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Who will win the NFC East: Week 12
Dan Bailey kicked a field goal as time expired to lift the Cowboys to a 24-21 win over the Giants. (USA Today Images)
Buckle up your seat belt, Eagles fans. December promises to be a wild ride.
The Cowboys made sure the Eagles couldn’t spend their idle Sunday resting easily. They moved back into a first-place tie with the Birds in the NFC East by beating the Giants, 24-21, on Dan Bailey’s field goal as time expired.
Had the Cowboys lost, they would have been tied at 5-6 with the Giants and trending downward, especially after they entered the game with losses in two of their past three games.
Instead, their win over the red-hot Giants at MetLife Stadium rinsed the bad taste from their 49-17 loss to New Orleans at the Superdome the week before and gave them a division sweep of the Giants, who need a miracle to get back into the division race.
The Giants had their four-game win streak snapped and can’t be taken seriously until they beat a team with an established starting quarterback, which they haven’t done yet this season.
For the moment, let’s dismiss the Giants (4-7) and consider this race between the Eagles and Cowboys. At this rate, the division title could be decided when these teams meet in the season finale Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas.
But the playoff push clearly favors the Cowboys, who would not only have home-field advantage in a do-or-die season finale against the Eagles but also have an easier schedule and have already beaten the Eagles once.
The combined record of Dallas’ next five opponents (Oakland, Chicago, Green Bay, Washington, Eagles) is 24-29-1, a winning percentage of 45.4. Three of those five are at home, where Dallas is 4-1 this season. (The Redskins play the 49ers tonight at FedEx Field).
Only two of the Cowboys’ next five games are against teams that currently have winning records, and both teams -- the Bears and Eagles -- are only one game above .500. The next five quarterbacks they’ll face are Matt McGloin, Josh McCown, Matt Flynn (unless Aaron Rodgers is back), Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles.
The combined record of the Eagles’ next five opponents is 27-27-1, a 50 percent clip. Three of those five at are the Linc, where the Eagles are just 1-4. They play four teams that currently have winning records, including Sunday’s game at the Linc against red-hot Arizona (7-4), which just demolished AFC South leader Indianapolis for its fourth straight win.
If the Eagles are one game behind Dallas going into the season finale, there’s a chance the Cowboys could have already clinched the division based on a tiebreaker, even if the Eagles win.
The Cowboys are 4-0 in division play while the Eagles are 3-2. The best the Eagles can finish in the NFC East is 4-2. If the Cowboys beat Washington in Week 16 FedEx Field, they’ll improve to 5-0 in the division, and the worst they could finish is 5-1.
So if Dallas beats Washington on Dec. 22 and has a one-game lead on the Eagles, the season finale won’t mean anything. If the Cowboys beat Washington and are one game behind the Eagles going into the season finale, they’ll clinch with a win over the Eagles at home.