After Arizona beat Philadelphia in Week 17, Dallas controls their own destiny in the NFC East race, but seeding – and Wild Card opponent – is still to be determined.
ARLINGTON, Texas — With the Cowboys win over the Lions – coupled with Arizona’s upset of Philadelphia – Dallas enters Week 18 in the driver’s seat to claim the NFC East.
The win over the weekend propelled the Cowboys into first place in the NFC East via tiebreakers and in the No. 2 spot in the NFC. San Francisco clinched home field advantage in the NFC with their win over the Commanders, so they’ll be the No. 1 seed.
Dallas’ playoff position, however, is still very much up in the air.
They have at least clinched making the playoffs, so no worries there. But a division title, and the Cowboys playoff opponent, will be determined on what happens in Week 18. Dallas plays its final regular season game on the road against Washington. For the Cowboys, it’s pretty simple: win and you claim the division and No. 2 seed.
If Dallas drops their season finale, though, things can get a little murky. Dallas can end up being the No. 2 seed, No. 3 seed or even the No. 5 seed. We broke down all of those avenues here.
Who will the Dallas Cowboys play in the playoffs?
Dallas’ opponent in the Wild Card round is obviously dependent on what happens with the other teams below them, but there is some overlap. Here’s how it shakes out:
Let’s assume here Dallas handles business in Week 18. The potential opponents for the Cowboys in this scenario are: Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks or Minnesota Vikings. Whoever ends up in the No. 7 seed would play against the Cowboys. Green Bay is the team in the No. 7 spot going into Week 18.
The Rams currently lie in the No. 6 spot, but if they lose and the Packers win, then those two could flip flop. But if the Packers also lose, then that opens the door for the Seahawks or Vikings to sneak into the final spot in the NFC.
Oh, no! This means Dallas lost in Week 18 to the Commanders. Yikes.
But, the Giants played spoiler and swept the Eagles. Philly enters the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in this scenario and losers of four of their last five games. Detroit also hops Dallas to claim the No. 2 seed. The potential opponents for the Cowboys in this scenario are a little more clear cut: Los Angeles Rams or Green Bay Packers, one of whom will secure the No. 6 seed.
The No. 6 seed in the NFC is more defined. The Rams have already clinched at least the playoffs as a Wild Card team, so they’ll only be either the No. 6 seed or No. 7 seed. The only team that can potentially hop the Rams for the No. 6 seed is the Packers. Green Bay holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Los Angeles due to their 20-3 in Week 9.
The least-ideal option for Cowboys fans: Dallas lays an egg in Washington while the Eagles claim their second straight NFC East title by beating the New York Giants. The Cowboys would then go from hosting a playoff game to now going on the road. Massive missed opportunity for the Cowboys.
Dallas is league-best 8-0 at home. Their 3-5 road record is the 13th-worst in the NFL. Well, in this scenario, their road record drops to 3-6. But you get the point.
Luckily for the Cowboys, their playoff opponent in this scenario aren’t exactly world beaters. They would play the No. 4 seed, the NFC South division champ, which is a lowly three-horse race: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. Tampa Bay and New Orleans both sit at 8-8 (Tampa holds tiebreaker and division lead at this point), and Atlanta still has a shot at 7-9 as they hold tiebreakers on both of the aforementioned NFC South foes.
Well, that’s it. If you couldn’t already tell, there is a lot of fluidity in the NFC playoff picture in the final week. Drama that the NFL is surely loving. We’ll see how it all plays out.
More Dallas Cowboys coverage: