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Sorting Out The Cowboys' Playoff Picture


ARLINGTON, Texas – Strictly speaking, nothing was officially decided Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

Thrilling as it was, the Cowboys' overtime victory against Philadelphia doesn't secure them a spot in the postseason – but it comes awfully close.

"I guess it gets us one step closer," said Dak Prescott. "It's as simple as that, but our focus is on next week and that is Indy. We're worried about that."

That's a fantastic answer, and it's not Prescott's job to determine the NFC playoff picture. That falls to the rest of us.

The win improved the Cowboys to 8-5 on the season, putting them two games ahead of the Eagles. They also hold the all-important tiebreaker over Philadelphia by virtue of sweeping the season series.

It's also important to note that the win gives them an important leg up over Washington, as well. With the Cowboys and Redskins having split their season series, Sunday's win guarantees that the Cowboys will finish with a better division record than their Washington rivals – an important designation, since that's the second criteria used to break a tie within the division.

So what does all of this mean, exactly? It's pretty straightforward.

Firstly – win and they're in. The Cowboys have three games remaining on the schedule – at Indianapolis, home against Tampa Bay and at New York. Win any of those games, and – thanks to the tiebreakers -- they'll have the necessary win total to lock down the division crown.

Not that it'd be preferable, but they actually don't even have to win another game. With the Cowboys holding those all-important tie breakers, a single loss by both Philadelphia and Washington would lock it up. And with the Eagles playing both the Rams and the Texans in the next two weeks, not to mention an Eagles-Redskins matchup in Week 17, that looks fairly likely.

Predictably, this isn't going to register much with the powers that be. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked what it meant to him to be in this position with three weeks to play, and his answer didn't betray much excitement.

"Not much. The biggest thing we've got to do … there's a ton of stuff in this game that we've got to clean up," he said. "We'll do that as coaches tomorrow and the players will come back in on Tuesday and get back to work. This was a good win for our football team, but our eyes are forward."

Again, nothing wrong with that. That step-by-step mantra has gotten the Cowboys this far, improving from a 3-5 also-ran to an 8-5 contender. 

But for those of us on the outside looking in, the playoff picture is taking shape – and it's looking awfully favorable for the Cowboys.