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Tackle Tyron Smith has missed the last two games with a neck injury but plans to be back on the field Sunday against the Eagles.EXPAND
Tackle Tyron Smith has missed the last two games with a neck injury but plans to be back on the field Sunday against the Eagles.
Jeffrey Beall

The Cowboys Can Basically Lock Themselves Into the Playoffs This Week

Do their job Sunday afternoon in Arlington and the Cowboys can make the rest of their 2018 regular season pretty simple. They won't have to worry, as they did last year, about results in Detroit, Seattle or Carolina, nor will they face the pressure of having to win out merely to have a chance of getting the last spot in the NFC's post-season tournament.

Beat the Eagles and all the Cowboys will need to do to get into the playoffs is win one of their three remaining games against the 6-6 Colts, the 5-7 Buccaneers or the 4-8 Giants, barring some truly unforeseen circumstances.

The simple path to the post-season is a just reward for an almost perfect month of football. Over a four-game stretch beginning Nov. 11, the Cowboys have beaten the last two NFC champions (the Falcons and Eagles), the consensus best team in the conference (the Saints) and the team that led the NFC East throughout the first half of the season (the Redskins).

Thursday night's victory over New Orleans, combined with a couple of good results on Sunday, left the Cowboys with a 75 percent chance to make the playoffs, according to the simulator on The New York Times' The Upshot blog. A win over Philadelphia will jump that number above 90 percent, a place the Cowboys haven't been since the 2016 season.

While a win over the Eagles is no sure thing — the defending Super Bowl champions have won four of the teams' last five meetings in Arlington — the Cowboys will enter the game as favorites and set to get a major boost on the personnel front. 

Coach Jason Garrett, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys hope to have a fully loaded offense for the stretch run.EXPAND
Coach Jason Garrett, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys hope to have a fully loaded offense for the stretch run.
Keith Allison

After missing the Cowboys' last two games with a stinger, left tackle Tyron Smith told reporters Monday that he expects to play against the Eagles.

"I feel great," Smith said. "For me, it was more frustrating than anything. I trust our team doctors. I'm going through the whole program. I guess it wasn't ready yet. We thought it would be ready by [the game against the Saints]. I guess it wasn't."

Smith has yet to give up a sack in 2018. In his absence, the Saints sacked Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott seven times Thursday. The Cowboys offensive line, one of the league's best as recently as last season, has been a liability throughout the team's winning streak. With Smith's return, the Cowboys and their fans will get their best idea yet of what the offense might look like as a finished product.

If Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and Smith can return to anywhere close to the heights of their superb 2016 season, the Cowboys could be one of the hottest teams in the NFL heading into the playoffs, but maybe that discussion's better saved for after the Eagles game.

The Cowboys host Philadelphia at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium. The game will be shown on Fox 4.

NFC East remaining opponents

  • Cowboys (7-5) — PHI, @Ind., TB, @NYG
  • Eagles (6-6) — @Dal., @LAR, HOU, @Was.
  • Redskins (6-6) — NYG, @Jac., @Ten., PHI

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