After a game in which the Dallas Cowboys turned the ball over four times in the first half, still had a 10-point lead with just over seven minutes to go, and then found a way to blow it, it is awfully hard to find a silver lining.
This was a tough loss for Dallas to swallow and only makes their road to the playoffs tougher. However, despite their collapse in Pittsburgh, Atlanta's loss to New Orleans today has allowed the Dallas Cowboys to leap frog the Falcons in the Wild Card standings.
The Cowboys and Falcons share the same record at 8-5, but Dallas now owns the tie-breaker by virtue of a better conference record. A Washington loss to Baltimore would help to further solidify the Cowboys current status in the Wild Card chase, but it would certainly not guarantee anything.
With three games left, the Cowboys need to win at least two, and quite possibly all three, games to have a legitimate chance of making it to post-season play. While this is certainly not impossible, the Cowboys remaining schedule will not do them any favors.
A look at the remaining games and brief thoughts on each follows:
Week 15: New York Giants
The Giants, despite today's loss to the Eagles, are at worst a top two team in the league. They can run, they can defend, and Eli Manning has become much more consistent in his role with the team. While he is still not the guy the Giants look to to win the game, he is no longer losing them games.
This will be a tough game for the Cowboys, but it is a must win. If they lose this game, their playoff chances will be all but crushed. Conversely, the Giants, thanks to the Cowboys, don't really have anything to play for. As a result of the Cowboys' loss, the Giants have locked up the division.
While it can be argued that the Giants will be motivated by the desire to keep the Cowboy's out of the playoffs, BR writer Andrew Nuschler put it best in his article: "When desperation to get yourself in meets preference to keep someone else out, I'll take the former."
Week 16: Baltimore Ravens
Another tough defensive unit comes to Dallas. Despite the surprising good play of Joe Flacco, the offense is not what makes this team tick. This is another team that wins its games on the defensive side of the ball.
In what should be an emotionally charged final home game at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys, who have been playing great defense of their own, have a very good chance to win this game. However, it will by no means be easy.
The Ravens will also be fighting for a Wild Card when they come to town and will not be looking to lie down for the Cowboys.
Week 17: @ Philadelphia Eagles
This game is tough to judge. The Eagles have been very inconsistent this season. Earlier in the year, they looked like a real contender. Then, just a few weeks later, they are seemingly out of the playoff hunt and there is a quarterback controversy. Today they beat the consensus number one team in the league.
With upcoming games versus Cleveland and at Washington, it is quite possible that the Eagles will enter this game at 9-5-1. If this is the case, the final game of the season for these two teams could be the determining factor in which one makes the playoffs.
There is a lot of football left to play. The Cowboys need to win the next three to ensure their spot in the playoffs, starting with next week against the Giants. Can it be done? Absolutely. Will it be done? Time will tell.