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The Cowboys are in the middle of dramatic playoff reshaping

This is why you just keep playing.

Regardless of how dire it may seem.

Regardless of the outside noise that suggests you’re finished.

It’s not just whistling-past-the-graveyard coachspeak.

Teams that keep their respective heads down and just keep playing despite being in a deep hole sometimes reap unexpected benefits.

Remember when the Cowboys had just lost to the Titans two weeks ago, their second consecutive loss, to fall to 3-5?

They’d seemingly fallen out of contention in the NFC East and their head coach, Jason Garrett, was supposedly on the verge of being fired for the 463rd time in his Dallas tenure.

Well, guess what?

When the 5-5 Cowboys, winners of their last two games with running back Ezekiel Elliott leading the league in 100-yard rushing games with five of them, play the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, they’ll be playing for a first-place tie in the NFC East.

The Redskins lost their starting quarterback, Alex Smith, for the rest of the season to a gruesome broken leg suffered in Sunday’s loss to the Texans and suddenly look like a team in trouble.

If the Cowboys win that game, get to 6-5 and tie Washington for first place in the division, then what will the critics be saying about Garrett?

This is why you just keep playing.

Remember when the Texans were 0-3?

Then came an overtime game in Indianapolis, which they won. Then another overtime game the following week against the Cowboys, which they won. Two overtime games that surely could have gone the other way and the Texans could have been 0-5.

Instead, they’re 7-3, winners of their last seven games and in control of the AFC South with a two-game lead. Only the 9-1 Saints, winners of their last nine, are hotter than the Texans.

This is why you just keep playing.

Remember when the Colts were 1-4?

A team that hasn’t been to the postseason since 2014 appeared headed for another playoff-less season, but this one was going to feel worse than the others because its franchise quarterback, Andrew Luck, is healthy for the first time since 2016.

But now, after Sunday’s 38-10 rout of the Titans, the Colts are 5-5 after having won their past four games and they’re tied for the second wild-card playoff spot.

This is why you just keep playing.

Remember when the Redskins were on the verge of running away and hiding with the NFC East division title?

They were 5-2 a few weeks ago. They were 6-3 entering Sunday’s loss to the Texans. Now the Redskins are 6-4 and, with journeyman Colt McCoy at quarterback, they look vulnerable.

Despite their stunning, 48-7 loss Sunday in New Orleans that dropped them to 4-6, the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles are not out of it. Nor, in fact, are the Giants, who are 3-7 after having won their last two.

There are some not-so-unrealistic upcoming scenarios that, if played out, could really muddle the NFC East.

In this week’s games, if the Cowboys beat the Redskins and the Giants beat the Eagles and, in the following week’s games, the Eagles beat the Redskins, the Giants beat the Bears and Cowboys lose to the Saints, Dallas and Washington would be 6-6 and the Giants and Eagles would be 5-7.

Spinning this a week deeper — to Week 14 — if the above scenarios play out and then the Eagles beat the Cowboys and the Giants beat the Redskins, all four NFC East teams would be tied at 6-7.

Translation: The NFC East title would be a dead heat with three weeks to play.

This is why you just keep playing.

Because, despite what you think you might know at the time, you never really know.

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