The Dallas Cowboys could have the NFC East and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs locked up before they take on the Detroit Lions next Monday night.
All that needs to happen is for the New York Giants to lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. The Cowboys, of course, control their own destiny and would lock up the top-seed and division with a win in either of the final two games.
But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t thinking that far ahead.
Jones is only focused on winning right now and isn’t going to fall into the debate whether to rest healthy starters in possibly meaningless games down the stretch. That subject came up a earlier this month and the Cowboys proceeded to lose to the Giants on Dec. 11.
“You know that talk was back before the Giant [game] and you might have even drifted over there a little bit,” Jones said on Monday as he promoted a Feb. 25 boxing match between Miguel Cotto and James Kirkland at the Ford Center.
“After that Giant thing, it really sobers you up and it did for the team and everybody else. I don’t want to even think about what we’re doing or not doing the last game consequential or not.
“We’ve got to get this thing [wrapped up], we’ve got to get it in here, and I think the Giants just really made you more aware that a lot of slips could happen here after you’ve got a record like that. You want to take advantage of it and you should have as many advantages as you can. That’s a big edge. Those byes, home field and all that.”
It’s been nine years since the Cowboys last had home-field advantage and that 2007 team fell to the Giants in the divisional round. In 2014, the Cowboys played their healthy starters most of the regular-season finale in a 44-17 victory over the Washington Redskins and then defeated the Detroit Lions the following week at home in the wild-card round.
The Cowboys could find themselves debating what to do the final two games, walking a fine line between risking unnecessary injuries and staying fresh for a playoff run.
There are other circumstances, too, such as possibly giving running back Ezekiel Elliott a chance to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards set in 1983. Elliott must average 129 yards the final to games to break the 33-year-old record.
For now, though, Jones is having a must-win view for the final two games.
“We’ve got to be ready to beat Philadelphia [in the regular-season finale] as we sit here right today,” Jones said. “And, if we can, take care of business here this weekend.”