Mac Engel

Cowboys will need 11 wins to make playoffs

Coach Jason Garrett has the Cowboys out of the .500 club.
Coach Jason Garrett has the Cowboys out of the .500 club. AP

And the ultimate irony in a season full of surprise — the Dallas Cowboys are finally a playoff team, and still might not make the playoffs.

As much fun as it would have been to watch the Cowboys do the impossible by finishing 8-8 an NFL-record four consecutive seasons, that “dream” is dead.

“It’s great to get over the .500 club once,” safety Barry Church said.

Bill Parcells said of his Cowboys team after they won their ninth game in 2003, you can’t call them losers any more. So, I guess we can’t call the Cowboys losers any more. Jerry needs to get on the phone to have the “Nine Wins, We Aren’t Losers Any More” banner made.

“It’s a fun week for [the media], but now you have to come up with something else,” quarterback Tony Romo said Thursday night.

Don’t worry — we will.

The Cowboys were not celebrating after their 41-28 win against the Chicago Bears in Chicago because they realize the same thing we all do — they have not done anything.

What these Cowboys are is an actual NFL playoff team. They are not a Super Bowl team, but they are a playoff team.

The problem is the NFC, and more specifically the stupidity that is the NFC South, may prevent the Cowboys from reaching the playoffs for the first time since Wade Phillips led them to the postseason.

That’s right — Wade Phillips led them to the playoffs. Twice.

With three games remaining, the Cowboys should reach 10 wins, possibly 11. Ten wins should be good enough to get into the playoffs, but there is a massive wrench in this playoff rooted in New Orleans and Atlanta.

The Cowboys have to reach 11 to make it. Ten is not going to do it. The NFC South has to have a winner, thus a playoff team. There is a good chance the Falcons or Saints will win that division with a .500, or sub-.500, record.

That’s right, the Cowboys could win 10 games for the first time since 2009 and not make the playoffs while a team that has a losing record is in.

It has happened before.

In 2010, both the Giants and Buccaneers finished 10-6, and missed the playoffs. Meanwhile, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks celebrated an NFC West title, and hosted a postseason game.

The NFL has to retain the carrot of winning a division title, but at least reseed the teams according to records after the six playoff spots have been established.

“You can’t worry about that. It’s tight. There is no question,” tight end Jason Witten said. “The NFC is tight.”

There is nothing the Cowboys can do about this now, other than to avoid this potential scenario altogether and continue to win.

From what we saw from Romo against the Bears, the game against the Eagles should be taken with a bag of salt.

With his back, the man needs a week off between games. The short week hurt him. The Cowboys might not beat the Eagles on Dec. 14, but they are not going to get the mob hit the Birds put down at Jerry World on Thanksgiving.

The Cowboys match up well with the Indianapolis Colts, whom they play on Dec. 21, because they can run against a bad run defense. They should finish the season with a win against the Redskins in Washington.

There is a realistic scenario where the Cowboys can get to 11 wins. That should be enough.

“Twelve. I feel like we have to win the rest of these things in this playoff hunt,” Church said. “There are a lot of good records out there. If we win the rest of them, it will take care of itself.”

He is right, but no one is, or should, expect this team to win their final three games.

They need to win two more to get to 11.

They are a playoff team, and they deserve to make it, but 10 wins won’t be enough.

Get to 11.

Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof

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