The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are deadlocked at the top of the NFC East with four games remaining in the 2013 NFL season. At the moment, only the division winner will make the playoffs based on current NFC records, but that could change. However, both the Cowboys and Eagles know that the only way to assure they make it to the postseason is by winning the division. Here is a look at the breakdown of what it will take to make the playoffs in the NFC East.
Last season, the NFC East was anyone’s game and the Washington Redskins shocked the division by winning and making it to the playoffs. The year before that, the New York Giants beat the Cowboys in the final week of the season for the NFC East crown and went on to win the Super Bowl. The Eagles won in 2010 and the Cowboys in 2009, showing the parity of the division year-after-year.
This year, Dallas has a strong advantage to win it all since they are undefeated against NFC East rivals. They beat the Eagles and Redskins and swept their series with the Giants. The Eagles, on the other hand, have lost twice in the division, once to the Cowboys and once to the Giants. That means if Dallas beats either the Redskins in Week 16 or the Eagles in Week 17, they lock up the tiebreaker for the division crown.
That won’t matter if the Eagles finish the season with more wins than Dallas. The two teams play in the final week of the NFL season and that has to make Dallas fans scared. In 2011, all Dallas needed to do was win in the final game of the season to make the playoffs, and they lost to the Giants, who won the Super Bowl thanks to squeaking in the postseason. In 2012, it was the same situation and Dallas lost their last game of the season to the Washington Redskins. The Redskins won the division and the Cowboys dropped from first to third in the division after the loss.
This year, it is the Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys have history against them heading down the stretch.
Over the last four games of the season, Dallas plays the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and then finish up against the Redskins and Eagles. Both the Bears and Packers are playing without their starting quarterbacks and the Redskins have only won three games this season, including a 15-point loss to Dallas in Week 6.
Philadelphia plays the Detroit Lions before facing the woeful Minnesota Vikings, the Chicago Bears and then finish up with the Cowboys. Jay Cutler could be back in time for the Bears game with the Eagles, so it looks like Dallas might have the scheduling advantage here.
Looking at the Cowboys schedule, they have lost to the two best teams in the AFC in the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs, to three explosive pass-happy teams in the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, and New Orleans Saints. There is not an embarrassing loss in the bunch.
The Eagles are riding a four game winning streak with Nick Foles playing the best football of his career. However, those wins came against the Oakland Raiders, the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers, the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals.
This race to the playoffs will be a tough one, but from the outside looking in, this is a race Dallas should be able to win. But, based on the past two seasons, anything could happen on the way to the finish line.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.