Dallas Cowboys

Breaking down the Cowboys playoff scenarios

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (98) and middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) combine efforts to stop Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson in the second half. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Indianapolis Colts 42-7 to win the NFC East on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (98) and middle linebacker Rolando McClain (55) combine efforts to stop Indianapolis Colts running back Trent Richardson in the second half. The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Indianapolis Colts 42-7 to win the NFC East on Sunday, Dec. 21, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Star-Telegram

The Dallas Cowboys are going to host a playoff game. That much is known after they won the NFC East title Sunday afternoon with a 42-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

As of now, signs point to the Cowboys being the No. 3 seed in the NFC and hosting a game on wild-card weekend Jan. 3-4 at AT&T Stadium. It will likely be against the loser of the Green Bay-Detroit game next week.

But the Cowboys, who play at Washington on Sunday, still have a chance to clinch a first-round bye.

Here’s how:

▪ Dallas win + Seattle loss or tie + Arizona loss or tie

▪ Dallas win + Detroit-Green Bay tie

▪ Dallas tie + Seattle loss + Arizona loss

▪ Dallas tie + Seattle tie + Arizona loss or tie + Detroit-Green Bay does not end in a tie

The reason the Cowboys need so much help is that they don’t own many tiebreakers. All four of their losses have come against NFC opponents, and conference record is the first tiebreaker among multiple teams (head-to-head is the first tiebreaker for two teams). Owner Jerry Jones points back to their home loss to the Redskins on Oct. 27 as being especially costly.

There is also an outside chance that the Cowboys could clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. For that to happen, it would take a Dallas win plus an Arizona loss or tie plus a Detroit-Green Bay tie.

Possible, but not probable.

Jones, of course, is happy the Redskins beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday to set up the division-clinching game Sunday but hasn’t forgotten that early-season loss.

“I’m really reminded of how bad it hurt out here when they beat us,” Jones said. “And by the way, we’re still paying that price because of that division loss as we measure some of the problematic things we’ve got on tiebreakers.”

So, clearly, the most likely scenario is for the Cowboys to host a game on wild-card weekend and, if they win that, be on the road for the divisional round.

The best guess here: Cowboys host the Lions.

Equally important, being at home doesn’t seem like such a bad thing now. The Cowboys are undefeated on the road and have struggled at home most of the season, but Sunday’s outing quieted any concerns as far as that goes.

“It’s good to win at home, protect your home turf,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “We kind of had the mystique of not winning at home, whatever the case, the mental block of not winning at home. But guys put that behind us today. Went out here and had fun, gave the crowd something to cheer about. The crowd was amazing tonight.”

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