The Dallas Cowboys certainly didn't help their playoff chances by allowing 45 points and not forcing one punt in the 45-28 blowout loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football in Week 14, but Tony Romo and Co. aren't out of postseason contention just yet.
A win in Chicago would have catapulted Dallas ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles for the division lead and comfortably into the No. 3 seed in the NFC.
But with a loss, the now 7-6 Cowboys are out of the playoff picture completely and sit behind the 7-6 Bears and the 8-5 Arizona Cardinals who both trail the 9-4 San Francisco 49ers for the conference's final wild-card spot.
Let's take a look at Dallas' playoff scenarios with three games remaining.
Before we begin, it's worth noting that the two wild-card spots are essentially out of play for the Cowboys, as they would need to leapfrog three teams—one of which would be the Bears—to sneak into the No. 6 spot.
Here's a look at the last three games for the Cowboys and the Eagles:
Week 15: vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 16: at Washington Redskins
Week 17: vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Week 15: at Minnesota Vikings
Week 16: vs. Chicago Bears
Week 17: at Dallas Cowboys
If Cowboys go 3-0
Dallas will be in the playoffs. Jason Garrett's team already beat Philadelphia on Oct. 20.
The Cowboys would be 10-6 and, at the very best, the Eagles would be 10-6 as well, but would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Dallas would win the NFC East and would be guaranteed to host a game on wild-card weekend.
Winning the final three games is the only way the Cowboys can assure they make the playoffs.
If Cowboys go 2-0 before Eagles game
They would be in fantastic shape before the huge season finale. If consecutive wins by Dallas coincide with consecutive losses by the Eagles, the Week 17 clash would be meaningless—the Cowboys would have already clinched the division.
Dallas would hold a one-game lead over Philadelphia and a two-game lead in the division, the latter being the first applied tiebreaker.
If Cowboys go 1-1 before Eagles game
They would need Philadelphia to either go 0-2 or 1-1 to create a de facto NFC East title game in Week 17.
If the Eagles win on the road in Minnesota in Week 15 and beat the Bears at home in Week 16, they'd be 10-5 going into the season finale, and the 8-7 Cowboys wouldn't be able to catch them in the overall win-loss standings.
If Cowboys go 0-2 before Eagles game
They would need Philadelphia to lose both games to the Vikings and the Bears to create the do-or-die scenario to end the season.
There are a multitude of ways the Cowboys can mathematically earn a wild-card spot, but at this point, their chances of making the playoffs without winning the NFC East are extremely minute and should only be examined if the team wins in Week 15.
Dallas might dodge a major bullet this weekend, as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn't appear to be on track to return to the field for Mike McCarthy's club:
Rodgers: Shouldn't be having pain doing simple movements. Didn't get better as week went on. Tried a lot on Wednesday, didn't feel good.— Tom Silverstein (@TomSilverstein) December 10, 2013
If they can squeeze by the Packers at home, the Cowboys shouldn't have an issue dispatching an abysmal Washington Redskins team that's lost six of seven.
Don't be surprised if Dallas plays in its third-straight "NFC East title game" in Week 17.
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