In a season where it seemed like nobody wants to win the NFC East, three teams are still capable of doing it as we head into Week 17. Let's break down the scenarios for how the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, or Washington Football Team can take the division and a spot in the 2020 playoffs.
The Eagles (4-10-1) were officially eliminated from the division race last Sunday by losing to the Cowboys.
Only two games matter now for those still standing; Giants @ Cowboys on Sunday afternoon and then Football Team @ Eagles on Sunday Night Football. Winning the division is the only road to the playoffs for any of them.
Both Chicago and Arizona, currently the 7th and 8th seeds in the NFC, are 8-7 going into the final week. Dallas and Washington have the best records in the NFC East at 6-9, so with one game left there's no way they can catch up there.
The Giants are 5-10 but can still make it, if everything goes right, thanks to tiebreaker advantages.
Let's look at what each of Dallas, New York, and Washington needs to have happen to win the NFC East and make the playoffs. We'll start with the good guys.
- Cowboys d. Giants
- Eagles d. Football Team
Beating the Giants will be the first step for the Cowboys. If they are victorious on Sunday then they have to wait until primetime for Washington to hopefully lose to Philadelphia.
Dallas and Washington are currently tied in overall record but the Football Team has the head-to-head tiebreaker from its two wins over the Cowboys in 2020. So if both them win this Sunday, Washington takes the NFC East and the Cowboys will be left trying to focus on the positives from a four-game win streak.
If Dallas loses to New York then nothing that happens between Philly and Washington will matter; they will simply be eliminated at that point. But that would leave the Giants waiting for Sunday Night Football to know their future.
New York Giants
- Giants d. Cowboys
- Eagles d. Football Team
Like Dallas, the Giants need to win their own game and see the Eagles upset the Football Team to claim the division. Even though they're only 5-10 going into Week 17, New York is still alive thanks to potential tiebreakers.
The Giants wept Washington in their two 2020 games, so if they both finish 6-10 then New York would take the division thanks to the head-to-head advantage.
Dallas would also be 6-10 in that scenario and would have split their season series with the Giants. But New York would be 4-2 in division games this year and Dallas would only be 2-4, so that would give the Giants the edge over them as well.
- Football Team d. Eagles
The team with no name has the ideal “control you own destiny” scenario; just win and you're in. Whatever happens earlier in the day between Dallas and New York is meaningless to them.
The Football Team will likely get Alex Smith back at QB this week and that will be a huge boost for them towards winning. They were on a four-game win streak with Smith starting before he went out.
What's worse, the Eagles now have little to play for after Dallas eliminated them from playoff contention. While personal pride could still be on the line, especially with Doug Pederson thinking about his job and still working to rally the team behind Jalen Hurts, we may see players like Fletcher Cox and other key veterans sit out to rest or avoid injuries.
Whether or not Alex Smith plays will be a critical component here. Washington is a different team with him out there and now don't even have Dwayne Haskins to turn to if Smith can't go. They also have advantage, if that still means anything in 2020.
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It's about as simple as it gets, really. The Cowboys and Giants just have to handle their own business and then hope for the best on Sunday night. That means a lot of Dallas and/or New York fans will find themselves doing the unthinkable this week; rooting hard for the Philadelphia Eagles.
However it shakes out, someone with a losing record is going to represent the NFC East in the 2020 playoffs. Hopefully it's the 7-9 Dallas Cowboys.