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Mailbag: Playing For Seeding? Keeping Momentum?


Let's assume the No. 1 seed is off the table. If the last game of the season comes down to if the Eagles beat Dallas they make the playoffs, would Dallas rest starters and basically concede the game or play to win and keep Philly at home for the playoffs? – BERNARD HENRY / PETERSBURG, VA

David: I think the answer depends entirely on what else is up for grabs. If the Cowboys have a shot at the No. 2 seed, they need to go for it, because that would ensure they could host as many as two playoff games – or potentially all three, depending on what happens with the Packers. If they get stuck at No. 3 or No. 4, it's more likely they'd have to go on the road in the divisional round. If they don't have anything to play for, then I'd start sitting guys. Personally, I don't really care whether or not Philadelphia gets into the playoffs. But it's very likely the Cowboys will also have something at stake on Jan. 9.

Rob: Mike McCarthy was asked a general question about resting players if the option presents itself late in the regular season, and he said he did both in the past with Green Bay (rested guys and played everybody) and still lost in the playoffs. He wasn't ready to discuss that possibility, understandably. I'm with Dave: If the 2 seed is still on the table, go for it. Avoid the road as much as possible.

In your opinion, was the victory against Washington a reflection of the Cowboys we should expect to see going forward or is it a reflection of the fact that they were playing a bad team? – KIP HAVARD / LUFKIN, TX

David: I think you're setting yourself up for a bad time if you "expect" to see a performance like that on a regular basis. The Cowboys showed off their potential on Sunday night, but 56-14 beatdowns just aren't a normal thing in the NFL – no matter how good you are. That said, two things give me optimism that they can build off that performance. Firstly, that was the same Washington team they struggled with two weeks ago. So even if they are a bad team, we know for a fact that the Cowboys played a much better game the second time around. Second, they have now guaranteed themselves a home playoff game – and potentially more, depending on the seeding. I think that game hammered home just how big homefield advantage can be for this team.

Rob: I mean, there's two sides to this. Nobody's making excuses for Washington here, but yes, their roster was depleted and their altered schedule did them no favors. That said, the Cowboys already showed they were clearly the better team based on the first half of the game in Washington. They took care of business twice. They're also 3-2 against teams above .500 this season. The defense leads the league in takeaways, the special teams makes huge plays more often than bad ones, and the offense has shown capable of special things, particularly at home. Arizona is the best team they'll face since the Chiefs. It'll be a good test, and the NFC playoffs will be a gauntlet. But I do think we've seen enough over 15 games to say Dallas is a contender.

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