Dallas Cowboys Are a Playoff Team: Fact or Fiction?

Jake Little@@jakelittleContributor IIINovember 10, 2011

Dallas Cowboys Are a Playoff Team: Fact or Fiction?

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    Tony Romo, Jason Garrett, and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys are in danger of not making the playoffs for the second year in a row. 

    The Cowboys have gotten off to a 4-4 start. Their most notable victory this season was their 27-24 overtime win over the San Francisco 49ers.

    Aside from that game, the Cowboys have failed to overcome any of the quality teams they've faced.

    With losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Jets, and the New England Patriots, a lot of critics have started to question whether or not America's Team will make the post season.

    While it's possible that the Cowboys will have a resurgence and win their division, I do not believe this will happen.

    Therefore, if the Cowboys want to make the playoffs, they're going to have to qualify for a Wild Card spot.

    This slideshow will examine each NFC division and evaluate the chances of seeing the Dallas Cowboys in the post season.   

NFC Divisional Winners: NFC West

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    I think that it's safe to say that no one is going to catch Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC West. 

    The 49ers have been the surprise team of the season so far. Harbaugh has come in to lead the Niners to a 7-1 start. 

    The Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals are tied for second in the division. Both teams have a 2-6 record.

    At the bottom of the division are the St. Louis Rams, who have just one win from their eight games. 

    To win the division, the 49ers need just four wins from eight games. And that is assuming that Seattle and Arizona win out the rest of the season.

    The Niners have clearly been the dominant force in the NFC West.

    Based on the poor performances from the other teams in the division, it would be foolish to think that the Rams, Seahawks, or Cardinals will snag a Wild Card spot. 

    Predicted Playoff Team(s): San Francisco 49ers

NFC Divisional Winners: NFC North

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    Talk about competitive! The NFC North has easily been the most entertaining division in the NFL so far this season. 

    The Green Bay Packers look unstoppable at the moment. At this point, they would have to be considered Super Bowl favorites.

    The Detroit Lions have finally demonstrated a winning mentality that has been absent in Detroit for so long.

    Jim Schwartz's team is 6-2 so far this season, and they will most definitely be Wild Card contenders.

    After starting the season 2-3, the Chicago Bears have ripped off three wins in a row and are now 5-3. Yet despite their above average record, the Bears are still third in the division. 

    The Minnesota Vikings appear to be the garbage team of the NFC North. They've started the season 2-6 and are not a threat in the division. 

    Despite Detroit's impressive start, I believe that the Chicago Bears are a better team. I expect to see the Bears claim second in this division, and I believe that they'll snag a Wild Card spot in doing so. 

    Predicted Playoff Team(s): Green Bay Packers; Chicago Bears

NFC Divisional Winners: NFC South

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    The NFC South is a division that baffles me, to be quite honest.

    The Carolina Panthers sit bottom of the division with a 2-6 record. However, despite their poor record, I still rate the Panthers as a quality team that can win half of their games. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have stumbled to a 4-4 start after an impressive season in 2010. At this point in the season, it has to be said that the Buccaneers of last year were overachievers. 

    The Atlanta Falcons had a shaky start to their season. After winning just two of their first five games, Matt Ryan and his team have recovered to a 5-3 record, and second place in the division.

    The New Orleans Saints are the best team in NFC South, despite some recent peculiar results. Darren Sproles has been a revelation for Sean Payton, and the Saints top the division with a 6-3 record.

    It's difficult to see anyone but New Orleans making the playoffs from this division.

    Predicted Playoff Team(s): New Orleans Saints   

NFC Divisional Winners: NFC East

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    The New York Giants top the NFC East, a division that has failed to live up to it's preseason hype. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have both performed well below expectations. 

    The Giants sit atop the division with a 6-2 record. Eli Manning has been having as impressive a season as any quarterback (that isn't named Aaron Rodgers) in the NFL. 

    The Cowboys are second in the NFC East with a 4-4 record: an average record that does not reflect the quality of the team. The Cowboys have fallen to every quality opponent they've faced.

    The Philadelphia Eagles have performed well below their preseason expectations. The Eagles, a team that many tipped for the Super Bowl prior to the season, have a dismal 3-5 record.

    The Washington Redskins, who also have a 3-5 record, look to be a team without an identity. Mike Shanahan's team has one win from their last six games. 

    The New York Giants are the best team in this division. They've acquired a number of quality wins, and they are certainly the favorites to win this weak NFC East. 

    Predicted Playoff Team(s): New York Giants

Where Does That Leave Us?

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    So far, I've laid out five of the six teams that will make the playoffs. 

    The New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers, and New York Giants will all win their respective divisions. 

    The Chicago Bears are going to come in second in the NFC North, however I believe that their record will be good enough to earn them a berth via a Wild Card spot.

    This leaves one Wild Card playoff berth unaccounted for. We will now examine the teams that the Dallas Cowboys will be competing with for that Wild Card spot.

Breaking Down the Competition: Atlanta Falcons

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    The Atlanta Falcons had a shaky start to the season. Mike Smith's team stumbled out of the gate and was only able to record two wins in their first five games, but the Falcons have turned it around.

    They've won three consecutive games to improve to 5-3 and have jumped to second in their division.

    The Falcons are a team that know how to get to the postseason. They've made the playoffs two of the last three season.

    When looking at their schedule, there are really only two games that I would say are definite losses for the Falcons.

    They are both away games later on in the season. The first is a Week 13 trip to Houston to take on the Texans. The second is a Week 16 trip to New Orleans to face their division rival New Orleans Saints.

    Aside from these, each of the Falcons remaining eight games looks to be winnable. If they can convert these winnable games into victories, the Falcons are going to be formidable contenders come January.  

Breaking Down the Competition: Detroit Lions

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    Could the NFC North really send three teams to the playoffs? With this season's Detroit Lions team, it is certainly a possibility. 

    Jim Schwartz has finally created a winning mentality at Ford Field, and the Lions have gotten off to a 6-2 start. 

    Matthew Stafford has established himself as one of the NFL's top emerging talents, and the Lions defense fantastic.

    The trouble with the Lions is the games they've yet to play. The Lions still have four games to play that are going to be very difficult to win. 

    Next week, the Lions will travel to Soldier Field to take on the Chicago Bears. Then in Week 12, the Lions will play host to the Green Bay Packers, who are currently the best team in the nation.

    Immediately after, the Lions travel to New Orleans to face the Saints in Week 13. And finally, in Week 17, the Lions have to endure an away game in Green Bay and take on the Packers once again.

    With such difficult fixtures, it's difficult to imagine the Lions snagging that last Wild Card spot.  

Breaking Down the Dallas Cowboys

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    The Dallas Cowboys have just not been able to get it together so far this season. Very much a Jekyll and Hyde team, the Cowboys have trouble putting in consistent quality performances. 

    If we look ahead at the Dallas schedule, there are about five games that are legitimate concern, the most recent of which is the Cowboys' upcoming game against the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were just embarrassed by the New York Jets at home, so they will be looking to recover from that with a win.

    The Cowboys then have a relatively easy time until the last four weeks of the season.

    Weeks 14 through 17 will see the Cowboys play the Philadelphia Eagles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the New York Giants twice.

    I wouldn't be terribly shocked if the Cowboys find a way to lose all four of those games.   

    This difficult schedule provides a very bleak outlook for the Dallas Cowboys. 

The Dallas Cowboys Are a Playoff Team: Fiction

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    I'm sorry Cowboy fans, but there is just no way this Dallas team is going to make the playoffs. Not with how competitive the NFC has been this season. 

    The Cowboys just can't match up to teams like the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons. Jason Garrett may be in over his head. 

    He has a team with a decent amount of talent, but he hasn't been able to get consistent performances from that talent. 

    Unfortunately, that beautiful new Cowboy Stadium is going to have endure another season with a vacant trophy case. 

Who Is Going to Snag That Last Wild Card Spot?

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    The sixth and final Wild Card spot looks like it's going to belong to the Atlanta Falcons. 

    Mike Smith and Co. have certainly drawn the least difficult schedule in the run up to the playoffs. If he can just get his team to go and win the games that they should win, Atlanta should have no trouble.

    Predicted NFC Playoff Teams: Green Bay Packers; New Orleans Saints; San Francisco 49ers; New York Giants; Chicago Bears; Atlanta Falcons