The Dallas Cowboys are hanging on to the NFC East lead right now by one of the narrowest of margins; their current head-to-head tiebreaker over the Philadelphia Eagles. With both teams currently 5-4 and dubious to qualify for a Wild Card spot, winning the division is looking like the only realistic road to the 2019 playoffs.
The Cowboys defeated the Eagles in Week 7 to establish their current advantage. The rivals play again in Week 16 in Philadelphia; a game where the head-to-head tiebreaker can either be solidified by a Dallas win or taken off the table if they split the series.
But tiebreakers only matter if, of course, the two teams are tied. Dallas can sweep the Eagles and the rest of the NFC East but still lose the division if Philly finishes the year with a better overall record.
I thought it would behoove us at this point, given the circumstances, to do a week-by-week comparison of the Cowboys and Eagles’ remaining 2019 regular season schedules. Are there opportunities for Dallas to create some distance, or does Philadelphia have the advantage?
- WK 11 – Cowboys @ Lions / Patriots @ Eagles
- WK 12 – Cowboys @ Patriots / Seahawks @ Eagles
- WK 13 – Bills @ Cowboys / Eagles @ Dolphins
- WK 14 – Cowboys @ Bears / Giants @ Eagles
- WK 15 – Rams @ Cowboys / Eagles @ Redskins
- WK 16 – Cowboys @ Eagles
- WK 17 – Redskins @ Cowboys / Eagles @ Giants
The first thing that jumps out at me here, and not in a good way, is that Philly still has two games left with the Giants and one each with Washington and Miami. Those same teams account for four of Dallas’ five current wins; easy record-padding opportunities now for the Eagles.
The Cowboys have already eaten most of their cupcakes. This week’s game in Detroit, especially with Matthew Stafford out, may be the easiest non-division game left on Dallas’ schedule.
If we ignore the Week 16 game between the Cowboys and Eagles, Dallas’ remaining opponents have a combined record of 27-26-1. As for Philly, it’s a much more favorable 23-34 combined record.
The advantages don’t end there for the Eagles. While Dallas has to travel to New England next week, where the Patriots are close to undefeated in recent history, Philadelphia gets New England at home.
In fact, all of Philly’s toughest remaining games are at home. They host the Seahawks next week and the Cowboys later on. All of their road games are against the likes of Miami, Washington, and New York.
Dallas isn’t entirely screwed in this area. They do get the Bills and Rams at home, which are their more challenging opposition. And by the time Week 14 comes around, the Bears may not have much left to play for.
Obviously, the Cowboys can control their own destiny by winning. They can even afford to slip up one week and let Philly get ahead, provided they come back and win in Week 16 to seal the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Analyzing schedules is always tricky because of the variances that can occur from week to week. This week’s game between Dallas and Detroit is a perfect example; Stafford’s sudden absence dramatically shifted the odds of winning.
Other such instances are possible throughout the rest of the season for both the Cowboys and Eagles, especially given Carson Wentz’s track record with staying healthy. But for now, on paper, Philadelphia clearly has the edge when it comes to remaining strength of schedule and an easier road to winning the NFC East.
Hopefully the Cowboys can overcome the odds.