How the Dallas Cowboys Can Clinch a Spot in the NFL Playoffs in Week 15

At 9-4 and with first place in the NFC East on lockdown, the Dallas Cowboys are almost assuredly a playoff team. The Cowboys are on a two-game win streak and travel to face the 4-9 New York Giants at Metlife stadium.

There’s a lot on the line across the NFL in Week 15. Here’s how the Cowboys can capitalize on their matchup and clinch a spot in the playoffs.

The Dallas Cowboys can actually win the NFC East in Week 15

Dallas Cowboys Week 15
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) takes the field with cornerback Trevon Diggs (7) for the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team | Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The main prize Dallas is shooting for this season is the Super Bowl, but winning the division is always a welcome notch in the belt. That is even more true for the Cowboys considering that they haven’t won the NFC East since the 2018 season, and they’ve only won it two out of the last six seasons. Winning the division in Mike McCarthy’s second season as head coach in Dallas would be an accomplishment. It also automatically gets Dallas in the playoffs.

For the Cowboys to win the NFC East in Week 15, they would have to beat the Giants and hope that the Washington Football Team loses to or ties with the Philadelphia Eagles. Washington is 6-7 and plays at the 6-7 Eagles. Even if the Eagles go on a winning streak, Dallas will clinch the NFC East because the Cowboys will own the strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Philly.

Simply put, a Dallas win plus a Washington loss or tie will see the Cowboys as NFC East champs by Monday morning.

The Cowboys can still make the playoffs without clinching the NFC East in Week 15

If Washington beats the Eagles, Dallas will have to wait at least one more week to hoist the NFC East crown.

The Cowboys can still lock in their spot in the playoffs without winning the division just yet, though, which goes to show you just how good of a position Dallas is in. In fact, two scenarios will see Dallas make the playoffs without factoring in their Week 15 result at all. That’s a pretty advantageous spot to be in if you’re the Cowboys.

Let’s look at the winning angle first.

Again, in these scenarios, the NFC East couldn’t be clinched yet because Washington will have beaten the Eagles. Here’s how the Cowboys can simply make the playoffs by beating the Giants, according to NFL.com.

  • Dallas win + New Orleans loss or tie OR
  • Dallas win + San Francisco loss

There’s also a scenario that will see the Cowboys make the playoffs even if they tie with New York.

  • Dallas tie + Minnesota loss or tie + New Orleans loss or tie + Atlanta loss or tie

Finally, here are the two scenarios that would get the Cowboys in the playoffs while not even considering their Week 15 matchup with the Giants.

  • Minnesota loss + Atlanta loss + New Orleans loss + Philadelphia and Washington tie
  • Minnesota loss +Atlanta loss + New Orleans loss + DAL clinches strength-of-victory tiebreaker over Philadelphia

The Cowboys need to beat the Giants, plain and simple

Dallas Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs
Trevon Diggs #7 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after Dorance Armstrong #92 (not pictured) returned a fumble for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Washington Football Team | Rob Carr/Getty Images

A Dallas win over New York puts a ton of the clinching scenarios into action. Still, even if playoff implications weren’t on the line, if Dallas wants to be considered a legitimate Super Bowl contending team, beating a non-threatening Giants team, losers of three of their last four, has to be a non-starter.

Rivalry aside, this is a game Dallas needs to win and win handily to make a statement.

On paper, this shouldn’t be close. Again, rivalry games aren’t played on paper for a reason, but the stats heading into this game paint a very one-sided picture.

Even considering Dak Prescott and the offense’s struggles as of late, the Cowboys are scoring a robust 29.2 points per game. That’s second-best in the league, only behind Tom Brady and the defending champion Buccaneers.

Defensively, the Cowboys are nearing elite status with rookie Micah Parsons playing like a defensive player of the year candidate and cornerback Trevon Diggs arguably the best ball-hawk corner in the NFL. The defense got after Washington last weekend to force five sacks and four turnovers. The way Dallas is playing on defense can’t be all that encouraging for a pathetic New York offense that puts up just 17.8 points per game.

A win over New York starts a whole lot of wheels spinning in the right direction for Dallas. At least on paper, that looks to be the likely result of this Week 15 matchup.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. Contract information via Spotrac.

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