The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington football team are set to face off in a divisional clash that has significant implications for the NFL playoff image. The Cowboys could win the NFC East before kickoff on Sunday night (more details below) or with a win over Washington at AT&T Stadium. Live coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET with Football Night in America. The match-up will also be available live on Peacock.

The Cowboys clinched their first playoff spot in three years on Thursday, thanks to the Tennessee Titans’ 20-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The Cowboys’ 8-1 conference record ensures they won’t fall below the seventh seed.

Not only have the Cowboys failed to win their division since 2018, they haven’t made it past the playoff division round since 1995 – the same season in which they won their last Lombardi Trophy. Dallas is tied for second in the NFL for Super Bowl wins with five, but owner Jerry Jones wants to end the 26-year drought as soon as possible.

At the start of this season, the Cowboys were the favorites of the NFC East and as the season progressed, Dallas made its way into Super Bowl conversations. With a 10-4 record, the Cowboys are the NFC’s second seed behind the Green Bay Packers’ 11-3. Landing the No.1 seed is crucial as it’s the only place in the playoff standings that guarantees a first-round pass. In order to get the seed, the Cowboys not only need to keep winning, but they also need the other teams that share a 10-4 record – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and Rams. of Los Angeles to drop some of their next three contests.

At the start of the season, Dallas was expected to have the upper hand due to his offense. Strategist Dak prescott, who missed most of last season with an ankle injury, is back in good health and had plenty of elite receivers to throw. CeeDee Lamb, Michael gallup and Amari Cooper. But as the season wore on, it was Dallas’ defense that unexpectedly intensified.

RELATED: NFL Playoff Win Scenarios For Week 16

The unit, led by new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, kept their opponents at 20.9 points per game, which is the seventh best in the league. Last season, the defense allowed 29.6 points per game for the 28th in the league. The unit has its weaknesses as it is still allowing 356.9 yards per game this season, which places it 22nd in the league. But the defining characteristic of this defense has been its ability to force turnovers. The Cowboys are tied with the Indianapolis Colts for the most turnovers in the NFL with 31, including 23 league-leading interceptions. star corner half Trevon diggs alone has 10 interceptions, or more than 13 NFL teams.

After the Cowboys beat the New York Giants last week, Diggs said, “We’re the best defense for sure. The sentiment was echoed by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who said of the defense: “I don’t know if we’ve ever, we’ll say in the last 10 years, had the players we have. “

Meanwhile, the Washington 6-8 football team – which staged a four-game winning streak in Weeks 10-13 – has been hit hard by positive COVID-19 cases and injuries. Ahead of the team’s crucial game against their division rival Philadelphia Eagles in Week 15, Washington had up to 26 players on the reserve / COVID-19 roster, including the starting quarterback. Taylor heinicke and QB backup Kyle Allen. Due to the outbreak, the NFL has moved Washington’s game against the Eagles to Tuesday. In the game, Washington also lacked key offensive weapons. Logan thomas and JD McKissic due to injuries.

Although Heinicke has since been cleared to return from COVID-19 and can play Sunday night, Washington’s loss to the Eagles on Tuesday pushed the football team into the NFC’s No.10 seed and effectively reduced their numbers. playoff chances.

NBC News political correspondent Steve Kornacki is back on Football Night in America to swap election results for NFL playoff picture scenarios. Kornacki will join the show for the remainder of the regular season and will be part of NBC Sports’ coverage of Super Bowl LVI from SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13.

RELATED: When the 2022 NFL Playoffs Begin: Dates, Schedule, TV Channels, Live Streams, Format

Dallas Cowboys Week 16 Division Scenarios

As mentioned above, the Cowboys could clinch the division even before entering the field on Sunday night. Below are the other scenarios in which Dallas can win the NFC East with the help of other teams.

  1. The Giants beat the Eagles WHERE

  2. Two or more of the following teams win:

    • MIN (vs LAR), LAKE (at HOU), BORN (vs BUF),
      JAX (in NYJ), ATL (vs DET), LV (vs DEN)

If two or more of the above teams win, it would give Dallas the tie-breaking strength against Philadelphia if both teams finished at 10-7.

If none of the above happens, the Cowboys are in control of their own destiny as well and can win the NFC East with a victory over Washington on Sunday night.

NFL picks and week 16 power rankings

Mike Florio and the ProFootballTalk team have broken down their power picks and standings for Week 16. They have Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay 11-3 Packers topped the list. Click here to see where the rest of the league stands as the playoff race tightens.

RELATED: With Three Weeks Left, 27 Teams Are Still Alive

Current photo of the 2021 NFL playoffs

AFC 2021 ranking

Kansas City Chiefs (10-4)

Tennessee Titans (10-5)

New England Patriots (9-5)

Cincinnati Bengals (8-6)

Indianapolis Colts (8-6)

Los Angeles Chargers (8-6)

Bison bills (8-6)

On the bubble:

Baltimore Ravens (8-6)

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1)

Las Vegas Raiders (7-7)

Miami Dolphins (7-7)

Cleveland Browns (7-7)

Denver Broncos (7-7)

NFC 2021 Ranking

Green Bay Packers (11-3) – division title clinched

Dallas Cowboys (10-4) – clinched a playoff berth

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-4)

Arizona Cardinals (10-4)

Los Angeles Rams (10-4)

San Francisco 49ers (8-7)

Minnesota Vikings (7-7)

On the bubble:

Philadelphia Eagles (7-7)

New Orleans Saints (7-7)

Washington Soccer Team (6-8)

Atlanta Falcons (6-8)

For all the latest fantasy football news and information, visit NBC Sports Edge.

Be sure to follow ProFootballTalk for the latest news, updates and more!

Image from the 2021 NFL playoffs, rankings: Cowboys take on Washington in Sunday Night Football, seek division title that originally appeared on NBCSports.com