Dallas and Washington both came up with big wins in swing games against AFC North playoff contenders Cincinnati and Baltimore, pushing the NFC East divisional race to a legitimate three team battle with three weeks remaining.
The current standing are New York in front with 8 wins, followed by both Washington and Dallas at 7. Here is what we know:
- The Giants are done with both of the other teams, and if they win out, they would of course hold on to win the division;
- Dallas and Washington play in the final week (and can we go ahead and put that as the favorite to be Sunday Night Football’s flex choice unless things go badly for both teams the next two weeks?). The winner of that game would hold the tiebreaker advantage over both of the other teams in the division, in the event of multiple teams finishing with the same record. That’s because Washington would win a three-way tie based on head to head with a Dallas sweep, while Dallas would hold the common games tiebreaker if they split with the Redskins, over both New York and Washington.
- As a result, the Giants cannot finish in a tiebreaker with either team. They would lose to Washington or Dallas on the division record tiebreaker, because the best New York can do is 3 division wins. The winner of the week 17 Dallas-Washington game would have 4.
So, it is in actuality, a half game lead for New York, with no margin for error, but holding a lead right now.
Here are the remaining schedules:
NEW YORK: at Atlanta, at Baltimore, vs. Philadelphia
DALLAS: vs. Pittsburgh, vs. New Orleans, at Washington
WASHINGTON: at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, vs. Dallas
I have New York still rated as the best team out of this group, but they also have the toughest schedule, having to go to Atlanta and Baltimore in the next two weeks. Neither of those teams is as good as their record, but those are still no better than toss-ups considering they are on the road. If they survive those, they should be a heavier favorite against the Eagles at home, though it would still be a divisional rivalry game giving the Eagles a chance to spoil the Giants’ year.
The wildcard is Robert Griffin III’s injury, and whether he misses any games. Cleveland is playing better, so that game will be no gimme on the road in an unfamiliar location. If he is back by the finale, though, that obviously has a direct impact on Dallas and Washington’s fortunes.
Dallas gets two home games before that showdown. Now they have to do it without their leading receiver, Dez Bryant. Two dangerous but struggling opponents in the Steelers and Saints are in the way. They are the most likely to go 2-0, but would be an underdog on the road assuming Griffin plays week 17.
Here are my odds of each team winning the division based on how the tiebreakers will break down:
1. NY Giants- 50% (20% of finishing 11-5, 30% that lose at least a game but so do both Dallas and Washington)
2. Washington – 27% (16% chance of going 3-0, PLUS Giants losing at least a game, remaining is chance of winning a tiebreaker at 9-7)
3. Dallas- 23% (13% chance of going 3-0, PLUS Giants losing at least a game, remaining is chance of winning a tiebreaker at 9-7)