The Dallas Cowboys are in crisis mode. They've lost three straight games and seven of their last ten, owner Jerry Jones is publicly questioning the talent on the roster, and fans are calling for the sacking of head coach Jason Garrett.
And yet the Cowboys are in the driver's seat for a playoff berth. In fact, there's a good chance of them still getting to host a playoff game. They're lucky enough to reside in the NFC East, home to four of the most inept, disappointing, and poorly-run teams in the NFL this season.
How bad are things in the division right now?
The most obvious marker for the NFC East's inepitude is the teams' combined record against anyone outside the division. So far in 2019, the four teams have combined for 10 wins and 26 losses against non-division opponents, a winning percentage of .278. The next-worst, the AFC West, has an out-of-division winning percentage of .438.
In fact, with the Cowboys' loss, the Washington Redskins - who are so desperate to fill seats in their 82,000-seat stadium that they've been selling tickets for as low as $4 - are still mathematically in contention to win the division outright. Even though they're also mathematically in contention for the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.
The only NFC East team outright eliminated from playoff contention are the last-place Giants, who won two early games behind the arm of rookie quarterback Daniel Jones and haven't won since.
The Cowboys' closest competition are the equally-disappointing Philadelphia Eagles, a team once pegged for Super Bowl contention who have instead found themselves mired in mediocrity. At multiple points throughout this season, the Eagles have blown opportunities to take control of the division race for themselves, none more painful than in last week's loss to the lowly Miami Dolphins where the Birds were thoroughly beaten from start to finish.
When your season is on the line and you can't beat a team that seems actively assembled to lose, you don't deserve to make the playoffs.
At this point, a team with a losing record can still win the NFC East. This has only happened once in NFL history, in 2010, when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a record of 7-9.
After they play the Rams next week, the Cowboys finish their season against two straight in-division opponents - the Eagles and Redskins - which, given the trends this season, might be easier for Dallas to handle. So far, the Cowboys are 4-0 against NFC East rivals.
Believe it or not, the NFC East is so broken and dysfunctional that the Cowboys still have a shot at making the playoffs even if they lose out and end up at 6-10. All that needs to happen is that the Eagles also end up losing two of their games as well, the one win coming against the Cowboys in their week 16 meeting in Philadelphia (which I hereby dub the Loser Bowl). Dallas would still win the division title by tiebreaker.
Which means, thanks to the NFL's playoff structure, that they would host a playoff game over a wild card team with three to five more wins.
Such a scenario has taken place multiple times in NFL history (think Saints-Seahawks in January 2011), but never to that ludicrous extent. If this comes true - and there's still a remote chance it might - this might force the league to re-examine the way playoff seeding works when it comes time to sign the new collective bargaining agreement.