Tom Coughlin tried his best to gift wrap the division for the Cowboys with his predictable play calling on Sunday afternoon, but Wade Phillips' first-place 'Boys did what they do best in December: Lose big games.
Matthias Kiwanuka and Domenik Hixon saved the Giants' season for at least another week with a forced fumble and punt return respectively, and now the G-Men will play in the league's biggest game of the season.
Forget Colts-Patriots or Saints-Patriots. The game of the year in the
NFL is this Sunday when the Giants and Eagles meet at the Meadowlands. And by the time the two rivals meet in East Rutherford on Sunday night, the entire playoff picture in the NFC East will change again.
The Cowboys will host the Chargers on Sunday afternoon with a chance to either remove themselves from the same conversation as the Mets as perennial late-season chokers, or give the country further evidence that they are anything but "America's Team."
A week ago, Jerry Jones spoke about how a postseason berth would help Phillips retain his job past this season, and a win at Giants Stadium would have virtually guaranteed the Cowboys an 18th week of football this year. But after getting swept by Big Blue in the season series, the Cowboys have created a race in the NFC East that hinges on every snap over the final four weeks of the season.
At the conclusion of the Giants-Eagles game on Sunday night, any of the three NFC East teams could be leading the division, and it all starts with the shootout expected to take place at Cowboys Stadium earlier in the day.
1. If Dallas wins and New York wins:
2. If Dallas wins and Philadelphia wins:
3. If Dallas loses and New York wins:
4. If Dallas loses and Philadelphia wins:
(Even if the disastrous scenario No. 2 occurred, the Giants would still be in the hunt
for on the two wild cards, but would likely need some help from the
Packers, who don't exactly have the toughest stretch of games ahead.)
Right now, the Giants hold the tiebreaker on the Cowboys. The Cowboys hold the tiebreaker on the Eagles. And the Eagles hold the tiebreaker on the Giants.
But Sunday's Cowboys-Chargers and Giants-Eagles matchups are just the beginning of the rollercoaster ride that kicks off the final four weeks of play for the NFL's toughest division.
For division-leading Dallas, their path to the postseason is the worst of all the potential playoff candidates in the league. A home game against the streaking Chargers (9-3), a trip to the Superdome to face the undefeated Saints (12-0), a road game against the Redskins (3-9) who they squeaked by in Week 11 and a season finale back in the Big D against the Eagles makes for one unhappy holiday season for the Cowboys.
The Giants host the Eagles before heading to D.C. to face the Redskins, who they have not seen since Week 1. After that it's a Week 16 rematch of 2008 when the reeling Panthers (5-7) go to Giants Stadium, and the G-Men finish the season in Minnesota against the Vikings (10-2), who will be the No. 2 seed in the NFC and won't need the game.
The Eagles have the Giants, obviously, then home games against the 49ers (5-7) and Broncos (8-4) before playing the Cowboys to end the regular season for the second straight year.
Just 11 days ago on Thanksgiving, the Giants were headed home from Denver with an embarrassing loss and 6-5 record to their name. Now they are looking at an opportunity to avenge the humiliation the Eagles handed them in Week 8, as well the stunning blow they suffered against Philly in the divisional round of the playoffs last season.
"I think we are back to our old selves," Brandon Jacobs told the New York Post following the Giants' win against the Cowboys on Sunday.
We will find out on Sunday if the Giants are truly back, and if the division race over the next month will be a two-team or three-team race. And we have the Cowboys to thank for another exiting ending in the NFC East.
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