- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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The "Hot Button" question on our site right now is, "Which team that finished under .500 in 201o will make the playoffs in 2011?" Mike Sando picks the Rams, who only needed to win eight games last year to make it, but didn't. John Clayton picks the Cowboys.
Now, I know, I know... everybody's going to say that everybody always picks the Cowboys and they always disappoint. We've been over that ground and we'll be over it again. I side with John here, and you already knew that, but if your opinion is different you're going to think we're nuts. Fine. Way it goes.
I'm a little more interested in this piece of John's rationale, where he says the fact that the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East teams are scheduled to play the NFC West in 2011 is a reason to expect them to win more games:
"Last season, the NFC West went 3-13 against the NFC South, helping three NFC South teams to have winning records. After going 1-3 against the NFC North last season, the Cowboys figure to go at least 3-1 against the quarterback- and defensive-challenged NFC West and have the potential to go 4-0."
John's right that the quarterback situations in Seattle, San Francisco and Arizona remain murky at best, and that's reason enough to expect the division to be down again in 2011. His point about the impact that bit of scheduling had on the 2010 NFC South, which had two playoff teams and a 10-6 Tampa Bay team that just missed, is a very good one. And it may mean good things for the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins in 2011. Not a sure thing, of course, because the other NFC South team last year finished with the worst record in the league. You still have to put a representative product on the field. But sure, if the NFC West turns in another year in which no one finishes .500, that's a good thing for the teams in the NFC East.
Of course, all of this assumes the whole 16-game schedule as currently written will be played. And of that, I have my doubts. But that's a topic for another post.