How the Dallas Cowboys Can Still Win the NFC East

Lou RomContributor IDecember 9, 2012

Dec 9, 2012; Cincinnati, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is brought down by Cincinnati Bengals outside linebacker Vontaze Burfict (55) during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys (7-6) are alive and well and still in the hunt for the NFC East crown after a dramatic 20-19 win on the road against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Cowboys and Washington Redskins are now both 7-6, a mere half game behind New York.

To simplify matters for Dallas, a Giants loss to the New Orleans Saints at home in the late game—which would thrust the teams into a three-way tie—would be a great starting point.

Beyond that, Dallas likely must win at least two of the next three; most importantly, the Cowboys must beat the Redskins at home in the season finale. It's almost an impossibility that Dallas can settle for a wild-card spot, because the Cowboys have lost to the Bears, Seahawks and Redskins.

The East-leading Giants have split the season series with both Dallas and Washington. Should Dallas beat Washington in the finale, then each of the three teams will have split the season series with each other.

If Dallas ends tied with New York  (having split the season series) they stand a fair chance in the tiebreaker, as the No. 2 tiebreaker is the divisional record. New York currently sits at 2-3 in the division; Washington at 3-1; and Dallas at 3-2.

The Giants play the Eagles in the last game of the season, a game in which a victory would put them at 3-3 in the division. 

The Redskins, currently at 3-1 in the division, face the Eagles and Cowboys to finish the season. 

The Cowboys, at 3-2 in the division, most likely will have to beat Washington in that final game to win the division. Before that game, Dallas faces the Saints and Steelers at home.

The Giants (7-5) play the Ravens and Falcons on the road, and the Atlanta game is much more interesting today than it was a week ago. Atlanta could have wrapped up home-field advantage by the time they meet the Giants in two weeks, but fell today to the Carolina Panthers, which means that Atlanta will not be in any position to rest starters against New York. 

The Redskins also play the Ravens, a tough out for any team this time of the year.

Oh, how the New York Giants' fortunes changed in the last minute of today's early games.

With less than a minute remaining, both Washington and Dallas trailed. Washington scored after losing RG3 on the last drive. Washington recovered from the loss of RG3, went on to score a touchdown and tie the game with a two-point conversion before winning in overtime. 

And the Cowboys, down by nine halfway through the fourth quarter, pulled out a win against the Bengals, keeping them and Washington nipping at the Giants' heels—placing all the more importance on what should be an easy home win against the Saints, a team that typically plays poorly in cold-weather, natural turf games.