Eagles Soar, Cowboys Falter in NFC East Playoff Race

Eagles Soar, Cowboys Falter in NFC East Playoff Race

The Dallas Cowboys are back in second place in the NFC East. With only weeks left in the regular season, Dallas’ Week 16 loss to Miami and the Eagles’ win over the Giants put Philadelphia back on top. Both teams found themselves in close games.

Despite a largely uninspiring performance, the Cowboys held a one-point lead over the Dolphins with less than four minutes remaining. But a Damone Clark facemask penalty, followed by more defensive fouls, allowed Miami to milk the clock and hit the game-winning field goal.

At least Dallas went against another playoff team. Philadelphia nearly extended its losing streak in a surprisingly close battle with the visiting Giants. The Eagles, who led 20-3 at halftime, committed a turnover on the first drive of the second half to give New York enough momentum to get back to within one possession.

Even though Philly won, it still left me wondering where they would go next. Both the Cowboys and Eagles are in that boat now. Two of the top four records in the NFC now look pretty insignificant; both are struggling and are playoff doubts. At least San Francisco’s loss to Baltimore gave hope that the 49ers aren’t untouchable in the NFC.

Here are the division standings ahead of Week 17:

  • Philadelphia Eagles 11-4 (4-1 vs NFCE, 7-3 vs NFC)
  • Dallas Cowboys 10-5 (4-1 vs NFCE, 7-3 vs NFC)
  • New York Giants 5-10
  • Washington Commanders 4-11

Apparently, the Eagles now control their own destiny in the NFC East. Dallas needs to drop at least one game to revive their hopes in the division. But while Philadelphia’s final two games are against the Cardinals and Giants, their inconsistent play over the past month leaves room for opportunity.

As a reminder, here are the tiebreakers used to decide a division winner:

  1. Head-to-head
  2. Division record
  3. Common games record
  4. Conference record
  5. Strength of victory

We talked a lot last week about the power of victory. Did Dallas and Philadelphia both win 16-18? week, it would have been the deciding factor between them. But the Dolphins are one of the opponents to participate in the joint games, and the Eagles beat them earlier this year.

Dallas is currently 5-3 in regular season games and Philadelphia is 5-2. This week, the Eagles host the Cardinals, the final game that will count in college games. If they win, they secure the semi-final. But a loss to Arizona would once again tie the game between Dallas and Philly. It would also hand the Eagles their fourth NFC loss, allowing the Cowboys to regain the lead. Of course, Dallas will have to mind its own business this Saturday night against Detroit.

They can’t afford to drop a game now because of their NFC record, not to mention the other potential postseason consequences. And for both the Cowboys and Eagles, there are still critical NFC East matchups against Washington and New York in the Finals. The bottom line is, as bad as it seems right now, Dallas’ loss to Miami didn’t hurt Miami’s goal of winning the division as much as it might seem.

All they need is for Philadelphia to go down once in the next two games, which they seem capable of doing right now, and for the Cowboys to rebound and take the lead. Can Dallas correct course and take advantage if the Eagles give them a chance? That’s the big question heading into the penultimate week of the 2023 regular season.

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