Don't look now, but the Dallas Cowboys have a chance to slip into the playoffs through the back gate.
With a 6-6 record and four games left, the 'Boys are just one game behind the Seattle Seahawks for the No. 6 seed in the NFC and just one game behind the New York Giants for the NFC North divisional crown.
As bad as it's been in Big D this season, it's crazy to think Tony Romo and the Cowboys actually have a legitimate shot to get into the postseason tournament.
Unfortunately for Jerry Jones' gang, the road to the playoffs is as brutal as it comes.
With that in mind, let's take a look at how the Cowboys can shock the world and make it into the playoffs in 2012.
When Romo takes care of the football, he's one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the NFL.
The Cowboys have also lost eight fumbles this season, and the Cowboys' 23 turnovers make them the second-worst team in this department in the NFC.
If the team continues turning the ball over at this rate, the playoffs are out of the question.
The Cowboys have shot themselves in the foot more times than I can count this season by committing foolish penalties.
Discipline is the key here, and the Cowboys haven't displayed much of that during the Jason Garrett era. This team needs to step up and play smart the rest of the way, or the playoffs are out of the question.
Find a Running Game
The Cowboys are one of the worst running teams in the NFL, rushing for just over 82 yards per game.
DeMarco Murray finally returned to action in Week 13 after missing the better part of two months while recovering from a painful foot injury. He struggled to find many open running lanes, but did manage to rush for 83 yards and one touchdown.
Garrett must get Murray at least 20-25 touches per contest the rest of the way. Romo absolutely needs balance within the offense to limit his mistakes.
If the Cowboys can somehow find a running game to finish out the season, they'll be a dangerous team in December.
The Cowboys have a brutal schedule in the month of December.
Having passed their first test in Week 13 against the visiting Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas now has four more contests left that will determine their fate.
- Week 14: @Cincinnati Bengals
- Week 15: Pittsburgh Steelers
- Week 16: New Orleans Saints
- Week 17: @ Washington Redskins
Every team on the Cowboys' remaining schedule besides the Saints has at least a shot to get into the playoffs.
The Bengals have a ferocious front four that will test the Cowboys offensive line all game long, and their offense has really been clicking the past four weeks.
The Steelers are fighting for their playoff lives right now, and their defense is one of the truly elite units in the NFL.
The Saints are going to be a tough team to beat, even though they're out of the playoff picture, because Drew Brees won't allow his team to give up on the season.
The Redskins are in the same boat as the Cowboys in the NFC East, and this final game of the season will be a dog fight, of that I'm sure.
The Cowboys Don't Control Their Own Destiny
Even if the Cowboys win out, the team will need some help to get into the playoffs.
The Seahawks are essentially a game-and-a-half ahead of Dallas for the No. 6 seed, as the Cowboys lost in Seattle earlier this year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Minnesota Vikings both have the same record as the Cowboys, but the Cowboys would win a tiebreaker over both teams, by virtue of a better win percentage within their own conference (h't ESPN.com).
That said, if the Bucs or Vikings manage to win out and the Cowboys lose any of their remaining games, they're out of the playoffs.
Finally, the Washington Redskins have come on strong of late, and their 6-6 record trumps the Cowboys' right now due to the fact that they won the first meeting between these two teams.
The Cowboys can't worry about the other teams vying for the No. 6 seed or the NFC East divisional crown.
This team needs to play perfect football the rest of the way in 2012 and get some help from other teams to keep their playoff hopes alive, but it's not an impossible prospect.
One thing's for sure: The final four games will all be played with playoff intensity, and this is the time of year when legends are made.
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