The Dallas Cowboys have had a very mediocre season thus far in 2012, winning exactly half of their 12 games and sitting at .500 heading into Week 14. Oddly enough, the Cowboys somehow still have a chance to not only make the 2012 NFL playoffs, but win the NFC East division title. However, it won’t be easy.
The Cowboys are currently the eighth seed in the NFC, which means they have to win and get help through the last four weeks of the season to either claim their division and jump up to the fourth seed or somehow sneak in as the conference’s sixth seed. Within just one week, however, the Cowboys could control their own playoff destiny, but it will take some guts from an injury-ridden squad on the ropes.
The Cowboys travel north to take on the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 14, a hot 7-5 AFC team also on the verge of sneaking into the postseason. Winners of four straight games, the Bengals already control their own playoff hopes because they’re currently tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC’s sixth seed and the two teams meet up once again in Week 16.
If the Cowboys were to somehow pull off the upset, they’ll need help from the Baltimore Ravens to knock off the Washington Redskins, who are also 6-6 and currently hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas. Another big help would be the New Orleans Saints knocking off the New York Giants, who sit alone atop the NFC East at 7-5. If the Redskins and/or Giants lose in Week 14 and the Cowboys win, Dallas will then be in control of its own playoff destiny. However, the road then gets much tougher.
It absolutely cannot be assumed Dallas will beat Cincinnati in Week 14, but it’s a must-win game for the Cowboys to stay in the playoff race. Therefore, assuming Dallas wins simply for argument’s sake, they would then have two home games against the Steelers and Saints before heading to Washington for what could be a division title game against the Redskins or even a showdown for the NFC’s last playoff spot.
With four weeks left to play, two games separate the third and 10th seeds in the NFC, which means absolutely no one is assured of anything. The Cowboys’ chances of making the playoffs are just as good as anyone else’s, but Dallas is going to have to get hot and stay that way.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett called a tremendous game in his team’s 38-33 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 13, but it was only the second time this season he’s been halfway decent in 2012, much less an asset for Dallas. Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys’ playoff hopes rest in Garrett’s hands more than anyone else’s.
The win over the Eagles proved Dallas can win in spite of its horrific offensive line, but that’s completely and totally dependent on Garrett’s play-calling. If he utilizes DeMarco Murray like he should, Tony Romo will have big games like he did against Philadelphia and Dallas will at least have a good shot to win its final four games. However, Garrett simply cannot control his itchy trigger finger in tight situations, which typically results in a ton of pressure on Romo and a Cowboys loss.
In short, the Cowboys have a golden opportunity to win their division or at least sneak into the playoffs by winning and getting a little bit of help. But let’s not kid ourselves; it’s a long shot if there ever was one and nothing is guaranteed as long as Garrett is in charge. Be hopeful, Cowboys fans, but don’t start packing for Green Bay.