Dallas Cowboys: playoff machine

Giants, Redskins could clinch spots this week

December, 18, 2012
12/18/12
2:00
PM ET


In today's post about NFC East playoff scenarios, I did not mention the possibility that any of our division's teams might actually be able to clinch anything in Week 16. But we all mull this stuff over and look at all kinds of scenarios all day, just like you guys do. We even use the Playoff Machine. And as we do that, new information and possibilities come to light.

So I'm here to fill you in, with the help of ESPN Stats & Information, on the chances that the Washington Redskins or the New York Giants could clinch playoff spots this week.

The Giants clinch a playoff spot this week if they win and the Cowboys, Redskins, Vikings and Bears all lose. This is because, even though a Week 17 loss by the Giants would cost them the tiebreaker against the Cowboys-Redskins winner for the division title, they'd win tiebreakers over any combination of the Seahawks, Vikings and Bears in the wild-card race.

The Redskins clinch a playoff spot this week if they win and the Giants, Vikings and Bears all lose. That's because, even if they lost to the Cowboys in Week 17 and failed to win the division, they'd win wild-card tiebreakers over any combination of the Seahawks, Giants, Vikings and Bears.

One other note: According to NFL.com, via The Newark Star-Ledger, the Giants could actually be eliminated from playoff contention this week. Here it is.

The Giants are eliminated from playoff contention if they lose, the Redskins and Cowboys win and the Seahawks win or tie. This is because a Giants loss would mean they can win no more than nine games, whereas the Seahawks would have 10 (or nine and a tie) and the winner of the Week 17 Redskins-Cowboys game would be guaranteed to have at least 10.

So, a little bit on the line for the Giants this week, it would seem!

NFC East playoff scenarios

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
10:30
AM ET

Each week, ESPN Stats & Information breaks down and sends us the updated NFL playoff picture. From this week's update, we learn that no NFC East team can clinch a playoff spot in Week 16. We already knew that any of the three currently tied for first place -- the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys or New York Giants -- can still win the division, and we talked a lot last night on Twitter about wild-card possibilities.

Basically, any of those three teams that wins its final two games will make the playoffs. Because the Redskins and the Cowboys play each other in Week 17, they cannot both go 2-0 from here out. But if one of them does, it will be the NFC East champion, regardless of what the Giants do. If the Giants go 2-0 the rest of the way, they will reach the playoffs, either as the wild-card team or, if the Cowboys and Redskins each go 1-1, as the division champ.

If the Giants lose to the Ravens next week, that makes the Dec. 30 game between the Cowboys and Redskins in Landover, Md., the NFC East title game (and likely that week's prime-time "flex" game).

There are scenarios under which the Redskins and Cowboys could be wild-card teams, and under which the Giants could be a wild-card team even if they go 1-1. There's even a scenario in which all three teams reach the playoffs -- if all three win next week, the Cowboys and Giants win in Week 17, the Seahawks go 0-2 the rest of the way and neither the Bears nor the Vikings go 2-0. There are still many scenarios, and you can play out any number of them with the ESPN Playoff Machine.

But here are the basics, in terms of the division race only, per that early Monday morning ESPN Stats & Information update:
Redskins win the NFC East if:

-Redskins win their last two games OR

-Redskins beat Cowboys in Week 17 and Giants lose in Week 16 or 17.

Cowboys win the NFC East if:

-Cowboys win their last two games OR

-Cowboys beat Redskins in Week 17 and Giants lose in Week 16 or 17.

Giants win the NFC East if:

-Giants win their last two games AND

-The team that wins the Week 17 Redskins-Cowboys game loses in Week 16

So the Giants, who won the division last year on their way to a Super Bowl title and who had three more wins than anyone else in the division on Nov. 1, are the team that needs help to win it this year. The other two control their own destinies.

I hope that helps, and I'm sure we'll discuss this much more in the coming days and weeks.

Fun with the Playoff Machine

December, 10, 2012
12/10/12
11:30
AM ET

If you don't yet know about the Playoff Machine, man are you missing out. This is the interactive device that lets you go through the rest of the season, pick each remaining NFL game and see which teams make the playoffs under certain scenarios. In a division like ours, in which three teams still have a chance to make the playoffs as the division champion or a wild-card team, it's especially fun this time of year.

You know, if the New York Giants win all three of their remaining games, that they will be NFC East champions for the second year in a row. But what if they don't? What has to happen for the Washington Redskins or the Dallas Cowboys to snatch it from them? What are the potential implications of that Week 17 game between the Cowboys and Redskins? What are the chances of any of these teams snagging a wild-card spot if they don't win the division?

This is where the fun starts, and I went through this morning and played with the machine to create some interesting scenarios. Such as ...

GIANTS WIN DIVISION, BUT TWO NFC EAST TEAMS GET IN

The Redskins have the easier path to this possibility, by virtue of tiebreakers. If the Redskins win their next two games and the Bears lose just once (say, next week, to the Packers), then the Redskins could claim a wild-card spot with a Week 17 victory over the Cowboys even if the Giants finish 3-0. The Cowboys need more help. They'd need to win that Week 17 game against Washington, but they'd need the Bears to lose at least two of their remaining three games while they themselves beat the Steelers next week and the Saints the week after that. The Cowboys can make the playoffs at 9-7 -- either as a division champion or a wild card -- but they need multiple losses by more than one team from the Giants/Redskins/Bears/Seahawks group in order to pull that off.

COWBOYS AND REDSKINS MAKE IT BUT GIANTS DON'T

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In this scenario, the Giants lose their next two road games in Atlanta and Baltimore, and even though they beat the Eagles in Week 17 it doesn't matter. The Cowboys lose to the Steelers next week but recover to beat the Saints in Week 16. The Redskins beat the Browns and Eagles the next two weeks but lose to the Cowboys in Week 17. Meanwhile, the Seahawks have gone 1-2 (I gave them the home game in Week 17 against the Rams) and the Bears have gone 1-2 (winning the Week 16 game in Arizona). If all of that happens, the Cowboys are a 9-7 division champion that hosts Seattle in the first round, the Redskins are a 9-7 wild-card team that travels to probably Green Bay for the first round and the Giants are a 9-7 team that lost all the tiebreakers and didn't get in.

THREE NFC EAST TEAMS GET IN

This one requires some suspension of disbelief, not to mention some poor play down the stretch by the Bears and the Seahawks. For this to happen, I believe (again, let me know if I'm wrong), the Seahawks must lose all three of their remaining games. Since two are at home, where Seattle is unstoppable, and the other is in Buffalo, this is farfetched. But let's just say it happens, and the Bears lose two of their remaining three. The Giants would need to win only one of their remaining three games (let's give them the Week 17 game against the Eagles). The Cowboys could even lose next week to the Steelers, beat the Saints in Week 16 and then beat the Redskins in Week 17 for the division title. But if the Redskins beat the Browns and the Eagles the next two weeks, these results would make the Cowboys the division-champion No. 4 seed and the Redskins and Giants the NFC wild-card teams. Dallas would host Washington in a first-round game, and the Giants would travel to Green Bay or San Francisco for the first round.

Again, just a few of the scenarios you can create with this thing. Crazy? Nutty? Impossible? Bah. There are three weeks to go, this is the unpredictable NFL, and all things are possible with ... the Playoff Machine.

What's the Playoff Machine say now?

December, 4, 2012
12/04/12
2:30
PM ET
Oh, you want to know about tiebreaker scenarios and what happens if the New York Giants lose the next two and the Washington Redskins beat Baltimore, or what the Dallas Cowboys need to do to sneak into that wild-card picture?

You see that the Giants have a 2-3 division record and the Redskins a 3-1 mark, and you dream about what it means. You have questions, you NFC East fans. With four weeks left in the season, three of our division's teams remain in the hunt, and rather than focus on work you'd like to know what their chances are.

That's why we have the Playoff Machine.

Go. Procrastinate. Play around with the results of games over the next four weeks. Send the Seahawks and Bears into tailspins and see if you can get two NFC East teams in. Figure out exactly what it would take for the Giants to collapse and finish third, or to clinch it all in two weeks. Whatever floats your NFL-crazed boat. It's that time of year.

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