A cursory glance at the 2017 NFL playoff picture could lead you to believe that the Seahawks and Cowboys could be eliminated from the postseason before their game kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. Seattle (8-6) is currently the No. 8 seed and Dallas (8-6) is No. 9.
And should the Falcons (9-5, currently the No. 6 seed) beat the Saints (10-4, No. 4 seed), and the Panthers (10-4, No. 5 seed) beat the Buccaneers (4-10, eliminated from the playoffs), you might assume that the Seahawks and Cowboys' postseason hopes and dreams could be officially crushed with two regular-season games to play.
Turns out, you shouldn't make that assumption.
No matter what happens in Week 16, the winner of the Cowboys-Seahawks game will head into its final regular-season games mathematically alive in the playoff chase.
Seattle's tenuous path to the postseason
To win the division, the Seahawks have to: Win out and have the Rams lose out. Seattle would own the tiebreaker despite identical records.
To earn a wild-card berth (scenario 1), the Seahawks have to: Win out and either the Saints, Panthers or Falcons lose out. And the Lions (8-6, No. 7 seed) would have to lose at least once.
If the Seahawks, Falcons and Lions all finish at 10-6 battling for the same wild-card spot, Seattle would lose out based on tiebreakers.
To earn a wild-card berth (scenario 2), the Seahawks have to: Win out and both the Saints and Panthers lose out. The Falcons would win the NFC South and Seattle, with a tiebreaker over New Orleans and Carolina, would earn a wild-card berth.
Dallas' hard-to-see-happening path to January football
The Cowboys have to win out and there is no scenario where they can win the division because the Eagles have already wrapped that up.
Wild-card possibility No. 1: Cowboys win out, the Falcons lose out and the Lions lose at least once.
Wild-card possibility No. 2: Cowboys win out, the Saints lose out and the Lions lose at least once.
Wild-card possibility No. 3: Cowboys win out, the Panthers and Saints both lose out.
According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys have a 10.9 percent chance to make the playoffs (10.8 percent as the No. 6 seed, 0.1 percent as the No. 5 seed). And the Seahawks have just a 10 percent chance (9.6 percent as the No. 6 seed, 0.1 percent as the No. 5 seed, and 0.3 percent as the NFC West champion).
So, yes, we're telling you there's a chance.