Week 12 Rooting Guide: Rams-Packers? Cowboys now look to avoid most difficult playoff road

·6 min read

Slow your roll. The Dallas Cowboys aren’t out on the No. 1 seed in the NFC. It certainly feels like it, as the team has lost three out of their last four and two in a row. The latest defeat, Thursday evening at home to the Las Vegas Raiders for their third straight Thanksgiving Day game L, stung a bit, pun intended.

Old nemesis DeSean Jackson opened the scoring Thursday with a deep pass touchdown and it felt like deja vu all over again. Dallas’ back seven was an absolute mess and they may have been the healthiest and most complete unit on the team, only missing Donovan Wilson.

Still all hope is not lost, but they have made things more difficult on themselves. They are now two games in the loss column behind the NFC pace setter, and a game behind three other teams, one of which they’ve lost to already. They certainly can make up ground. The Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots are the hottest teams in the league after miserable starts (and Dallas has split road games against) and are on the precipice of the No. 1seed in the AFC.

Dallas’ road to redemption will be hard, but not impossible, with all NFC games remaining in their final six weeks. Dallas has just one NFC loss so far, setting themselves up to win many tiebreaker scenarios should they win out and finish as the hottest team in the NFC.

That journey is taken one game at a time however, and they will sit back on Sunday and watch many of their competitors take the field in an effort to make the Cowboys’ journey more difficult. The Cowboys no longer control their own destiny as they did earlier in the week, so it’s legit time to start rooting for some teams to lose. Here’s a look at the slate on Week 12 action that impacts Dallas’ playoff seeding.

NFL Tiebreaker Rules Conference

Two Teams Tied

  1. Head-to-head, if applicable

  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference

  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four

  4. Strength of victory

  5. Strength of schedule

  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed

Three Teams or More Tied

  1. Head-to-head sweep (applicable only if one club has defeated each of the others or if one club has lost to each of the others)

  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference

  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four

  4. Strength of victory

  5. Strength of schedule

  6. Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed

Tampa Bay (7-3) @ Indinapolis Colts (6-5), Sunday Noon CT

Root for the Colts.

Look at that, hoping for a great game out of Carson Wentz. Oh how the times have changed. Dallas lost to Tampa in Week 1, so the Bucs will always hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys should they end up in a two-way tiebreaker. However when it comes to multi-team tiebreakers Dallas holds the advantage.

Conference Records: Dallas (5-1), Tampa Bay (5-3)

Common Games with Bucs (10)

Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, Washington

Current Records: Dallas (5-0), Tampa Bay (4-2)
Both clubs beat:
Atlanta, New England, Philadelphia, Giants
Remaining Bucs games (how Dallas did): Falcons (W), Saints (N/A), Panthers 2x(W)
Remaining Cowboys games (how Tampa did): Saints (L), Washington 2x (L), Giants (W), Eagles (W)

Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) @ New York Giants (3-7), Sunday Noon CT

Root for the Giants.

The Eagles are hot, the Giants just fired OC Jason Garrett and have a limited amount of healthy bodies. Dallas is still up two games in the loss column with a victory in hand, but suddenly the NFC East race isn’t a forgone conclusion.

Division Records: Dallas (2-0), Philadelphia (0-1)

Common Games with Eagles (12)

Falcons, Saints, Panthers, Bucs, Giants, Washington, Broncos, Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers

Current Records: Dallas (4-4), Philadelphia (4-4)
Both clubs beat:
Falcons, Panthers
Remaining Eagles games (how Dallas did): Giants 2x (W), WFT 2x (N/A)
Remaining Cowboys games (how Philly did): Saints (W), WFT 2x (N/A), Giants (N/A)

Tennessee Titans (8-3) @ New England Patriots (7-4), Sunday Noon CT

Root for the Patriots.

Caring about an AFC matchup? Why?

Strength of Victory and Strength of Schedule. The better the teams Dallas played (and more importantly defeated) do, the better the conference tiebreaker shots are if it goes that far. Unlikely, but possible.

Atlanta Falcons (4-6) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-8), Sunday Noon CT

Root for the Falcons.

For the same reasons as above, strength of victory and schedule, Dallas wants Atlanta to finish with the best record possible.

Los Angeles Chargers (6-4) @ Denver Broncos (5-5), Sunday 3:05 pm CT

Root for the Chargers.

Strength of victory component has Dallas looking at another AFC matchup.

Minnesota Vikings (5-5) @ San Francisco 49ers (5-5), Sunday 3:25 pm, CT

Root for the Vikings.

Strength of victory yet again.

Los Angeles Rams (7-3) @ Green Bay Packers (8-3), Sunday 3:25 pm CT

Root for the ???

Conference Records: Dallas (5-1), Rams (5-2), Packers (6-2)

Common Opponents with Rams (5)

Buccaneers, Cardinals, Giants, Vikings

Current Records: Dallas (2-1), Los Angeles (2-1)
Both clubs beat:
Giants
Remaining Rams games (how Dallas did): Cards (N/A), Vikings (W)
Remaining Cowboys games (how LA did): Giants (W), Cards (L)

Common Games with Packers (6)

Saints, Washington, Cards, Chiefs, Vikings

Current Records: Dallas (1-1), Green Bay (2-3)
Both clubs beat:
N/A
Remaining Packers games (how Dallas did): Vikings (W)
Remaining Cowboys games (how GB did): Saints (L), Cards (W), WFT 2x (W)

This one is the highlight of the action on Sunday and the toughest matchup to determine who to root for. Both of these teams have one more conference loss than Dallas, so the next too-early key is common opponents. The Cowboys have a path to get to four wins out of the six common games, the Packers can only finish with three wins.

Both the Rams and Cowboys have the Cardinals remaining, while LA has the more difficult “other” common game in the Vikings while Dallas has the Giants.

Both the Rams and Packers have to travel to Baltimore to take on Lamar Jackson and the Ravens and both have the conference-worst opponents remaining on their schedule (Detroit for the Packers, Jaguars for LA).

The Rams, of course, have to beat out the Cards for the division title before they even get into any tiebreaker scenario with the Cowboys. The Packers still have a bye week coming to get rest for the stretch run.

Very tough call as most outlets (because of the division scenario) have the Packers are a bigger threat to earning the No. 1 seed.

Because of the pending bye and game against winless Detroit, root for the Packers to lose.

Root for the Rams.

Seattle Seahawks (3-7) @ Washington (4-6), Monday 7:15 pm CT

Here’s an interesting game. For strength of victory and schedule reasons, Dallas clearly wants Washington to improve their record and Seattle to weaken theirs.

However, Dallas has two games left against their rivals, and in NFC rivalry games anything can happen. Do the Cowboys want a Washington franchise which played Green Bay close and defeated the Tampa Bay Bucs to have elevated confidence for games they’ll already be way amped for?

This goes against the math, but…

Root for Seattle.

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