The NFC East playoff scenario post

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
9:47
AM ET
With two weeks to go, things are a little simpler than they were a week ago. But the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants and, incredibly, the Philadelphia Eagles all remain alive in the hunt for the NFC East title. The fact that the Cowboys play the Eagles in Week 16 and the Giants in Week 17 means there are fewer possible outcomes than there would be if the teams were playing outside the division, and I think we actually have the lockout to thank for that. But that's a story from the past, and we're focused on the future. Specifically, the next two weeks.

If you run all of the possible outcomes through the Playoff Machine, you can figure out how each team can win the division. That's what I did, and while it's still possible for the Cowboys to make the playoffs as a 9-7 wild card, it's not likely, so I just focused on division scenarios (and excluded the possibilities of ties, because come on), and I ran all of them.

Some key things to know:

1. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles OR the Giants beat the Jets in Week 16, the Eagles are eliminated.

2. If the Eagles lose either one of their final two games -- Week 16 in Dallas or Week 17 against the Redskins -- they are eliminated.

3. If the Cowboys and Giants both win in Week 16, the winner of the Week 17 Cowboys-Giants game will be division champ.

4. The Cowboys are the only one of the three teams that can clinch the division in Week 16. The Giants and Eagles could both be eliminated by Week 16 results. The Cowboys cannot.

With that in mind, here are all of the remaining possibilities:

If the Cowboys and Jets win in Week 16, the Cowboys clinch the division. The Week 17 Cowboys-Giants game would be irrelevant in this case, since the Cowboys would be two games ahead with one to play.

If the Cowboys and Giants win in Week 16 and the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys win the division with a 10-6 record, two games ahead of the Giants.

If the Cowboys and Giants win in Week 16 and the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17, the Giants win the division because they will own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys, having gone 2-0 against them.

If the Giants and Eagles win in Week 16 and the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17, the Giants would be division champs at 9-7, no tiebreakers necessary.

If the Giants and Eagles win in Week 16 and the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys would be division champs at 9-7, no tiebreakers necessary.

If the Eagles and the Jets win in Week 16 and the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys would be division champs at 9-7, no tiebreakers necessary.

If the Eagles and the Jets win in Week 16 AND the Eagles win in Week 17 AND the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17, the Eagles would be division champs at 8-8, winning the three-way tiebreaker with the Cowboys and Giants due to their 5-1 division record.

If the Eagles and the Jets win in Week 16 AND the Redskins beat the Eagles in Week 17 AND the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17, the Giants would be division champs. They and Dallas would both be 8-8, and the Giants would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Eagles would finish 7-9 in this scenario.

If the Eagles and the Jets win in Week 16 AND the Redskins beat the Eagles in Week 17 AND the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 17, the Cowboys would be division champs at 9-7, two games ahead of both New York and Philadelphia.

That's it. As long as there are no ties, those are all of the possibilities. The odds appear to favor Dallas (as you'd expect, since they have a one-game lead with two games to play), but everything changes week to week around here. And if you're wondering about Dallas as a possible 9-7 wild card, you need to root against Atlanta. The Lions hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys, but Dallas seems to hold the tiebreakers over Atlanta. Too much to figure out there, though, since the Bears and either the Cardinals or Seahawks could still finish 9-7. The most likely scenario is just the one playoff team from the NFC East this year. The way all of these teams have played, that seems about right.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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