Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Outlook After Dallas’ Week 16 Win

Dak Prescott Ezekiel Elliott

Getty Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and RB Ezekiel Elliott

The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a great spot when it comes to their playoff outlook, but this doesn’t mean there isn’t work left to be done. Although Dallas is in a prime position to win the NFC East, there are a few different ways things can play out in both Weeks 16 and 17.

For the Cowboys, it starts in Week 16 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a game that can be huge for their playoff outlook and means very little for their opponent. While the Cowboys control their own destiny, they’re all but locked into the No. 4 seed in the NFC, as they currently sit with an 8-6 record.

Let’s take a look at the best and worse case scenarios for the Cowboys this weekend, factoring outcomes of other games as well.

*Note: Updated odds/chances for Cowboys playoff outlook listed below.

NFC Playoff Standings

1. New Orleans Saints 12 2 0
2. L.A. Rams 11 3 0
3. Chicago Bears 10 4 0
4. Dallas Cowboys 9 6 0
5. Minnesota Vikings 8 6 1
6. Seattle Seahawks 8 6 0
7. Philadelphia Eagles 8 7 0
8. Washington Redskins 7 8 0

The big battle here has to be for the final Wild Card spot, and it features two of the Cowboys’ biggest rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. With the Redskins losing on Saturday, the Eagles game will have an impact but could wind up being irrelevant as well if all goes to plan.

There is a chance that the Cowboys and Eagles could finish Week 16 with the same record, but due to Dallas defeating them twice, they’d own the tiebreaker. With that said, here’s a look at a break down of how tiebreakers work, courtesy of

Head-to-head, if applicable.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four.
Strength of victory.
Strength of schedule.
Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed.
Best net points in conference games.
Best net points in all games.
Best net touchdowns in all games.
Coin toss.

Cowboys’ Best and Worst Case Week 16 Scenarios

The Cowboys can wind up in the playoffs and lock up the NFC East if one of three things happen. Entering the week, the team holds a 92 percent chance to finish in the No. 4 seed in the conference, per Playoff Status. That’s where this would start, and they can set themselves into prime position for (at least) that seed with one of the following:

  • Cowboys win over Buccaneers
  • Eagles loss to Houston Texans
  • Cowboys tie Buccaneers and Eagles Texans

Obviously, the last option is highly unlikely, but it’s still worth noting. With the Cowboys clinching a playoff spot with a win, it would then come down to either the No. 3 or 4 seed in the NFC. With the Chicago Bears holding a two-game lead, the odds strongly point to the fourth spot.

The good news for Dallas is that even with a loss against the Buccaneers that moves them to 8-7, they’d hold roughly a 94 percent chance to make the playoffs still. On the downside, the chances of the Cowboys missing the playoffs move from two percent to six percent. Overall, the outlook is good for Dak Prescott and company.

Update: The Cowboys’ win over the Buccaneers secured the NFC East title and they hold a 92 percent chance to finish the season with the No. 4 seed, per Playoff Status.

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