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December 06, 2019

Updating the Eagles-Cowboys NFC East tiebreaker scenarios

The Philadelphia Eagles have tried their hardest to roll over and die this season, but the Dallas Cowboys simply won't have it.

In case you missed it Thursday night, the NFC East-leading Cowboys went into Chicago and laid an egg against the Bears, losing 31-24, in a game that wasn't even that close. Of course, they still hold a half-game lead over the Eagles, who have yet another chance to pull even in the division this Sunday with a win over a terrible opponent, this time in the New York Giants.

The updated standings:

NFC East Record Div record GB 
 Cowboys6-7 4-0 
 Eagles5-7 1-1 0.5 
 Washington3-9 0-3 2.5 
 Giants2-10 1-2 3.5 

Aaaaaand the Eagles' and Cowboys' remaining opponents the rest of the season:

 WeekEagles (5-7) Cowboys (6-7) 
 14Giants (2-10) At Bears (LOST) 
 15At Washington (3-9)  Rams (7-5)
 16Cowboys (6-7)  At Eagles (5-7)
 17At Giants (2-11)  Washington (3-9)
 Opponents' combined record13-37 (.260)15-21 (.417)

And a quick reminder of how divisional tie-breakers work in the NFL:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games (games played against the same opponents).

Tiebreaker No. 1: Head-to-head

As we have all suspected for some time now, the winner of the Week 16 matchup between the Eagles and Cowboys in Philadelphia is very likely going to determine the winner of the NFC East. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles in that game, they will have a 2-0 head-to-head advantage, and the only way the Eagles could win the division in that event, is if they have a better overall record (duh). 

That would require the Eagles to win their three other games, getting them to 8-8, with the Cowboys losing their two remaining games, which would get them to 7-9.

If the Eagles were to beat the Cowboys, they would still have to run the table to ensure a divisional crown. Why? Well, that brings us to tiebreaker No. 2.

Tiebreaker No. 2: Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division

All four of the Eagles' remaining games are against NFC East opponents, and a loss to any of them would put the Eagles in a bad spot against the Cowboys, who are currently 4-0 in the division, as you can see in the standings above. 

Even if the Eagles beat the Cowboys, the only way the Eagles can absolutely ensure that they win the division is to win out. Any additional Eagles loss would require the Cowboys to also lose to the dreadful Washington team in any tiebreaker scenario, so that their divisional records would be tied at 4-2.

Tiebreaker No. 3: Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games

A lot of attention has been paid to this tiebreaker, but it's unlikely to come down to this, as it would require the following three things to happen:

  1. The Eagles beat the Cowboys, and lose exactly one of their three remaining games.
  2. In their other two games, the Cowboys lose to Washington and beat the Rams.
  3. The Eagles lose exactly one of their three remaining games against the Giants Week 14, Washington Week 15, or the Giants Week 17.

In that event, the Eagles would win this tiebreaker, as they will have won more games against their common opponents outside of the NFC East: 

Common opponent Did the Eagles beat them? Did the Cowboys beat them 
 LionsNo Yes 
 PackersYes No 
 VikingsNo No 
 BearsYes No 
 JetsYes No 
 BillsYes No 
 Patri*tsNo No 
 DolphinsNo Yes 

As you can see, the Eagles are 4-4 in those "common opponent" games, while the Cowboys are 2-6.

So, how can we simplify all of the above?

Stealing the structure of the handy-dandy chart Twitter user @denizselman33 made, here's really all you need to know:

 If the Eagles finish...Then the Eagles will win the NFC East if... "if." They will clinch. 
 8-8 (with a win over the Cowboys)...the Cowboys lose to Washington OR the Rams. 
 8-8 (with a loss to the Cowboys)...the Cowboys lose to Washington AND the Rams.  
 7-9 (with a win over the Cowboys)...the Cowboys lose to Washington AND the Rams. 
7-9 (with a loss to the Cowboys) ...nothing. They're done. 
6-10 ...nothing. They're done, obviously. 
5-11 ...nothing. They're done, and fire everybody. 

Got it? Great. Now let's watch this Eagles-Giants slop-fest on Monday night!

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