Breaking down the NFC East tiebreakers

December, 21, 2009
12/21/09
11:21
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys would be the odd team out in the NFC East ends in a three-way tie, but that's a slim possibility after they pulled off the upset of the New Orleans Saints.

ESPN Stats and Information breaks down all the NFC East tiebreakers:
*The Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants are all contending for playoff spots in the NFC, with many possible scenarios still in play. The Eagles have clinched a playoff spot but not the division title; the other 2 teams have not clinched a postseason berth.

*If the Cowboys and Eagles finish the season tied at 10-6 or 11-5 with the Giants further back, it would mean the Cowboys beat the Eagles in Week 17, giving them the head-to-head sweep of Philly. Therefore, the Cowboys would win the tiebreaker and the NFC East, and the Eagles would earn a Wild Card spot.

*If the Giants and Eagles finish the season tied at 10-6 with the Cowboys further back, the Eagles will win the division tiebreaker based on their head-to-head sweep of the Giants. The Giants will earn a Wild Card spot, and the Cowboys would be eliminated unless they had a tie game against the Redskins (putting Dallas at 9-6-1) and the Packers lost their final 2 games (putting Green Bay at 9-7).

*If the Giants and Eagles finish the season tied at 10-6 with the Cowboys ahead (i.e. Dallas wins the NFC East), then the Eagles will win any 2- or 3-team Wild Card tiebreaker over the Giants based on the head-to-head sweep. In this situation, the Giants could still earn the No. 6 seed dependent on Green Bay's final record.

*If the Cowboys and Giants finish the season tied at 9-7 or 10-6 with the Eagles ahead of both, the Giants will win any 2- or 3-team Wild Card tiebreaker over the Cowboys based on New York's head-to-head sweep of Dallas. If the tie is at 9-7, the Cowboys will be eliminated from the playoffs because the Packers would be at least 9-7, and Green Bay holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas as well. If the tie between the Giants and Cowboys is at 10-6, the Cowboys could still earn the No. 6 seed if Green Bay finishes with a record worse than 10-6.

*There is an outside chance that all 3 contending NFC East teams could finish tied at 10-6 at the end of the season. This would require the Giants to win their remaining 3 games, the Eagles to lose their last 2 games (including the season finale at the Cowboys), and the Cowboys to lose to the Redskins in Week 16 (but then beat Philly in Week 17). In this scenario, the Eagles would have swept the Giants, the Giants would have swept the Cowboys, and the Cowboys would have swept the Eagles, so the head-to-head (first tiebreaker) would be tied at 2-2 for all 3 teams.

The next tiebreaker is division record. In this scenario, the Cowboys would be 3-3 in the NFC East, while the other 2 teams would be 4-2, thereby eliminating Dallas from NFC East title contention. Then, the Giants and Eagles revert back to a 2-team tiebreaker, which the Eagles would win based on their head-to-head sweep of New York, making Philly the NFC East champion.

The Giants would then go into a Wild Card tiebreaker with the Cowboys (and possibly the Packers in a 3-team tiebreak), but either way would come out ahead of Dallas (again based on New York's head-to-head sweep of the Cowboys). Therefore, the Eagles would win the division and the Giants would earn a Wild Card spot in the case of a 3-team tie at 10-6. The Cowboys would not necessarily be eliminated, but they would need to be ahead of the Packers in W-L to make the playoffs because Green Bay holds the tiebreaker over Dallas.

*Putting this all together, the Giants can no longer win the NFC East, but they could still earn a Wild Card spot. They do need help from either Green Bay or Dallas (at least 1 loss or 2 ties by either team) in order to have a chance to make the postseason.

*Ignoring the possibility of tie games, the Cowboys-Eagles game in Week 17 will decide the NFC East title IF:

1) The Cowboys beat the Redskins in Week 16 (because then the Eagles can't clinch until the following week no matter what they do in Week 16)

OR

2) The Eagles lose to the Broncos in Week 16 AND the Giants don't win all 3 of their remaining games (if the Giants win all 3, then the Eagles will clinch the title regardless of the Week 17 result because they own the 3-way tiebreaker)

*This means the Cowboys-Eagles game in Week 17 WON'T decide the NFC East title IF:

1) The Cowboys lose AND the Eagles win in Week 16 (in which case the Eagles will have already clinched the division by better W-L)

OR

2) The Cowboys and Eagles both lose in Week 16 AND the Giants win their remaining 3 games (in which case the Eagles will have already clinched the division by holding the 3-way tiebreak going into Week 17).

NFC East Tiebreaker Summary:

*At the end of the season:

-2-team tie between Cowboys and Eagles (for division) goes to Cowboys

-2-team tie between Eagles and Giants (for division or Wild Card) goes to Eagles

-2-team tie between Giants and Cowboys (for Wild Card) goes to Giants

-3-team tie (at 10-6) gives NFC East title to Eagles, Wild Card spot to Giants<< >>Cowboys not necessarily eliminated (depends on Packers)

*Giants Playoff Scenarios:

-Cannot win NFC East title, but can earn Wild Card spot

-Need at least 2 wins in final 3 games to remain in contention

-Need at least 1 loss or 2 ties by Cowboys OR 1 loss or 2 ties by

Packers to get into postseason

*Cowboys-Eagles Week 17 Game Decides NFC East Title IF:

- Cowboys defeat Redskins in Week 16

OR

- Eagles lose to Broncos in Week 16 AND Giants don't win all 3 remaining games

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