Just four weeks ago, the landscape was much different. The Dallas Cowboys were thoroughly embarrassed on national television. Facing the team that had eliminated them from the tournament each of the last two seasons, Dallas brass claimed the Week 5 matchup with the San Francisco 49ers was a measuring stick. The club was weighed and found wanting, to the tune of a 42-10 shellacking that dropped the team’s record to 3-2.
Three games later, and Dallas is in position to take control of the NFC race for the No. 1seed as their season approaches it’s midpoint. With two wins sandwiched around a bye week, the Cowboys have watched the rest of the conference retreat towards the gooey middle. Somehow, the club has survived the apocalypse and find themselves in control of their own destiny.
The formerly undefeated 49ers lose three games in a row to drop to 5-3. The Detroit Lions lost their second game of the season in Week 7, and the Philadelphia Eagles lost their first game of the season as well. That has the NFC standings as such heading into Week 9.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)
Detroit Lions (6-2)
Seattle Seahawks (6-2)
Atlanta Falcons (4-4)
Dallas Cowboys (5-2)
San Francisco 49ers (5-3)
Minnesota Vikings (4-4)
So while the Cowboys are looking at a wild-card road game at this point, they are in complete control of how the standings unfold over the next nine weeks. That’s because Dallas has matchups against each of the three teams with better records than them, starting with the Week 9 matchup with the Eagles. They also face both the Lions and Seahawks later in the season, where a head-to-head tiebreaker will be determined.
Three of those four games will be at AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys currently have won an NFL-long 11 straight games.
Dallas simply needs to either A) finish with a better record than those clubs or B) win the tiebreakers.
As they’ve lost to the 49ers already, Dallas needs to finish a game ahead of them in the standings, which seemed a formidable mountain after Week 5, but they’ve already moved ahead in just three weeks.
Dallas isn’t the only team controlling their own destiny at this point, but the fact they do after some said they were already an afterthought is saying a lot for how the league actually works.
Here’s a look at the key NFC games this weekend.
Bye Week: Detroit, San Francisco