The NFC playoff picture is loaded with five potential Super Bowl contenders . . . and the Dallas Cowboys, who have no business being anywhere near the postseason.
If the playoffs began today, the Seattle Seahawks might have one of the biggest gripes of all time in terms of fairness.
The Seahawks feature one of the league’s leading MVP candidates in Russell Wilson, have only lost to teams with winning records, and have 10 wins but would be hitting the road to take on a 6-7 Dallas Cowboys team that has no business playing playoff football.
If you look purely at the talent on each team’s roster, the Cowboys should be able to give the Seahawks a great game, and the home field advantage they would be afforded by winning the sorry NFC East could be a difference maker. The issue, however, is that Dallas has done virtually nothing to justify their appearance in the playoffs outside of happening to be lucky enough to play in a division with three other pathetic football teams.
This is the same problem we ran into back in 2010, when ironically enough the Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record and went on to beat the 11-5 New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round. The current NFL playoff format is rewarding geography over who the best teams actually are, and Dallas is not one of the six best teams in the NFC right now.
The Cowboys have yet to beat a team with a winning record this season, with their best win coming against the Philadelphia Eagles, who are a mess in their own right. This isn’t a situation where the Cowboys can say that they have been hit hard by the injury bug because for the most part all of their key players have been healthy this season.
Dak Prescott is playing for a contract and has played his best football at times, while Ezekiel Elliott got paid and didn’t skip a beat to help anchor the rushing attack. Amari Cooper has continued his progression as a top flight receiver while the offensive line and defense have played well at times, even though the absence of Tyron Smith for a few games hurt in losses to the Packers and Jets.
The Cowboys have simply been extremely inconsistent and beaten up on paper tigers, racking up their wins against the Eagles, the New York Giants (twice), Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, and a Detroit Lions’ team playing without quarterback Matthew Stafford. Those five teams have a combined record of 17-47-1, with only the Eagles having more than three wins on the season.
Dallas is simply fattening up on the bad competition they’ve faced and they couldn’t even do that right, blowing a horrific game to the New York Jets in Week 6 and letting Mitchell Trubisky look like a competent NFL quarterback last Thursday in a humiliating defeat in Chicago. If we were to take a look at the NFC standings right now, the Cowboys have the eighth best record in the conference, meaning the 8-5 Los Angeles Rams and 7-6 Chicago Bears (which beat the Cowboys head-to-head) would be left sitting at home in January.
The Cowboys also have the same exact record as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who at least have a win over the Rams on their resume. There isn’t much of a difference between the Cowboys and the league’s other 6-7 squads, like the Bucs, Eagles, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, and Oakland Raiders in terms of accomplishments this season. They have underachieved as much as anyone in the league outside of Cleveland.
The Cowboys appeared a Super Bowl contender with how dominant they were in their first three games, all wins. Dallas has gone 3-7 since and look like a complete dumpster fire that still has a chance to get the privilege of hosting a potentially 13-3 team in a playoff game simply based on the fact they aren’t as much of a disaster as the Giants, Redskins, and Eagles.
Purists will point to the argument that the NFL is cyclical and bad divisions will become good again, but that doesn’t negate the fact that based on the eye test alone for the past two months the Cowboys belong absolutely nowhere near the postseason. The system rewards their mediocrity with a potential home playoff game against a far superior opponent while playoff worthy squads sit at home planning tee times.
If a 10-6 Rams’ team, or a 9-7 Bears’ team, misses the playoffs while a 7-9 Cowboys’ team hosts a 13-3 San Francisco 49ers’ squad it is a really bad look for the NFL and should (finally) lead to some change to the league’s archaic playoff system.