't be the worst thing ever either because Dallas is still alive in the race for the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Basically, you should probably just sit back and enjoy the putridness of the NFC East.

Remember, there are other scenarios where the Cowboys could get in besides the one above, which is seemingly the easiest path.

Here's a quick look at the tiebreakers that could potentially win the Cowboys the NFC East if everyone finishes 7-9.

You can see the playoff standings and all postseason tiebreakers by clicking here.

Tiebreaker between three or more Clubs:
(Note: If two clubs remain tied after one or more clubs are eliminated during any step, tie-breaker re-starts at Step One of two-club format. If three clubs remain tied after a fourth club is eliminated during any step, tie-breaker re-starts at Step One of three-club format.)

Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games among the clubs).
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.
Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best net points in common games.
Best net points in all games.
Best net touchdowns in all games.
Coin toss.

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