Here we are again. Another December filled with Christmas wonder and a Dallas Cowboys team toying with our heartstrings.
For at least another week, the Cowboys’ slim, likely futile playoff hopes remain intact. At 6-6, Dallas is technically still in the Wild Cart hunt.
But after Seattle's victory over Philadelphia on Sunday night, their road to the postseason just became much more difficult.
The Seahawks and Panthers are both at 8-4 and currently own the two Wild Card spots.
The Cowboys are chasing them as well as Atlanta, Green Bay and Detroit in the standings. Dallas lost to both the Falcons and Packers earlier this year. Even if they win out, the Cowboys could still miss out on the final Wild Card spot.
Simply put, the chances Dallas sneaks into the playoffs are razor thin.
Which begs the question: if the Cowboys slip up, should they simply lose out to secure a better draft position?
Dallas has four games remaining on its schedule. The next two, against New York and Oakland will both be without Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys get him back for the final two games of the season.
If Dallas loses even one more game, its season will be a wash. With so many players like Tyron Smith, Sean Lee and more recently La'el Collins and Zack Martin hurt, losing out could give them an opportunity to rest and get healthy.
After all, what would they be playing for if the playoffs are out of reach? Protecting your cornerstone players, especially Smith and Lee, who are anchors on offense and defense, is vital.
Haphazardly chasing a Wild Card spot isn't.
On defense, Dallas' biggest problems have come in the secondary, and most of their issues can be attributed to youth. Resting starters like Byron Jones and Orlando Scandrick could give younger players like Kavon Frazier and Chidobe Awuzie more valuable playing time.
Plus, there's the added benefit of a better draft selection that would only bolster a team that is, quite frankly, loaded with talent. If the season were to end today, the Cowboys would receive the 13th or 14th pick in the draft.
Teams who have just one more loss than Dallas does at 5-7 are picking anywhere from 7th to 12th.
Say the Cowboys lose this week against New York and fall to 6-7. Do you really think there’s any chance they make the playoffs? They would essentially be three, maybe four games out with four games to play.
Even if they aren’t mathematically eliminated, wouldn’t it make more sense to play for next year? An early draft pick would do wonders for this franchise, especially another impact player on defense, be it in the secondary, at linebacker or on the defensive line.
Don’t get me wrong. If there’s a realistic chance Dallas can make the playoffs, I’m all for it. And the Cowboys should be, too. Unfortunately, at this point, it just seems like not even Santa could deliver Dallas a playoff berth.
Do you think the Cowboys should be chasing a playoff spot or a draft pick? Share your take with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.