Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys need to win out to guarantee postseason berth

Dwayne Harris and the Cowboys didn’t put up much of a fight in a 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving Day.
Dwayne Harris and the Cowboys didn’t put up much of a fight in a 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving Day. AP

The Cowboys had Sunday off, giving Jason Garrett a chance to watch some football. Instead of watching just to watch, though, the Dallas coach had a vested interest in the outcome of the Eagles-Seahawks game.

Seattle’s 24-14 victory over Philadelphia means another NFC East first-place showdown Sunday. It marks the second time in three weeks the Cowboys have played the Eagles with the division lead on the line.

“The biggest thing we have to do is focus on ourselves,” Garrett said Monday. “We control our destiny as a team. If we focus on doing what we need to do to play our best football, things will all work out fine.”

The Cowboys’ road to the postseason is simple: If they win their final three games, they are division champions.

A loss, though, would complicate things.

The Eagles, with a sweep of the Cowboys, would have a one-game lead and own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Cowboys, despite already having nine victories, would need help to make the playoffs.

The Cowboys are only 6-4 in NFC games, including a 2-2 record in the division. The Detroit Lions and the Seahawks, who have the same 9-4 overall record as the Cowboys, both are 7-2 in conference games.

Thus, it is conceivable that the Cowboys could reach 11 victories, by winning two of their last three, and still see their season end without a playoff game. That has happened just once in the NFL in the current 12-team playoff format, which began in 1990.

The 2008 New England Patriots went 11-5 and missed the postseason.

The website makenflplayoffs.com gives the Cowboys a 67.3 percent chance to make the postseason, but the Lions (83.8) and Seahawks (80.9) both have better odds among non-division-leading NFC teams.

Predictably, the Cowboys are focused only on themselves and on this week. That’s enough to concern themselves with anyway.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys 33-10 on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium. Their 256 yards rushing was almost as much as the Cowboys’ total yards (267) as LeSean McCoy ran for 159 yards, while Philadelphia held DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73.

“I think you try to take some of that emotion out of it,” Garrett said of reviewing that loss. “You go back and watch the game and say, ‘This was good; this wasn’t good. Let’s make sure we clean this up on offense, defense and the kicking game and get back to work.’ That’s really what you do.

“They’re a good football team. They beat us fair and square at our place a couple of weeks ago. Now, we have the chance to come back and go up there and put our best foot forward and play our best football.”

The Cowboys were coming off a Sunday night game on a short week the last time the NFC East rivals met. They have 10 days between games this time, having beaten the Chicago Bears on Thursday.

It isn’t a win-or-go-home game Sunday in Philadelphia, but everyone understands it will go a long way in deciding the division champion.

“This is a game where we have to go up there and play our best football,” Garrett said. “It starts with our preparation on Tuesday. Put good days together and go play our best and don’t worry about anything else.”

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @NFLCharean