By Shawn Lealos

The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles played on Thanksgiving Day for the NFC East lead. Both teams were tied in the standings, but thanks to a 14-0 first quarter by the Eagles, the Cowboys were knocked off balance and ended up getting beat by 23 points and losing control of their destiny. Then, last week something amazing happened. The Cowboys blew out the Chicago Bears and the Eagles lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

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Both teams are tied once again, and impressively, Dallas has their destiny back in their hands. All that Dallas has to do is win their three final games of the season and they win the NFC East and make the postseason for the first time in five seasons. However, if the Eagles win their final three games, then Philadelphia wins the NFC East for the second year in a row.

That makes this weekend’s Sunday Night Football game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles so important for both teams. The team that loses that game also has the chance of missing the playoffs completely, no matter how they finish the season.

NFC East

This is the first season in four years that the NFC East is actually competitive with the rest of the NFC. For the last three seasons, the Dallas Cowboys finished at .500, and could have made the playoffs if they won the final game each season, all three against NFC East rivals who made the playoffs instead. This season, the final game may still prove important, but it won’t be a game between two teams who are trying to make the playoffs.

There is still a chance that the Cowboys and Eagles could end up tied at the end of the season. If the winning team on Sunday night loses one of their final two games, the two could end up tied and then things get tricky. Both teams could make the playoffs or one of them could go home with 11 wins.

Dallas Cowboys

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If Dallas beats the Eagles in their rematch on Sunday night, the Cowboys will move into sole possession of the NFC East. If they then win out, beating the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins, the Cowboys will win the NFC East hands down. Also, if the Eagles lose to either the Washington Redskins or New York Giants after losing to Dallas, then the Cowboys will take the NFC East by winning against the Redskins in the final game of the season, even if they lose to the Colts, because of the NFC record tiebreaker.

Now, if Dallas loses to the Eagles, they will probably need to make the playoffs as a wild card team. Of course, if the Eagles lose to the Giants and Redskins and Dallas wins out, they can still win the NFC East, but that isn’t likely. The wild card is not an easy task for Dallas. They win the tiebreaker over the Seattle Seahawks and that is important. However, if there is a three-way tie, which includes the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys lose that based on the NFC record tiebreaker and could miss the playoffs with 11 wins. If the Cowboys lose on Sunday, they need the Lions or Seahawks to lose twice to close out the season.

Philadelphia Eagles

If the Eagles win on Sunday, Dallas will have to win out and hope the Eagles drop their last two games, because losing Sunday means that the Cowboys lose the head-to-head tiebreaker against Philadelphia. That is not likely, so if the Eagles win on Sunday, they will secure the NFC East with one more win.

However, if the Eagles lose, then things get shaky for Philadelphia. Unlike Dallas, the Eagles lost to the Seattle Seahawks. This means that Philadelphia will lose out in a tiebreaker with the Seahawks and Lions individually, and they will lose the tiebreaker if all three teams finish with the same record as well. If the Seahawks and Lions win two of their last three games, and the Eagles lose to Dallas, the Eagles will miss the playoffs unless the Cowboys collapse in their final two games.

This is a must-win for both the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles because the loser will face an uphill battle just to make the playoffs.

For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.

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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.