Dallas Cowboys Playoff Scenarios: Can the Cowboys Still Clinch Higher Seeding in the NFC?

Where do the Dallas Cowboys stand in the NFC playoff picture ahead of Saturday's game vs. the Detroit Lions, and could a win improve their seeding?

The Dallas Cowboys are 10-5 heading into Saturday’s game against the Detroit Lions and need to win if they want to keep higher seeding hopes alive for the postseason.

The issue with this matchup is that the Lions are still hoping to get higher seeding in the NFC, so this is a “must-win” game for both teams.

Let’s scope out the different scenarios for how the rest of the season could play out for the Cowboys.

Cowboys Playoff Scenarios | Week 17 Update

Note that this article was originally published on Dec. 30 before this weekend’s games began. The results of this week’s games are below and will continue to be updated throughout the weekend.

After Week 17 ‘s Sunday 1 p.m. ET slate, the Cowboys are now the No. 2 seed in the NFC after the Eagles’ surprise loss to the Cardinals.

Saturday Night Update
Cowboys (11-5) defeated Lions (11-5)

Sunday 1 p.m. ET Update
49ers (12-4) defeated Commanders (4-12)
Cardinals (4-12) defeated Eagles (11-5)

Keep reading below to see the playoff scenarios for the Cowboys entering Week 17. And head over to PFN’s free NFL Playoff Predictor to test various scenarios and see how they change the playoff picture.

NFC Seeding Ahead of Week 17

The Cowboys already clinched a postseason spot, but that doesn’t mean they can let up, especially with back-to-back road losses in the last two weeks.

Here is what the rankings look like for the NFC playoff picture:

  1. San Francisco 49ers
  2. Philadelphia Eagles
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  5. Dallas Cowboys
  6. Los Angeles Rams
  7. Seattle Seahawks

Basically, the Eagles and 49ers will still determine the fate of the NFC decision, but it could still be wide open well into the last week of the regular season.

Can the Cowboys Clinch the NFC East?

The chances of the Cowboys winning the NFC East are very low but still not completely ruled out.

Unfortunately, they have nearly sealed their fate in second place with back-to-back losses and the remaining games on the schedule for the Eagles, who play the Cardinals and Giants in the final two weeks of the regular season.

The Cowboys play the Lions on Saturday and the Commanders in Week 18. But, even if the Cowboys win out, it will still depend on how the Eagles play.

MORE: Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart

The Cowboys’ best chance to clinch the NFC East will be if the Eagles lose any remaining games, meaning it could come down to the wire in Week 18.

But if the Eagles win out, they will win the NFC East regardless of what the Cowboys do, which seems like the most plausible scenario.

If the Cowboys and Eagles finish with the same record at the end of the season, Dallas would win the division and get home-field advantage for at least one playoff game because they have a better conference record than the Eagles.

Can the Cowboys Clinch the NFC?

Even though the chances of the Cowboys winning the NFC are even more slim than their chances of winning the NFC East, it’s still not ruled out completely. Things will come down to what the Eagles and 49ers do. The 49ers play the Commanders and Rams in the season’s final two weeks.

If the Eagles and 49ers both lose this week and the Cowboys win, things could change rather quickly in the NFC. However, that isn’t the most probable scenario.

If the 49ers lost their two remaining games, the Cowboys could get higher seeding and home-field advantage.

All the Cowboys can control is beating the Lions and Commanders within the next two weeks. Not only to help their chances of higher playoff seeding if the Eagles or 49ers slip up but to regain the confidence lost within the last two weeks.

Want to predict the rest of the 2023 season with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? Looking for the most up-to-date NFL standings? What about a breakdown of team depth charts or the NFL schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with that and more! 

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