With a 41-33 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys, who came into Week 15 in sole possession of last place in the NFC East, are now in second place in the division at 5-9 and are amazingly right back in the hunt for a spot in the postseason.
The Washington Football Team came into Week 15 with the division lead and will end the week the same way despite losing to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. They’re also the only team in the NFC East that can finish with a .500 record. The New York Giants, who lost to the Cleveland Browns at home on Sunday night, are now in third place while the Philadelphia Eagles, who were defeated by the Arizona Cardinals, now sit in last place with a 4-9-1 record.
So here’s exactly what needs to happen for the Dallas Cowboys to win the NFC East.
The Dallas Cowboys have to win their final two games
For the Dallas Cowboys to have any chance to win the NFC East, they must win their final two games. As the situation was on Sunday against the 49ers, a loss for the Cowboys over the next two weeks means immediate elimination as 6-10 won’t be enough to win the division for a number of reasons which we’ll hit in just a moment.
As for who the Cowboys have on the schedule the next two weeks, they’ll host the Eagles this Sunday and will then visit the Giants in Week 17 to close out the season. Dallas beat New York in Week 5, 37-34, which was the game in which Dak Prescott snapped his ankle. The Cowboys lost to the Eagles in Week 8, 23-9, but that was also the game in which rookie Ben DiNucci made his first NFL start. Andy Dalton has been playing solid football recently and Philly certainly isn’t the same team either.
The Washington Football Team has to lose their final two games
This is an absolute must. Even if the Dallas Cowboys win their final two games, it won’t matter if the Washington Football Team wins one of their final two games as Washington owns the tiebreaker over Dallas because of their two head-to-head wins over the Cowboys, a 25-3 victory in Week 7 and a 41-16 win on Thanksgiving Day. So even if the Cowboys win out and finish with a 7-9 record and Washington finishes the same way, it won’t matter.
Washington will host the Carolina Panthers in Week 16 and will end their season in Philadelphia with a Week 17 matchup with the Eagles.
The Dallas Cowboys can eliminate the Eagles on Sunday and the Giants have a tough matchup against the Ravens
While the Philadelphia Eagles are still alive in the NFC East, that would end on Sunday with a loss to the Dallas Cowboys. But if Philadelphia can knock off Dallas and the Giants and Washington both lose in Week 16, the Eagles would control their own destiny heading into Week 17 against Washington simply because of that tie against the Cincinnati Bengals back in Week 3. If Philly then beats Washington, they’d finish the season at 6-9-1 and Washington would be 6-10. And, in this scenario, it wouldn’t matter what happened in the Week 17 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants because the winner of that game would be 6-10 and the loser would be 5-11.
As for the Giants, they’re in an interesting spot as they own the tiebreaker over Washington due to the fact they beat them in Week 6 and again in Week 9. So if they can win their final two games and Washington loses once, they’d win the NFC East. But that’s a tall order as New York is on the road this weekend against the Baltimore Ravens, who are fighting for their playoff lives as well.
And there’s still the potential for Dallas, New York, and Washington all finishing at 6-10, at which point the Giants would be crowned NFC East champions as the Cowboys would be eliminated from the tiebreaker. While certainly not the prettiest division in the league this season, the NFC East has at least been entertaining and the final two weeks of the season will be no different.
UPDATE: With their 37-17 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16 combined with Washington’s loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys can now win the NFC East with a win over the New York Giants in Week 17 and a Washington loss to the Eagles.
Schedules and standings courtesy of NFL.com