NFC East playoff scenarios

December, 24, 2012
12/24/12
11:15
AM ET
With one week to go, the playoff scenarios in the NFC East have become somewhat more simplified but remain complex. Here are the basics of what we know, and I'll get into more detail a little bit further down the post.
  • The game Sunday night between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field will determine the NFC East champion. Whoever wins that game will win the division and be the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs.
  • The Redskins could still make the playoffs as a wild-card team if they lose to the Cowboys and get help elsewhere.
  • The Cowboys cannot make the playoffs as a wild-card team. They will either be division champions or miss the playoffs.
  • The New York Giants cannot win the division but can make the playoffs as a wild-card team if they beat the Eagles and get help.
You can work a lot of this out yourself with the help of the Playoff Machine. But in case you're like me and you're working today and don't have hours and hours to blow on the Playoff Machine, I've got your scenarios (tiebreaker and otherwise) in traditional form.

If the Redskins beat the Cowboys, the Redskins will be 10-6, the Cowboys will be 8-8 and the Giants will be no better than 9-7, so no tiebreakers come into play. The Redskins win the NFC East outright.

If the Cowboys beat the Redskins, the Redskins and the Cowboys will both be 9-7, and the Giants will be no better than 9-7. The Giants would be eliminated from a three-team tiebreaker because they would be 3-3 in the division and the other two teams would be 4-2. The Cowboys would then win with the two-way tiebreaker by virtue of their superior record in games played against common opponents -- teams they and the Redskins both played. The Cowboys are 8-4 in those games, with victories the Redskins couldn't get over the Bengals, Steelers and Panthers, while the Redskins are 7-5. Common-opponents record is the No. 3 tiebreaker in two-way ties, after head-to-head record (Cowboys and Redskins would be 1-1 against each other) and division record (they'd both be 4-2 in the division).

If the Redskins lose, they can still be a wild-card team if the Vikings lose to the Packers and the Bears lose in Detroit. Those games will be completed by the time the Redskins and the Cowboys kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET, so the Redskins will know before they take the field whether they still ave the safety net of the wild card or whether they need to win the division to reach the playoffs.

If the Giants beat the Eagles, they would need the Cowboys, Vikings and Bears all to lose in order to reach the playoffs as a wild-card team. So if the Giants win their game at 1 p.m. ET while the Lions beat the Bears and then the Packers beat the Vikings later in the day, the Giants will watch the prime-time game needing the Redskins to win it. If any of those four games breaks the wrong way, the Giants are out. So Giants fans need the Giants, Lions, Packers and Redskins all to win. Gonna be tough.

The NFC East champion will be the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host a first-round game against the No. 5 seed, which will be either the Seahawks or the 49ers. (Most likely the Seahawks.)

If the Redskins or Giants end up with a wild-card berth, they will be the No. 6 seed in the NFC and will play on the road in the first round against the No. 3 seed in either Green Bay, San Francisco or Seattle.

I hope that helps!

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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