As the Dallas Cowboys trudged up the post-win tunnel last Thursday in Minnesota, largely too tired to truly celebrate after recording three wins in 12 days, one Cowboy noted, “We’re in the playoffs, baby!”
If that was meant as a prediction, he was right; On Sunday, the Cowboys became the first team to clinch an NFL playoff berth.
The NFC East-leading Cowboys did the 11-1 part themselves (the best record in the NFL), and it provides Dallas with the inside track to a first-round bye, to home-field edge throughout the playoffs, and maybe to an uncatchable regular-season mark that can help ease the path to the Super Bowl.
The bit of Sunday help was provided by Arizona, which handed a 31-23 loss to the Redskins, dropping Washington to 6-5-1.
The Cowboys we’re also afforded the luxury of sitting home and watching NFC East rivals Philadelphia and New York lose to Green Bay and Pittsburgh, respectively. The Giants are 8-4 and next Sunday night play host to the Cowboys in an attempt to close the division gap.
The Cowboys are often quick to say that they have the loftiest of goals. As Dez Bryant told me, “We don’t care about records or any of that. We’re focused on way bigger things than that.”
But these landmarks come in orderly fashion. First had to come the 17–15 win at Minnesota on Thursday, then had to come the NFC East flop on Sunday, and next week can come a Cowboys’ clinch of the division as they now own a three-game lead in the division with four games remaining.
A win over the Giants (the only team to defeat the Cowboys, having won 20-19 in Week 1 before Dallas launched its rather amazing 11-game win streak) would seal the East.
“We are in the playoffs, baby!”? Yes, it’s official now…with more potential landmarks to come.