Cowboys could clinch division Dec. 11

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
9:48
AM ET
We were talking about division-race scenarios on Twitter on Monday and someone told me they thought the Dallas Cowboys could potentially clinch the NFC East with a victory on Dec. 11 against the New York Giants. This seemed wrong, since there would still be three games left and one of those games would be against the Giants, but I think this fellow @hdmoose16 was correct. There are a couple of what-ifs, and technically the Eagles are still involved, but it could happen, and here's how:

If the Cowboys win in Arizona on Sunday, the Giants lose to the Packers on Sunday, the Cowboys beat the Giants in Dallas on Dec. 11 and the Eagles lose at least one of their next two games, the Cowboys will have clinched the division. The Cowboys would be 9-4 and the Giants would be 6-7 with three games left to play, but the Cowboys would own the key tiebreaker against the Giants, which would be conference record.

Now, conference record is the fourth tiebreaker for settling ties between two teams in a division, but it would be the one that determined this. To understand, we must assume that, after Week 14, the Cowboys lose their final three games and the Giants win their final three so that both teams finish 9-7. If that happened, the first tiebreaker, which is head-to-head record, would be 1-1. The Cowboys and Giants would also be tied on the second tiebreaker, division games, because each team would be 3-3.

The next tiebreaker would be record in games featuring common opponents, and with the Cowboys and Giants there are 12 such games. They'll both have played the Jets, 49ers, Patriots, Rams, Seahawks, Bills, Dolphins and Cardinals and the Redskins and Eagles twice. Again, assuming Dallas loses its final three games after the Week 14 clinch and the Giants win their final three, they would both finish with 8-4 records against their common opponents. Then it would go to that conference record tiebreaker, where the Cowboys would be 7-5 and the Giants 5-7. The 49ers and Seahawks games would have determined the division.

Now, even if all of this happens, the Cowboys would still need the Eagles to lose a game, since under this scenario the Eagles could still finish 9-7, catch them and have a 2-0 record against them. But I think at this point we can all assume the Eagles are going to lose at least one more game, since they're not very good.

Oh, and the Redskins can also get to 9-7, but they're 0-2 against the Cowboys, so that doesn't work out for them so much.

Anyway, that's what my mind was up to as I finished up at the Superdome in the wee hours. Never let it be said I don't spent enough time thinking about this division!

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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