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How Cowboys, Giants or Washington can clinch NFC East in winner-take-all Week 17

The NFC East hasn’t been a very good division during the 2020 NFL season. But it will have a fantastic finish with three teams still in contention to be its sub-.500 representative in the NFC playoffs — and get an opening-round home game as a No. 4 seed over three wild-card teams with better records.

Washington (6-9), the Cowboys (6-9) and the Giants (5-10) are all alive after Week 16. The Eagles (4-10-1), who were eliminated with their loss to the Cowboys in Week 16, still will have a big say in who wins the East.

The NFL’s decision to schedule only division games pays off again in Week 17, with Washington at Philadelphia and Dallas at New York on the docket. There’s nothing too complicated in figuring out who will advance to the NFC tournament based on the results of the regular-season finales. 

Here’s breaking down the path to the playoffs for Washington, the Cowboys and the Giants:

Washington: Win and get in, or lose and get out

Washington missed a great chance to clinch the division title and put an end to the drawn-out drama by losing to the Panthers at home. But even at 6-9, WFT still is in first place in its first season under Ron Rivera thanks to its head-to-head sweep over Dallas and a one-game cushion over New York.

With a win at Philadelphia — the team it rallied against to beat at home in Week 1 — Washington would maintain both of those key advantages and advance to the wild-card round, most likely against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.

With a loss, however, Washington would be eliminated, no matter what happens between the Cowboys and Giants.

More: Complete NFL playoff picture | Cowboys playoff chances

Cowboys: Win or tie and get in with a Washington loss

The Cowboys won a Week 5 thriller against the Giants at home, but that game is more remembered for Dak Prescott going down for the season. Somehow, after plenty of offensive and defensive struggles without Prescott, Dallas is in position to take a division title in its first season under Mike McCarthy.

Should Washington lose, it would be 6-10. The Cowboys, with a win, would jump up to 7-9 and claim the East championship. A tie would put them at 6-9-1, which would be a half-game better than losing Washington. The Cowboys have momentum from much-improved play, on both sides of the ball, in recent weeks and figure to be sllight road favorites over the offensively challenged Giants.

Giants: Win and get in with a Washington loss

The Giants got a big win in Seattle in Week 13 thanks to their defense; since then, they have lost to the Cardinals, Browns and Ravens and the offense has remained anemic. But thanks to Washington’s struggles, they can erase all of that disappointment by beating the Cowboys and winning the NFC East in Joe Judge’s first season.

Should they match Washington at 6-10, then the Giants would be division champs by virtue of a head-to-head tiebreaker from their season sweep. The Cowboys would be out of the mix at 6-10 because of a 2-4 division record while the Giants would be 4-2 and Washington 3-3.

The NFL will schedule both NFC East finales at the same time, so the Cowboys and Giants will be more focused on their game rather than scoreboard-watching Washington. But it’s a rare occasion when both the Cowboys and the Giants — and their fans — will be rooting for the Eagles at the same time.

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