ARLINGTON — The Cowboys are down to one possible route to the postseason.
Hours after a 41-33 win over the San Francisco 49ers, the team was mathematically eliminated from contention for an improbable wild-card playoff spot. That was decided when the Arizona Cardinals recorded their eighth win, downing the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dallas has a 5-9 record with two games to go.
All three NFC wild-card spots will be awarded to a team with at least eight wins. The Cowboys cannot reach that figure.
This leaves an NFC East title as the only potential playoff road. The Cowboys would have been mathematically eliminated there, too, Sunday with a loss to San Francisco or Washington win against the Seattle Seahawks. Neither transpired.
Washington cannot win either of its final two games, against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 and at the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17, for the Cowboys to preserve any shot at the playoffs. Likewise, the Cowboys cannot lose either of their remaining games, Week 16 against the Eagles and Week 17 at the New York Giants.
The Cowboys must finish with a better regular-season record than Washington. No tiebreaker scenario exists involving Washington that the Cowboys can win.
Coach Mike McCarthy said that he didn’t mention Washington’s loss to his team.
“I think clearly if we don’t take care of our own business, nothing else matters,” McCarthy said. “So we’re truly focused on what is in front of us. We know we have Philadelphia coming in. We have a seven-day week to prepare for them. We really want to finish strong with these two division wins. That’s clearly my focus.”
According to Fivethirtyeight, Dallas has a 5% chance to make the playoffs.
That increased from 1% to begin Sunday.
Draft-pick tumble: The Cowboys are focused on games, not draft order.
The rest of us can multitask.
Sunday’s win dropped the franchise from its pace for the No. 4 overall pick in 2021 to now the No. 8 overall choice. Dallas is one of six teams with a 5-9 record. But it would pick higher than the five others because of a weak .477 strength of schedule, one perk to playing in the NFL’s worst division.
The Cowboys would have remained at No. 4 overall had they lost to the 49ers.
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