It’s been a brutal season that’s seen the Cowboys lose both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant to serious injuries. After starting 2-0 with two wins over divisional opponents, the Cowboys have lost six straight games shuffling between Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel at quarterback. They’ve even tried letting Darren McFadden throw a pass to no avail. The Cowboys sit in the cellar of the NFC East at 2-6 but they are just 2.5 games behind the Giants for 1st place in the NFC East. This begs the question, can they still come back and win the division?
The good news, for starters, is that Bryant is already back. And while he’s still not 100%, he had 5 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles last week which suggests he’s ready to be productive again. Romo is scheduled to return after Sunday’s game at Tampa, and clearly the organization and their fans are centering all hopes of a run around his return.
So just how likely is coming back? Unfortunately the seasons series against the Giants and the Eagles is already split, so tiebreakers there won’t apply. The Cowboys do still have two games against the Redskins, though, and presumably they could have Romo back for both. A sweep there would loom large because the Redskins have already beaten the Eagles once and they’ll have another shot at the Giants at home. Sweeping the Redskins would give the Cowboys the necessary tiebreaker over both the Redskins and the Eagles. Should the Redskins take care of the Giants at home, the Cowboys would own the tiebreaker over them as well (again, assuming they sweep the Redskins).
As far as remaining schedules, it shakes out like this for the Cowboys:
at Tampa (3-5), at Miami (4-5), vs. Carolina (8-0), at Washington (3-5), at Green Bay (6-2), vs. Jets (5-4), at Buffalo (5-4), vs. Washington (3-5)
Unfortunately, that brutal remaining schedule is against teams with a combined 37-30 record. The games vs. the Panthers and at Lambeau in particular seem brutal.
By comparison, the Eagles’ scheduled is against teams with a combined 34-32 record and the Giants play against teams with a combined 37-20. It will be very difficult for the Giants to maintain their lead in the division when you consider games vs. the Patriots, vs. the Panthers, and at the Vikings. The Eagles’ remaining schedule appears most manageable of the three, but is by no means a walk in the park.
Based on the schedule, the Cowboys could catch the Giants but the margin of error is incredibly small. Catching the Eagles, on the other hand, may prove a little more difficult. That said, the Cowboys only sit 2 games back from the Eagles with 8 games remaining and a potential tiebreaker if they sweep the Redskins. They’ll be keeping a particularly close eye on the Eagles’ games at New England and vs. Arizona as must lose.
Unbelievably, while the odds are of course against them, all hope is not lost for the Cowboys in winning the NFC East. Unfortunately it will need to start Sunday at Tampa without Romo, though. Tampa is an inconsistent team that is beatable, but losing that game and dropping to 2-7 would likely mean Tony Romo would have to return and run the table to give the Cowboys any shot. Even that is still possible but much less likely when you consider games against the Panthers and Packers. There’s a good chance that 9-7 will win this division, though, so don’t count the Cowboys out just yet.