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The Globe and Mail

Dallas Cowboys riding herd into the playoffs

Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle David Irving (95) attempts to block a pass against Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. Dallas won 31-26.

Tim Heitman/USA Today Sports

Here's a measure of just how good things are going in Big D. One team can clinch a playoff berth this weekend: the Cowboys.

Dallas visits Minnesota on Thursday night. With a victory and either a loss by Washington or a loss/tie by Tampa Bay gets the Cowboys into the postseason parade.

Minnesota's defence should provide a decent challenge for rookie sensations Ezekiel Elliott, the league's leading rusher, and quarterback Dak Prescott. If the Vikings can get some sort of penetration through the best offensive line in football, they could have a chance.

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But they must steer clear of falling behind against Dallas, something most Cowboys opponents haven't avoided.

The Cowboys are ranked atop the AP Pro32 as they go for an 11th straight win since their opening loss to the Giants, who they take on next week. Minnesota (No. 14 (tie), AP Pro32) has fallen on hard times since being the league's last unbeaten team at 5-0 and now is 6-5 – and a 3-point underdog at home.

Dallas takes the first step toward that playoff clinching.

COWBOYS, 24-16

Knockout league tip: Haven't liked anything we've seen lately from Houston, so put on those Cheeseheads and take GREEN BAY.

No. 9 (tie) Detroit (plus 4 1/2) at No. 22 New OrleansAn unusual selection for Pro Picks' Best Bet, but Lions should cover, Saints should win. So …

Best bet: SAINTS, 31-29

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No. 9 (tie) Washington (plus 3) at No. 25 Arizona

Washington gets the proper amount of rest – and then some – this time.

Upset special: WASHINGTON, 26-21

No. 14 (tie) Tampa Bay (plus 3 1/2) at No. 21 San Diego

Far more interesting matchup than it appeared three weeks ago.


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No. 23 Indianapolis (minus-1) at No. 28 New York JetsFar less interesting matchup than ESPN hoped.

JETS, 24-22

No. 24 Carolina (plus 6 1/2) at No. 5 SeattleA bit less interesting matchup than NBC hoped when schedule came out.


No. 16 Buffalo (plus 3) at No. 3 OaklandRaiders showed lots of grit last week, might need it again.

RAIDERS, 23-17

No. 6 Denver (minus 4) at No. 30 JacksonvilleTough spot for Broncos after that war with Chiefs? Probably not.

BRONCOS, 20-10

No. 4 Kansas City (plus 4) at No. 8 AtlantaTough spot for Chiefs after that war with Broncos? For sure.

FALCONS, 26-16

No. 18 Houston (plus 3 1/2) at No. 19 Green BayTexans seem as if they are chasing Titans despite leading AFC South.

PACKERS, 24-16

No. 27 Los Angeles (plus 13) at No. 2 New EnglandPatriots haven't been a real force in past month. That changes here.


No. 20 Philadelphia (pick-em) at No. 26 CincinnatiBoth teams can look to 2017 now.

EAGLES, 19-17

No. 11 Miami (plus 3 1/2) at No. 13 BaltimoreBy far the most perplexing game this week.

RAVENS, 16-14

No. 7 New York Giants (plus 6) at No. 12 Pittsburgh

2004 first-round QBs and Super Bowl winners Eli vs. Ben. Giants' winning string ends here.


No. 31 San Francisco (plus 4) at No. 29 ChicagoWon't get many worse matchups than this one.

49ERS, 14-13

Last week: Against spread (10-6). Straight up: (11-5)

Season totals: Against spread (84-84-6). Straight up: (103-71-2)

Best bet: 6-6 against spread, 8-4 straight up.

Upset special: 5-6-1 against spread, 5-7 straight up

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