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NFC East deep dive into the race between the Cowboys and Eagles

Who do you think winds up winning the NFC East?

Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

If you’re reading this, you’re already well aware that the Cowboys laid the smackdown on the Eagles last Sunday night. You probably also know that the win moved Dallas into first place in the NFC East. While we’re all still feeling great about recent events, unfortunately, the upcoming schedule for both teams could easily allow Philadelphia to get back into the lead before the playoffs.

Despite the Cowboys’ excellent work to get to 10-3. tying them with the Eagles, 49ers, and Ravens for the best record in football, they still don’t control their fate in terms of winning the division. If both Dallas and Philly win out over the last four weeks, the green guys would slide back up to claim the NFC East.

How does this happen? Let’s go to the standings.

A beautiful sight; Dallas on top of their rivals. You love to see order restored but it may not last very long. That’s no knock on the Cowboys but just the harsh reality of what lies ahead.

With Dallas and Philadelphia tied for overall record and having split their games against each other, nullifying any head-to-head results, Dallas’ lead is currently established by the division record tiebreaker. The Cowboys are 4-1 the Eagles for 3-1, having played one less game within the NFC East so far. That will balance out in the coming weeks.

Let’s look at the Cowboys’ and Eagles’ schedules the rest of the way:

  • WK 15 - DAL @ BUF, PHI @ SEA
  • WK 16 - DAL @ MIA, PHI vs NYG
  • WK 17 - DAL vs DET, PHI vs ARI
  • WK 18 - DAL @ WAS, PHI @ NYG

Again, assuming both teams win out, they’d both be 14-3 and 5-1 within the division. The next tiebreaker would be based on common games; non-divisional games between the same opponents. This year that would be Dallas and Philadelphia’s records in games against the 49ers, Bills, Cardinals, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Rams, and Seahawks. We’d be tied again; both would be 6-2 thanks to their mutual losses to San Francisco, Dallas’ loss to Arizona, and Philly’s loss to the Jets.

That would move the tiebreaker down to their record within the NFC as a whole, and that’s where Dallas is in trouble. They’d finish a perfectly respectable 9-3 with wins over Detroit and Washington, but Philadelphia would be 10-2 if they don’t lose another game. That would hand the Eagles the NFC East.

There are several games left for both teams which could influence all of these tiebreakers. Dallas’ next two against Buffalo and Miami may not impact their NFC record but will be important for the common games. The Eagles’ remaining schedule features two division games and two others with NFC and common games implications, all potential landmines if they get upset.

As red-hot as Dallas is right now, there’s no denying that their next three with the Bills, Dolphins, and Lions pose a much stiffer challenge than what Philly’s looking at. So if one of the Cowboys or Eagles is going to lose a game the rest of the way, odds are it will be the team from Texas.

But that would not be the death blow to Dallas’ NFC East aspirations that some might think. Philly is struggling right now and they’re about to face a Seahawks team, in a very tough road environment, that’s fighting to stay in the playoff race. The Cardinals have been unpredictably feisty this year and the Giants have suddenly won three straight; anything is possible.

Clearly, different combinations of outcomes over the next four weeks could lead to either the Cowboys or Eagles becoming NFC East Champions. Neither will probably be the number-one seed at this point; the 49ers are poised to claim that with their head-to-head wins over both teams. But a home game in the first round is still a nice prize. And as either the second or third seed, hosting any of the Vikings, Packers, Rams, Seahawks or other possible wild card teams isn’t looking too scary.

Enjoy the win over Philadelphia and all that came with it. It was still a statement win and huge boon for Dak Prescott’s MVP résumé. It was a great confidence boost for Dallas as they enter these tough final games and the playoffs.

But in terms of taking the lead of the NFC East, it might be more accurate to say enjoy it while it lasts. Anything can happen, but in terms of probabilities, the Cowboys are going to need some help if they want their 25th division title.

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