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NFL Playoff Projection: Cowboys can still steal the NFC East title from the Eagles

The NFC East race is not over yet.

News Agencies



Hey, remember that blatantly missed facemask penalty on the Washington Commanders that probably cost the Philadelphia Eagles their only loss of the season? Eagles fans certainly do.

That one missed call could change who wins the Super Bowl, or at least who makes it out of the NFC.

There are a lot of projections involved in explaining how one missed call could change the entire NFL season, but that’s why we’re here. That loss by the Eagles could end up being huge, because of the tiebreaker implications. If the Cowboys don’t lose another NFC East game, including beating the Eagles on Dec. 24, they’ll have a split against Philadelphia and a 5-1 record in divisional games, which is the second tiebreaker. The Eagles would have a 4-2 record in NFC East games … with the extra loss coming in large part because a facemask call on Philadelphia tight end Dallas Goedert was missed, and the Eagles had a lost fumble instead of a 15-yard penalty.


The Eagles are 11-1, and the Cowboys are 9-3. The tiebreaker scenario only comes into play if the Cowboys beat the Eagles in the rematch. If that happens, the Cowboys would have to pick up one other game on the Eagles down the stretch to win the NFC East and perhaps get the important No. 1 seed and lone bye in the NFC (the 10-2 Minnesota Vikings have a say in that as well).

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Michael Wagstaffe)

(Yahoo Sports graphics by Michael Wagstaffe)

The problem for the Cowboys is the Eagles’ other four remaining games all look winnable: at Giants, at Bears, vs. Saints, vs. Giants. But if they’re upset once, the door is open for the Cowboys to take the NFC East and maybe get the No. 1 seed, because of their potential tiebreaker edge. That race isn’t over yet.

Here are the Week 14 games that will have the biggest impact on the playoff picture:


The biggest development in Week 13 was the Bills gaining ground on the Kansas City Chiefs for the No. 1 seed in the AFC and the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East. That doesn’t mean the Bills’ path to the top seed is clear, and we don’t have them projected to get the No. 1 seed this week.

The reason is the Chiefs’ remaining schedule is very soft. It’s the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL. Unless Kansas City takes on a surprising upset, the Bills will have to win out to get the top seed. Buffalo is capable, but they still have tricky games vs. the Jets and Dolphins (both have already beat Buffalo this season) and at the Bengals. It will be hard for them to win every remaining game.


The Lions have a tough path to an NFC wild-card spot, but they’re stunningly still alive after winning four of five. They probably need to beat the 10-2 Vikings this week to have a realistic shot. Fortunately for Detroit, many people believe the Lions are going to win.

The Vikings are going to win the NFC North, but they still have a shot at the No. 1 seed. Considering they have head-to-head losses to the Eagles and Cowboys, they might have to win out to get it.

We’ve discussed that the Eagles might not be able to afford an upset loss the rest of the season. The Giants just need wins. The tie against Washington last week actually helped the Giants (their odds to make the playoffs improved 2.9% since last week at Football Outsiders) but they still might need to find an unexpected win to get a wild-card spot. We have the Giants out this week because the rematch with the Commanders happens in Washington, and the Giants will be underdogs.


The Ravens can’t afford to drop many games when Lamar Jackson is out. The Cincinnati Bengals are tied for first place in the AFC North after beating the Chiefs, and they’re peaking. The division title will still probably be decided on Jan. 8 when the teams meet, but the Ravens have to make sure they keep up with the Bengals until then. The Ravens won the first meeting so they just need to be one game behind the Bengals going into that season finale matchup to be alive for the AFC North title.

The Chargers’ playoff chances took a huge hit last week with a loss to the Las Vegas Raiders (12.8% at Football Outsiders to be exact) and another loss to the Dolphins would sink them further. The Dolphins aren’t out of the AFC East race though they probably can’t drop many more games now that they’re a game behind the Bills. But this game probably means more to the Chargers, who might need to win it to keep realistic wild-card hopes alive.

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