Other guys have written several posts that are similar to I Did the Math. They report what they read in the newspaper, online, and what they see on BSPN or NFL Network.
I look as a fan first, and an analyst second. I look at every possibility for the Cowboys to achieve the most in playoff positioning, no matter how unlikely.
Last week, I was the only one who also pointed out that the Eagles had not been officially eliminated. I showed one scenario where, if every domino fell right, the Eagles could have won the division.
I also pointed out in a comment and update that the Cowboys had the honor of officially eliminating the Eagles. One of the things that had to happen was the Cowboys had to lose on Sunday. Once Dan Bailey's game-ending field goal split the uprights, then all Eagles' remaiining hopes died. There were no more mathematical possibilities for them. The same would have happened later when the Redskins and Giants won. However, let the record show, the Cowboys were first.
Last week, I introduced this table, which listed the complete schedule of each NFC East team, sorted into categories - division games, common conference games (each East team plays all four NFC South teams), common non-conference games (each team also plays all four AFC North teams), and non-common games (the other two games).
Each season, NFC East teams play the same opponents in all but two games - six intra-division games, one NFC division (four games), one AFC division (four games), and two other games (one team from each of the other two NFC divisions).
Non-common games are the only reward the schedule masters give for playing well or poorly in the previous season. Last season, the Giants won the division and got to play the NFC North and West champions (GB and SF). Philadelphia tied Dallas for second in the division; but, because of their season sweep of the Cowboys, the Eagles were considered "second" and the Cowboys "third". Eagles played Detroit and Arizona from the NFC North and West. Cowboys got the easier third place teams from those divisions - Chicago and Seattle. Washington finished last in the division, so they got the weakest teams - Minnesota and St. Louis.
The current NFL tiebreaker procedures - after head-to-head and division record - put record against common opponents ahead of conference record. Since the Cowboys lost both "uncommon" games, they have to have a better record against common opponents.
|NFC East Season Results|
|Dallas Cowboys||New York Giants||Philadelphia Eagles||Washington Redskins|
|vs New York||L||8||W||4||W||13|
|at New York||W||1||17||L||7|
[UPDATE #2 - I updated the table to include all results from Week #15. This table is now current.]
Let me project some possibilities for the final three NFC East teams still alive for the division championship:
Scenario #1 - Giants control own destiny; win out and be champ at 11-5 neither Cowboys nor Redskins can finish better than 10-6
[Edit - with the Giants' loss to the Falcons, this scenario is no longer in play. Giants no longer control their destiny.]
Scenario #2 - Giants lose once; Cowboys/Redskins control own destiny
- Giants lose any 10-6 tiebreakers to Cowboys/Redskins on division record (Cowboys/Redskins at 10-6 would have at least four division wins; Giants have no more than three)
- 10-6 Cowboys/Redskins winner wins division
Scenario #3 - Giants lose twice; Cowboys and Redskins tie them at 9-7
- Cowboys/Redskins winner wins division
- with a win, the Cowboys would have a 4-2 division record; or, with a win, the Redskins would be either 5-1 or 4-2; the Giants' best would be 3-3
- Cowboys have a better record in common games with Redskins (9-5 beats 8-6); or the Redskins would have a sweep over Cowboys
Scenario #4 - Cowboys clinch division in week #16 and rest starters against Redskins if Cowboys win the next two and Redskins and Giants both lose, then Cowboys clinch and final game is meaningless Cowboys would be 9-6, Giants 8-7, and Redskins 7-8 best Giants could do is tie Cowboys and match division record, but lose on common games tiebreaker
[Edit - with the Redskins' win today, this scenario is no longer in play. Cowboys can no longer clinch the division in week #16. The final game will be meaningful, will probably be for the division championship, and may - for the second year in a row - get flexed by NBC into the closing Sunday night game.]
This is taking way too long to finish as I have been so busy this week at my church getting everything ready for today's Christmas music program.
I intended to also include some wild card scenarios and seeding possibilities (Cowboys can still finish as high as #2 seed, with a first-round bye), but I wanted to have this in front of you before it became outdated by today's games.
Since everything before this last paragraph was written before Sunday, I am going to post this as is, and update later as needed.
[UPDATE #1 - after early games on Sunday]
I was going to post this as a comment, but I am instead adding it to the end of the FanPost:
By their loss to the Falcons, the Giants no longer control their destiny for the division.
Cowboys and Redskins now control their own destiny to win the division. If either wins out (including the final week showdown), their 10-6 will beat the Giants' 10-6, as their 10-6 would include a 4-2 division record (Giants would be 3-3).
The Packers' win today eliminates the possibility of a first-round bye for the Cowboys. The best (Cowboys) and worst (Packers) is a 10-6 tie, and Green Bay would have a better conference record.
The highest possible seed for the Cowboys is now third, and that would take a double collapse by both San Francisco (finish 9-6-1 by losing out) and Seattle (finish 9-7 by losing out).
That is still a mathematical possibility, but the most likely best-case scenario is division champ and #4 seed.
And, again, thanks to the Giants' shutout in Atlanta, the Cowboys no longer need any outside help to accomplish that.
Beat the Steelers, beat the Saints, and beat the Redskins. Cowboys will win the East.
There are some wild card options, but that is a tougher path to follow for a 9-7 Cowboys team that doesn't win the division.
There are some scenarios for all three NFC East teams to make the playoffs (division champ and both wild cards), but there are more where other teams (Seattle, Chicago, and Minnesota) would leap over Dallas.
I would write off fading-Chicago, except that their final two games are at Arizona and Detroit. They could lose both games, but not likely.
Minnesota is playing better, but their final two games look tough on paper - they play at Houston and host Green Bay. However, one or both could be resting for the playoffs and not be competitive. Plus, Minnesota may be in a position to help Peterson break the single-season rushing record.
Minnesota, like Green Bay, has a better conference record than the Cowboys. Chicago and Seattle already beat the Cowboys. So, there would be a line of teams ahead of the Cowboys waiting for a wild-card berth.