NFL Playoff Picture: Here's how the Cowboys can clinch in Week 13

Although some folks might dispute whether Dallas is even the best team in its division, the Cowboys' record speaks for itself. Dallas (10-1) has the best mark in football heading into Thursday night's road matchup against the Vikings.

That means they are very good -- even if our Week 13 NFL MVP ballot doesn't have a Cowboys player on top -- and it also means they are very close to clinching a playoff berth.

In fact, Dallas could lock up a playoff spot Sunday if things break right.

The official NFL clinching scenarios for Week 13 emerged Wednesday and here's how Dallas can lock up a spot in the postseason.

First, Dallas has to win. A loss Thursday -- surprisingly, something some of our experts predict will happen -- means the Cowboys won't clinch this week. If they win, there are two ways Dallas would secure a spot.

1. Dallas win + Tampa Bay Buccaneers loss OR tie

OR

2. Dallas win + Washington Redskins loss

The Buccaneers visit the Chargers, while the Redskins are at Arizona. Either of the above scenarios is on the table if Dallas manages to win.

At 11-1, they would be at least 4.5 games clear of whatever team was 6-6 or 6-5-1 in the No. 7 spot. After Week 17 there would be only four weeks remaining, meaning the first team outside the NFC playoff picture would be unable to catch the Cowboys.

For Dallas, the road to clinching the NFC East is much longer: The Giants (8-3) are only 1.5 games back (they own the tiebreaker over Dallas with one game left between them).

It's worth noting that the teams meet again in Week 14. If Dallas wins this week and moves to 11-1 and New York loses at Pittsburgh to fall to 8-4, the Cowboys would be three games up with four weeks remaining and could therefore clinch the division with a victory over their rivals in two weeks.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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