So You're Tied For First Place: NFC East Tie-Breakers

The Cowboys' playoff odds plummeted dramatically from where they were yesterday morning; let alone where they were at 10:30 last night. There is no way of getting around that.

What we can do is look at what they still need to get there. A massive blow does not mean the season's over (though if you go ahead and think it is, you might feel a little better).

Obviously, the only way the Cowboys can win the division without winning week 17 in New York is winning their next two games, while the Giants lose theirs. Otherwise, the Giants win the division through the head-to-head tie-breaker. The Cowboys are @Tampa Bay -- which should be winnable but you know how that goes -- and hosting Philadelphia; the Eagles are awful, but they didn't look it in the last match-up. The Giants host the Redskins, then play the Jets in a technical road game; 0-2 would be a shock.

Conversely, 2-0 for the Giants is no guarantee, and the Cowboys should be expected to at least get one win. More than likely, the division will come down to needing a win in New York in the last game of the season. If they go in tied, the Cowboys can win the thing outright, but will need a win. If they go in a game back, they'll still have a chance.

Simply put, if the Cowboys win that game, they almost certainly take the division. Work shown after the jump.

The two teams are currently tied at 2-2 in the division. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles while the Giants lose to the Redskins, then the Cowboys win the division with a win in week 17 (if they don't clinch earlier). Should the reverse happen, but the Cowboys still go in to week 17 within a game of the Giants, we move on to common opponents.

The Cowboys are currently 7-4 in common opponent games, the Giants 6-4. Simply put, if the Cowboys beat the Eagles, they clinch at least a tie in common opponents. Even if the Giants beat the Redskins next week, a loss to the Jets -- a common opponent -- in week 16 would make the Eagles game a tie-breaker. A win would put the Cowboys in position to take the division with a week 17 victory. Should they both be at 7-5 (with the Giants loss being the Jets) or 8-4 going in to week 17, we move on to in-conference games.

The Cowboys are 5-4 in NFC games to the Giants' 4-6. Thank the maker, an actual lead; in fact, they've already clinched at least a tie. If the Cowboys just win one more game, they clinch this tie-breaker. To go to the next level, we would need two more losses in a row, and the Giants to specifically beat Washington and lose to the Jets. That would take us to strength of victory.

The Cowboys are at +36 (psst, they might be better than their record, though that probably doesn't make you feel any better). The Giants are at -25. New York could, conceivably, make up 61 points in three games, but it's not likely. If they do, they probably already eliminated the Cowboys before week 17, anyway.

So, in short: if the Redskins upset the Giants next week, or if the Cowboys beat the Eagles, Dallas takes the division with a week 17 win. If the Cowboys beat the Bucs next week, the Giants would have to win two in a row to clinch the division before week 17. The Giants have control of the division by virtue of just needing to win at home to take it (probably), but the Cowboys' position in the tie-breaking scenarios loosens a little bit of that grip, and means that game is still likely at least to matter.

(Unless I'm missing something).

Does your head hurt yet? Better your head than your heart.

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