Thanksgiving Day’s middle NFL game will feature a battle of two 3-7 teams, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team. Whoever wins that matchup will be the leaders in the NFC East.
It hasn’t escaped public notice in a division with big-market teams that the NFC East is really bad. It could wind up with the worst division winner, record-wise, in NFL history. But each division winner is guaranteed a playoff spot in the NFL, so one team from the NFC East will be one of the seven teams in the postseason on the NFC side of the bracket. The Cowboys and WFT kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving in Week 12 to try and gain a leg up on the competition.
In case you haven’t been paying attention to the futility of the Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and WFT this season, we’ve broken it down for you. It really is possible that moving to 4-7 can place a team in first place in a division, at least for a few days.
NFC East standings
|Team||Wins||Losses||Ties||Winning %||Divisional record||Streak|
|New York Giants||3||7||0||0.300||3-2||W2|
|Washington Football Team||3||7||0||0.300||2-2||W1|
How Cowboys vs. Washington winner gets first place
The math on this is simple: As long as one of Dallas or Washington wins, that’ll mean a ‘4’ in the win column and a spot at the top of the division with a .364 winning percentage. An unlikely tie would make things trickier since the Eagles are only a half-game better because of a tie already, but we’ll get into the divisional tiebreakers below.
The winner of Cowboys-WFT will hold first place at least until Sunday. That’s when the Giants take on the Joe Burrow-less Bengals. The Giants could only move into first place with a win in that game if Washington beats Dallas on Thanksgiving, because New York is 2-0 against the WFT this season but has a loss to the Cowboys.
The Eagles are back in action Monday night hosting the Seahawks. While Seattle will be a road favorite in that game, Philadelphia’s path back into first will be as simple as a win. A 4-6-1 record beats a 4-7 record in the same way that a 3-6-1 record is currently better than a 3-7 record.
NFL divisional tiebreakers
The following are the NFL’s tiebreakers for determining placement within an individual division:
- Head-to-head record
- Division record
- Best winning percentage in common games
- Best winning percentage in games played within the conference
- Strength of victory
- Strength of schedule
- Best combined ranking among same-conference teams in points scored and points allowed
- Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed
- Best net points in common games
- Best net points in all games
- Best net touchdowns in all games
- Coin flip
As it pertains to the NFC East, this mostly means that how the division performs against itself the rest of the way could go a long way to determining the division winner, because the first two tiebreakers both relate to intra-division performance. That’s also why the Thanksgiving Day game has outsized importance, not just for a temporary spot in first place but also a chance to start cementing superior head-to-head and division records.