Cowboys wild card possibilities

December, 23, 2011
12/23/11
10:10
AM ET
There is this rush on Twitter, where everything is always rushed, to assert that Saturday's late afternoon game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles would become "meaningless" if the New York Giants beat the Jets in their early afternoon game. Some have gone as far as to suggest that the Cowboys would use this as a chance to rest players in advance of a Week 17 game against the Giants for the division title.

But while the game would, if the Giants beat the Jets, become "meaningless" to the Eagles (who would be eliminated) and to the NFC East race (which would be decided the following week at MetLife Stadium), it would in no way become "meaningless" to the Cowboys, who could still get into the playoffs as a wild card team if they beat the Eagles this week and lose to the Giants next week.

Is it a slim chance? Sure. It requires a lot of things. The Cardinals and the Seahawks each would have to lose at least one more game, for example. And the Falcons would have to finish 0-2. But while those things might -- on their own or in combination with each other -- seem unlikely, they are all possible, and as long as the possibility exists, why should the Cowboys or their fans discount it?

I used the Playoff Machine a little bit today to see what exactly had to happen in order for the Cowboys to be a 9-7 wild-card team. (The Giants cannot be a wild-card team, by the way. If they get to 9-7, they're division champs. And with Atlanta and Detroit each having already won nine games, there will be no 8-8 wild-card team in the NFC). There are a couple scenarios for the Cowboys to be a 9-7 wild-card team. Play around with it and let me know what else you find. But the point is a simple one: There's no reason for Dallas not to try and win Saturday, no matter what the Giants do in their game, and I don't understand why everyone's in such a rush to declare the game "meaningless" when it's not.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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