IRVING, Texas – As the Cowboys prepared to land in Dallas on Sunday evening, coach Jason Garrett informed his team of their playoff fate.
Having secured the NFC's No. 3 seed, the Cowboys will play host to the Detroit Lions in the second of two Sunday wildcard games, with kickoff slated for 3:40 p.m. at AT&T Stadium.
There had been talk all week that, given the right results, Dallas could secure either the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, and therefore a first-round bye. After downing Washington, 44-17, though, they didn't get that help.
Dallas would have needed a tie between Detroit and Green Bay to be the No. 1 seed, and they would have needed losses by both Arizona and Seattle to be the No. 2 seed. The Packers defeated the Lions, 30-20, eliminating that possibility. The
Cardinals lost to San Francisco, but the Seahawks thwarted the Cowboys' hopes with a 20-6 win against St. Louis.
Seattle, Green Bay and Dallas all finished the regular season with an NFL-best 12-4 record. NFL rules state that ties between more than two teams are settled using conference record, however. Both the Seahawks and Packers finished with better records against NFC foes than the Cowboys.
Storylines will abound when the Lions, who finished the regular season 11-5, get to town this weekend. The Cowboys' top two coordinators – Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli – have coached for Detroit in the past. Linehan was the offensive coordinator in Detroit from 2009-13, helping Calvin Johnson to career years.
Marinelli was the head coach in Detroit in 2008, when the Lions finished as the only 0-16 team in NFL history.
That doesn't factor in the last two games between these two teams – both of which saw furious comebacks by the Lions. Matthew Stafford led Detroit to a game-winning touchdown in the dying seconds last season, with the help of a ridiculous 14-catch, 329-yard day by Johnson.
In 2011 – the Lions' last trip to AT&T Stadium – they rallied from a 27-3 third quarter deficit to win a thriller, 34-30.
If that wasn't enough, Garrett earned the first home win of his career against Detroit. Dallas defeated the Lions, 35-19, in Garrett's second game as head coach.