The Dallas Cowboys are hot, forging their way to the top of the NFC point differential totem. Net point differential is one of the leading indicators of actual team strength. Winning is winning, but being able to dominate opponents is the mark of a great team. Being able to dominate really good teams is the mark of a potential champion.
Of all the teams in the NFC, Dallas has faced more teams currently in playoff positioning than any other (7), won more than any other (5) and by a two-game margin in each. Yet still, they find themselves two games out of a bye-week slot in the playoffs; the No. 1 seed.
Since the NFL has added the seventh playoff seed in each conference in 2020, the NFC has been represented by a team that played opening playoff weekend. Still, earning a bye is still the goal even if it's not the impediment it once was. Dallas wants to catch Philadelphia, and Minnesota for that matter, and to do so must make up ground.
Week 13's slate of action appears to be the best opportunity to do so, as there are tough matchups abound for their chief competition.
Why a 1-game lead is a no-game lead for the Eagles
In the current world, the Eagles have what would be considered a 2.5-game lead on the Cowboys. Sitting at 10-1 while Dallas is 8-3, the two games is boosted by the fact Philadelphia won the first matchup which temporarily gives them a tiebreaker.
However that lead is deceiving, no matter how many times nervous Eagles fans want to point that out to Cowboys fans on Twitter. It's effectively just a one-game lead. Here's why.
Both teams currently have one division loss. If Dallas wins the rematch on Christmas Eve, they would have the top tiebreaker if Philly loses one more game than Dallas in the other five remaining contests both teams have.
If both teams end up with 4-2 records against the East, though, and with a similar record of say 13-4, the tiebreaker scenario then gets more difficult as there are outcomes where each team can win the down-the-line tiebreakers of conference record and common opponents.
Tennessee Titans (7-4) @ Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
One of the premier matchups of the week takes place in the early slot Sunday. The Eagles are -4 net point differential over their last three games (2-1) after being +91 through their first eight games. Are they ripe for another home loss? Tennessee brings the run game that could give them fits.
ROOT FOR THE TITANS.
Washington Commanders (7-5) @ New York Giants (7-4)
The Giants have lost three of four while the Commanders are red hot, winners of six of their last seven. The gap between the two has obviously closed and Washington can climb out of the basement with a win.
Deciding which result best suits Dallas comes down to who one believes is a bigger threat. As both teams are evenly matched, we'll go with believing the team Dallas still has to face being a bigger threat than the one they've beaten twice.
ROOT FOR THE GIANTS.
New York Jets (7-4) @ Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
Pretty straight forward; in 99 out of 100 cases root for the AFC team over the NFC team. In this case, Dallas needs Minnesota to lose one more game than them over the final six. The head-to-head win in Week 11 will take the tiebreaker for Dallas.
ROOT FOR THE JETS.
Miami Dolphins (8-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (7-4)
Technically the second matchup of division winners this week, though Buffalo playing on Thursday night gave them a temporary leg up on the Dolphins who currently own that tiebreaker. The 49ers are hot, their defense is corralling every offense they face, so it will be extra important to see how Miami attacks them and what's successful.
ROOT FOR THE DOLPHINS.
Seattle Seahawks (6-5) @ Los Angeles Rams (3-8)
The goal, if Dallas doesn't catch the Eagles and has to play in the wild-card round, would be to face a division winner who doesn't pose the challenge that San Francisco or Tampa Bay does. The Seahawks are a great story, but their defense isn't anywhere near as scary.
Therefore, if there's any way for Seattle to win the NFC West, that's the best option for Dallas.
ROOT FOR THE SEAHAWKS.
New Orleans Saints (4-8) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-6)
Keep Tom Brady out the playoffs.
ROOT FOR THE SAINTS.
Pittsburgh Steelers (4-7) @ Atlanta Falcons (5-7)
Again. Keep Tom Brady out the playoffs.
ROOT FOR THE FALCONS.
Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire