The Dallas Cowboys have felt like an underachiever all season long, but after Week 15 they sit atop the NFC East standings and have a leg up on the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles with just two weeks to go in the regular season. The Washington Redskins were formally eliminated from the NFC playoff race in Week 14, but the Eagles have somehow managed to stay alive to this point.
The Cowboys control their own destiny at the moment, but have a head-to-head matchup at home against the Eagles in Week 16, and then travel to play the Giants in final week of the season. If the Cowboys win out, they are in. Since the NFC wildcard teams are currently both 9-5, which is better than any team in the division, we will focus on the division winner for any playoff hopes.
If the Cowboys falter along the way and there is a tie atop the NFC East standings, here is the tie-breaking procedure (via NFL.com) listed in order of steps taken to break the tie:
- Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
- Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.
Under the tie-breaker rules it could get very messy in the NFC East. For example, if the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17 and create a tie atop the standings, the Giants would win the division based on a 2-0 head-to-head record against the Cowboys. The Cowboys could still make the playoffs as the Wildcard, but only if the Falcons lose out. If the Cowboys lost out and the Eagles won out, creating three-way tie atop the division at 8-8, the Eagles would advance to playoffs based on a head-to-head tie-breaker over the Cowboys and a divisional tie-breaker over the Giants.
Anything could happen in the NFC East race in the final two weeks, and it will all be decided by head-to-head matchups. NFL fans couldn't really ask for more excitement. Here are the NFC East standings:
|New York Giants||7||7||0||0.500||2-3||4-7|
For more on the 2011 NFL playoffs, visit the SB Nation NFL Playoff Race Stream.