It appears that the NFC playoff picture will come down to three East rivals scrapping for two spots.
I’m making the assumption that the Green Bay Packers (9-4), who own the tie-breaker against the Cowboys, will win at least one of their final three games to assure a spot. The only way the Cowboys can guarantee a playoff berth is to win out, which certainly isn’t likely to happen with a Saturday date at the Superdome against the undefeated New Orleans Saints.
So let’s look at the remaining schedules for the NFC East contenders and speculate on how this race will go down:
Vs. San Francisco (5-7)
Vs. Denver (8-5)
At Dallas (8-5)
At New Orleans (13-0)
At Washington (4-9)
Vs. Philadelphia (9-4)
At Washington (4-9)
Vs. Carolina (5-8)
At Minnesota (11-2)
The Giants have the most favorable schedule of the trio. Their finale could be against a bunch of Minnesota backups if the Vikings are locked into the NFC’s second seed. Ten wins is a strong possibility.
The Cowboys are only likely to be favored in one game the rest of the way. That’s on the road against the Redskins, which certainly isn’t a gimme. But it’s an absolute must-win to keep their playoff hopes alive entering the finale against Philadelphia, a game that proves the NFL schedule-maker has a twisted sense of humor.
The Eagles can lock up the division by winning the next two weeks. Perhaps Wade Phillips can bust out some of his old Broncos gear in a couple of weeks, because the Cowboys need Denver to win.
Dallas can earn the tiebreaker over Philadelphia by completing the season sweep at Cowboys Stadium. The Giants own the tiebreaker on the Cowboys.
What if the teams end up in a three-way tie? It looks like that’d go down to the third tie-breaker, which is winning percentage in common games. Philadelphia’s loss to the Oakland Raiders could come back to haunt them.
The most likely scenario, though, is that the Eagles have the East crown locked up by the time they arrive in Arlington. If that’s the case, the Cowboys will have to handle their business on the field and probably pray that the Vikings care enough to beat the Giants.