The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have both stumbled their way to 6-7 records thus far in 2019. To the chagrin of many outsiders, this is still good enough for a first-place tie in the woeful NFC East. Today, we're going to break down the various scenarios that could decide the eventual division champion and who will go to the playoffs.
Heading into Week 15, Dallas has a perfect 4-0 record in their division games. That includes a crucial head-to-head victory over Philadelphia from Week 7.
The Eagles are 2-1 against the rest of the NFC East, with the one loss of course coming from the Cowboys. Their last three games of 2019 are all within the division, as illustrated below:
- WK 15 – Rams @ Cowboys / Eagles @ Redskins
- WK 16 – Cowboys @ Eagles
- WK 17 – Redskins @ Cowboys / Eagles @ Giants
Dallas has the edge right now, able to “control their own destiny” by simply winning and maintaining their current tiebreakers. But winning has been anything but simple for the Cowboys in 2019.
Thankfully, this week's tough contest with the Rams won't kill Dallas' playoff chances. Even if the Cowboys were to fall this week and the Eagles win in Washington, that would only give Philly control of the NFC East temporarily.
In that scenario, Dallas would still be able to retake the division with a victory in Week 16 in Philadelphia. That would secure the head-to-head tiebreaker, giving Dallas first place again, and putting a lot of importance on the regular-season finales.
At that point, Philly would have to win in New York in Week 17 while the Cowboys lose at home to Redskins.
In fact, the Washington Redskins may have a big say in who winds up winning the NFC East.
With games remaining against both Dallas and Philadelphia this year, the Redskins can impact both the overall and division records that will determine the eventual champion. Washington has had rough season given their 3-10 record, but they've given good teams like the Patriots and Packers some tough fights.
Let's say both Dallas and Philadelphia lose this week. That would allow the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East with a win next week over the Eagles, but Philly wouldn't have the same advantage. Dallas could still retake the division by beating Washington in Week 17 along with a Philadelphia loss to the Giants.
The scenario that seems most unlikely right now, thanks to the Cowboys' poor play thus far in 2019, is that they win today against the Rams and then go beat the Eagles a second time in Philadelphia. That would clinch the NFC East for Dallas in Week 16, allowing them to use the finale against Washington in whatever is best to prepare for the playoffs.
We're not going to get into any wild card talk today because there's little chance of it coming into play. Make no mistake; neither the Cowboys or Eagles are getting into the playoffs this year without winning the division. They are too far behind the current wild card teams to realistically make it, even if they're not yet mathematically eliminated.
More than likely, Dallas will lose today against a superior Rams team. But even then they can still control their own destiny by beating the Eagles next week and then handling the Redskins at home in Week 17.
The key takeaway here is that today's likely outcome against the Rams, while it will add to our misery, really isn't a huge blow to the Cowboys' playoff chances. It's the way the schedule played out; probably the wrong team coming to Dallas at the wrong time for where we are in the season.
Ultimately, the NFC East should swing on what happens next week in Philadelphia and then in the Week 17 finales. A win today would be lovely for many reasons, but the Cowboys can still suffer a loss and survive.