The Dallas Cowboys could have put themselves into the playoffs on Sunday with a victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars but could not close out the game and lost in overtime.
The gut-wrenching loss ultimately did not prevent the Cowboys from clinching a playoff berth on Sunday. The New York Giants beat the Washington Commanders 20-12 on Sunday Night Football, which meant Dallas officially locked up a postseason berth in 2022.
Dallas made the playoffs last season as the NFC East Champions but was eliminated by the San Fransisco 49ers in the Wild Card round. The Cowboys had not qualified for back-to-back playoff appearances since the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
The last time the Cowboys won a playoff game was in the Wild Card round in 2018.
Dallas sits with a 10-4 overall record after Sunday’s defeat and is now three games behind the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles (13-1).
The Cowboys can technically still win the NFC East this season but will need to beat the Eagles on Saturday and have Philadelphia lose both of its final games. This outcome is improbable, and it is most likely that the Cowboys will enter the playoffs as a Wild Card team.
The Cowboys would hold the No. 5 seed if the NFL season ended today. Their opponent would be the No. 4 seed, likely to go to the top team from the NFC South, a division currently led by the 6-8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 49ers (10-4) and the Minnesota Vikings (11-3) have already clinched their respective division titles. Philadelphia would clinch the NFC East this week with a victory over Dallas on Christmas Eve.
The Cowboys have three games remaining in the regular season, starting with the Christmas Eve divisional clash. The following week, Dallas will face the Tennessee Titans (7-7), who are locked in a battle for the AFC South title with the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-8).
The Titans are amidst a four-game losing slide, losing to the Los Angeles Chargers in overtime on Sunday after falling to Jacksonville the week before. Losses to the Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals in the two weeks prior increased the pressure on Tennessee to right the ship before a once-promising season is lost.
The Cowboys’ final game of the season will be another divisional battle, this time facing the Commanders in what could be a massively important match in terms of playoff seeding. The Commanders are currently 7-6-1 and 1-3-1 in the division after losing to New York, but they are still not eliminated from the playoff contention.
A Christmas Eve bout against the 49ers is looming for Washington, meaning every game is a must-win for the Commanders to have an opportunity at the 2022 postseason.
The Cowboys have a 91% probability of making the playoffs as the No.5 seed, according to playoffstatus.com. The site sees the most likely first-round opponent as the Buccaneers, who defeated the Cowboys in Week 1 of the last two seasons.
The Giants are the most-likely spoiler for the Cowboys but have just a 6% chance of overtaking Dallas in the playoff seeding by the season finale.
Dallas may have secured a playoff spot, but the team still has work to do. Sunday’s loss exposed weaknesses resulting from players out with injuries, and quarterback Dak Prescott’s sudden turnover explosion could create significant storylines heading into the final three games of 2022.