The NFC East playoff picture remains a muddled mess.
There was a chance to have some degree of clarity added to it on Monday night in Miami but the Giants broke open a tie game with an 84-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr. early in the fourth quarter. New York beat the Dolphins 31-24 to stay tied with the Redskins and Eagles atop the NFC East.
Here are the three teams, their NFC East records, and their remaining games:
Redskins (2-2)—Bills, @Eagles, @Cowboys
Eagles (2-2)—Cardinals, Redskins, @Giants
Giants (2-3)—Panthers, @Vikings, Eagles
At the moment the Redskins have the edge in the tiebreakers over the Giants with a better division record and half of the tiebreaker with the Eagles by virtue of their Week 4 win over Philly. In order to make that first win over Philadelphia matter, however, the Redskins have to beat them again on the road in Week 16. That means that if the Redskins win out, they win the division at 9-7.
But a team that has yet to win two in a row this year seems unlikely to finish the season with what would be a four-game winning streak counting their win over the Bears last Sunday. If they do drop a game they will need help in the form of a Giants loss to make it. If they lose two, they need a lot of help.
Looking at the schedules, help could be on the way. Both of the Redskins’ rivals are underdogs at home on Sunday with the Panthers favored by about four points over the Giants and the Cardinals are being called about a field goal better than the Eagles.
Washington is slightly favored over the Bills. If the lines hold, the Redskins would be in a position to clinch the NFC East with an 8-7 record in Week 16 with a win over the Eagles and a Giants loss at Minnesota.
The Redskins would not be out if it they lost that game in Philadelphia to the Eagles to fall to 7-8. If they win in Dallas in Week 17 they would look to the scoreboard to see what happens in MetLife Stadium. If the Eagles beat the Giants they would be 8-8 with a head-to head split against the Redskins but they would take the division with a 4-2 record in the NFC East compared to 3-3 in the division for Washington.
But if the Giants win (after having beaten the Vikings in Week 16) they would be 8-8 and tied with the Redskins. The will have split head to head and they both will have 3-3 division records. The next tiebreaker is record in common games. If it plays out this way, both the Giants and the Redskins would be 5-7 in their 12 common games.
That would send it to the next tiebreaker, which is conference record. Right now the Redskins are 6-4 in the NFC while the Giants are 3-6. A win over Dallas would be Washington’s seventh conference win while the Giants can get to no more than six. That would send the Redskins to the playoffs.
There are some who are saying that the Redskins’ upcoming game against the Bills is their least important remaining game. That may be true, but Buffalo is a common opponent that the Giants beat already. Losing that game could drop the Redskins a game behind in that category and that could come into play under some scenarios.
A rough estimate shows about 35 possibilities for how the three teams currently tied at the top could finish. The possible scenarios will narrow considerably after Sunday’s games. For now, just know that the Redskins control their destiny if they win out, and that if form prevails the Redskins might be able to take the division with two wins in their last three.
But, of course, if form had prevailed this year the Redskins would have been eliminated from the playoffs long ago and we’d be watching the Cowboys, who aren’t even relevant at this point, try to wrap up the division before Christmas. So anything can happen.