Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Dallas Cowboys only have one meaningful game left

With their win tonight, Dallas only has one meaningful game left in the regular season.  But they've only played 14 games and have 2 games left, how can that be?

Let's take a look at the situation.  Dallas presently has a 1/2 game lead over the Giants for the NFC East lead with games at home against the Eagles and on the road against the Giants left.  They are 8-6 overall, 6-4 in the conference, and 2-2 in their division.  The Giants have games left against the Redskins at home, the Jets on the "road", and the finale hosting Dallas.  They are 7-6 overall, 4-6 in the conference, and 2-2 in the division.

Now, let's look at the scenarios.

First, if the Giants win on Sunday, they will move to 8-6/5-6/3-2.  In this scenario, Dallas' game next week against the Eagles is meaningless as the division will hinge on the final game regardless of the week 16 results.  Here are the scenarios:

  • Both the Giants and Cowboys win week 16 and are tied.  The winner week 17 wins the division at 10-6.
  • The Giants win and the Cowboys lose week 16.  The winner week 17 still wins the division; if the Giants win they win it outright 10-6 vs 8-8, if Dallas wins both teams are 9-7 overall and 3-3 in division, but Dallas would win the tie breaker on conference record, 7-5 vs 5-7.
  • The Giants lose and the Cowboys win week 16.  The winner week 17 still wins the division; if the Giants win, both teams are 9-7 and the Giants win the tie-breaker being 2-0 head-to-head, if Dallas wins they win it outright 10-6 vs 8-8.
  • Both the Giants and Cowboys lose week 16 and are tied.  The winner week 17 wins the division at 9-7.
So, if the Giants win tomorrow, Dallas' game against the Eagles is meaningless as far as the NFC East goes.

Second, if the Giants lose on Sunday, they fall to 7-7/5-7/2-3.  In this scenario, Dallas still only has to win one of their remaining games, although which one depends on what the Giants do week 16.  Here are the scenarios:
  • Both the Giants and Cowboys win week 16.  The winner week 17 wins the division; if the Giants win they win it at 9-7 getting the head-to-head tie-breaker, if Dallas wins they win it outright at 10-6.
  • The Giants win and the Cowboys lose week 16.  The winner week 17 wins the division outright at 9-7.
  • The Giants lose and the Giants win week 16.  The week 17 game is now meaningless as Dallas enters the game with a 2 game lead and can't be caught.
  • Both the Giants and Cowboys lose week 16.  The winner week 17 wins the division; if the Giants win they win it at 8-8 getting the head-to-head tie-breaker, if Dallas wins they win it outright at 9-7.
So again, Dallas only has one meaningful game left, which one just depends on what the Giants do week 16.

More simply put, Dallas' game against the Eagles is meaningless in all scenarios but one, Dallas just has to win the final game at the Giants.  The one scenario where it is meaningful is if the Giants lose tomorrow and week 16 in which case the Dallas/Eagles game is meaningful if Dallas wins and then the final game is meaningless.