By Matthew Postins

Dallas Cowboys logoIf you’re an optimistic Dallas Cowboys fan, you’re still clinging to hope that the Cowboys can make the playoffs.

Well, with three games left, mathematically, the Cowboys are still alive. Here’s where the Cowboys stand and how it could break down.

Where the Cowboys are now: Nothing has changed. The Cowboys, despite their win over Cincinnati, are No. 8 in the NFC pecking order. The Top 6 teams go to the postseason. Washington, which defeated Baltimore in overtime, remained at No. 7.

Winning the NFC East. The New York Giants did themselves a huge favor winning over New Orleans on Sunday. That kept the Giants a game ahead of the Redskins and Cowboys. Winning the division is still the easier road for Dallas to reach the postseason. But that all starts with the Giants losing a game and coming back to the pack. All three were playing non-division games, so their divisional records haven’t changed – the Giants are 2-3, the Cowboys are 3-2 and the Redskins are 3-1. If the season ended today the Giants would win the division by a game.

Week 15: The Cowboys host the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Cowboys did a big favor by beating the Bengals. The Giants go on the road to face NFC South-leading Atlanta, which is coming off a loss to Carolina. The Redskins face the Cleveland Browns, a team the Cowboys struggled with last month before winning in overtime. If the Giants win, then nothing changes. If the Giants lose, then it’s up to the Cowboys and the Redskins to see if there’s a tie.

The Wild Card. Chicago and Seattle remain the two Wild Card teams if the season ended today. Chicago lost and Seattle won, but both remain a game ahead of Dallas. It might as well be two games, as the Bears and Seahawks have tiebreakers over the Cowboys.

Realistically? The Cowboys have now won four of their last five games. But it’s still an uphill battle, thanks to the Giants’ bounce-back win over New Orleans. The Cowboys have to keep winning, get a Giants loss and make sure they beat the Redskins on the final weekend of the season. Those are a lot of ifs when you’re trying to reach the postseason. The odds are still against the Cowboys, though their win over Cincinnati keeps them in the conversation.