Washington at Cowboys: 'Playoff Path' On The Line?

Washington at Dallas Cowboys On Thanksgiving, And Yes A 'Playoff Path' Is On The Line
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FRISCO, Texas - To borrow one of Jerry Jones' favorite words, it's become "trite'' to make fun of the level of ineptitude in the 2020 NFC East, where every team has played 10 games, and every team has won only three of them.

“We gotta continue to stay short-sighted, just living one week at a time," said QB Alex Smith after the Washington Football Team beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-9 Sunday at FedEx Field. "The division stuff will take care of itself.''

"We are right there where we need to be,'' Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said after his team won 31-28 in Minnesota to add to the three-win logjam. "We are right there to go win the division.''

Indeed, the Cowboys may be the best-positioned team to do just that. Unless, that is Washington - because the WFT already has registered a win over rival Dallas - is that "best-positioned'' club.

The worst cumulative record in NFL history for a division is the 2008 NFC West, which went 22-42, a .344 winning percentage. This year’s NFC East a serious threat to that dubious mark; the four NFC East teams are currently a combined 12-27-1, a .313 winning percentage.

But somebody is going to win it, and host a playoff game. Somebody might even get hot enough to end the laughter.

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That can be owner Jerry Jones' Cowboys - if only due to the remaining schedule. 

That can be coach Ron Rivera's WFT - if only due to the remaining schedule.

Could it be the 3-7 New York Giants? Sure. They enter their bye week on a two-game win streak. But in their remaining six games, four foes have winning records. Before the Giants play host to Dallas in Week 7, they have a four-game gauntlet: At Seattle, home for games against the Cardinals and the Browns, and then at Baltimore.

That’s challenging even for a truly "good'' team.''

Could it be the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles? The Eagles have lost two in a row, are still led by wobbly QB Carson Wentz, and have the most difficult on-paper path: Their next four games: Seattle at home, at Green Bay, home against the Saints and at Arizona.

Again, it would take a truly "good'' team to survive that.

And now to Thursday's Thanksgiving combatants, two 3-7 teams with Washington at Dallas. 3-7. This is a pivotal game for WFT; they've got four road games coming in the final six weeks, and they've got meetings with the Steelers and the Seahawks.

Now the Cowboys.

The Baltimore Ravens are talented but struggling, having lost three of their last four. Cincinnati is a two-win team and star rookie QB Joe Burrow is now out for the season. San Francisco is a 4-6 threat but has sustained injuries in the same way Dallas has.

And then there are the Philadelphia and New York games.

In a sense, all Dallas really has to do is be better than Washington, Philadelphia and New York - again, for a "good'' team? That should be doable.

But in the same sense, Washington has already established, for one game, anyway, that it is better than the Cowbo

Elliott insists Dallas never lost faith - but knows how critical Thursday is.

“We never thought we were out of it,” he said. “Our division is struggling this year. ... We can’t come out on the short week and take a step back, especially against a division opponent. We got to make sure we build on the success and keep getting better.”

Alex Smith is on that same "trite'' page.

"Obviously,'' he said, "we understand what it is, but for us just living week-to-week. We got a short week coming up, a big division game, (and) a quick turnaround.”