Halfway through the 2012 NFL season, it looked like the Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes might be dead.
Heading into Week 10, Dallas was 3-5, and coming off their fourth loss in five games. The New York Giants had a commanding division lead at 6-3, and looked to be on their way to another NFC East title.
With just two weeks left, the Cowboys control their own postseason destiny. They are in a three-way tie for first place in the division, and winning their final two games would guarantee them a top four seed in the NFC. The Washington Redskins, Cowboys and Giants each have an 8-6 record.
The Redskins currently have the tiebreaker among the three teams, but that could change very quickly. The Cowboys will face them in the final game of the season. A win for Dallas would give them the advantage in any tiebreaker scenario in the division.
Before the Cowboys take on the Redskins in Week 17, they will host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday afternoon. The Saints have been all but eliminated from playoff contention, despite their 41-0 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 15.
If Dallas loses to either Washington or New Orleans, they will need some help to extend their season.
A loss to the Redskins would end their bid for a division title, leaving the Cowboys to fight for the final wild card spot. Entering Week 16, the three NFC East teams, the Chicago Bears, and Minnesota Vikings are all fighting to make the playoffs at 8-6. The Bears and Vikings currently hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys because of head-to-head win percentage.
Minnesota leads the wild card race, but it will be tough for them to stay in the lead. They are scheduled to visit the Houston Texans and host the Green Bay Packers to close out the year.
The Bears have played very poorly of late, but have the easiest road to 10-6. They will play the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions in the final two weeks, though both games are on the road.
A lot has yet to be determined, but the Cowboys would lose in most tiebreaker scenarios for the wild card.
Dallas’s best chance of making the playoffs is by winning the division.
The Redskins have won their last five games, and are making a serious run at postseason berth. The Cowboys have won five of their last six, with their only loss coming to Robert Griffin III and Washington on Thanksgiving.
Tony Romo has been one of the better NFC quarterbacks of late, throwing for an average of 333 yards in his last five games. Dez Bryant has caught a touchdown pass in his last six games, and doesn't appear to be too affected by his broken left finger. He will not undergo surgery until after Dallas is eliminated from contention.
The Cowboys control their fate. Two more wins, and they are division champs. Even one loss and they will likely miss the playoffs for a third straight year.