NFC East standings: What Cowboys or Giants win would mean for NFL playoff picture

Author Photo
Dak Prescott, Saquon Barkley
(Getty Images)

The Giants and Cowboys are squaring off in what will be one of Dallas' most anticipated Thanksgiving Day matchups in quite some time.

Both the Cowboys and Giants have records of 7-3 and are playing in the loaded NFC East. All four teams in that division have a winning record, and all four will be challenging for playoff berths as the 2022 NFL season comes to an end.

As such, each NFC East matchup will become increasingly important, as the four teams jockey for playoff positioning and seeding within the conference. That will be especially true of Thanksgiving's game, as it will determine, at least short-term, which team is most likely to challenge the Eagles for the top spot in the division.

Right now, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are ahead of the Giants in the NFC standings thanks to owning the tiebreaker over their division rival. That said, New York can change that with a victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving, and that would surely spoil the holiday for many of the Dallas faithful.

What would a win in Week 12 mean for the Cowboys and for the Giants? Here's what to know about the current NFC playoff picture and how it will be impacted by the second of three Thanksgiving games.

MORE: Breaking down Dallas' 40-3 victory over the Vikings in Week 11 by the numbers

NFC East standings

Below is what the NFC East standings look like entering Week 12:

Place Team Record
1 Eagles 9-1
2 Cowboys 7-3
3 Giants 7-3
4 Commanders 6-5

All four NFC East teams have a winning record and three are currently inside of the playoff picture. That said, it's the Cowboys and Giants who are currently tied in the standings, so seeing them face off will be critical in helping determine second place in the division.

As it stands, the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Giants. They can clinch it with another win while the Giants can force a stalemate in that category with a win of their own.

Either way, the winner of Thursday's Cowboys vs. Giants game will hold onto sole possession of second place in the NFC East with an 8-3 record. The loser will be in third place with a record of 7-4.

In the unlikely event of a tie, the two teams would be tied for second in the division with a 7-3-1 record. However, the Cowboys would clinch the tiebreaker over the Giants with a head-to-head record of 1-0-1, so they would have the edge in the race for the No. 2 spot in the division.

So, the Cowboys and Giants are playing for second place in the NFC East this week, but the game will have a longer-term effect on the NFC playoff picture as well. Here's how and why that will happen.

MORE: How to watch full NFL Thanksgiving Day schedule of games

NFC playoff picture Week 12

If the NFL season were to end today, the following are the seven teams that would make the postseason in the NFC.

Seed Team Record
1 Eagles 9-1
2 Vikings 8-2
3 49ers 6-4
4 Buccaneers 5-5
5 Cowboys 7-3
6 Giants 7-3
7 Seahawks 6-4

So, three NFC East teams would make the playoffs if the season ended after Week 11, with the Eagles representing the cream of the crop. Philadelphia has gone 9-1 on the season with its lone loss coming on "Monday Night Football" against the Commanders in Week 10.

Given that the Eagles have lost only once so far, a win by either the Cowboys or the Giants won't do enough to catapult them above the Eagles in the standings. As such, the best either can do after Week 12 would be to have the inside track to the No. 5 seed in the conference.

Neither can fall particularly low either. Only the Seahawks will have a chance to match their 7-4 records by the end of Week 12. So, in terms of short-term impact, this contest won't have a major impact on the playoff picture.

But long term, it will have a major say on who owns tiebreakers within the juggernaut NFC East.

IYER: An in-depth breakdown of the NFL playoff picture heading into Week 12

NFC playoff picture if the Cowboys win

If the Cowboys are able to win on Thanksgiving Day, the NFC playoff picture will remain unchanged, at least before Sunday's Seahawks game.

Seed Team Record
1 Eagles 9-1
2 Vikings 8-2
3 49ers 6-4
4 Buccaneers 5-5
5 Cowboys 8-3
6 Giants 7-4
7 Seahawks 6-4

The Cowboys would still have the advantage in the race for the No. 5 seed, and in fact, they may have a stranglehold on it at this point. A win over the Giants would clinch them the head-to-head tiebreaker against their division rival, so they would, in effect, have a game-and-a-half lead on the Giants in the wild-card race.

Additionally, Dallas would be just a game and a half back of the Eagles in the division race. It would position Dallas to be the primary challenger to Philadelphia during the stretch run which could prove important, especially given that Philadelphia has looked human in recent weeks. Of course, the Eagles have beaten the Cowboys once already, so the Eagles maintain a momentary tiebreaker edge over their division rival.

So, if the Eagles were to slip up, Dallas would have the inside track to overtake them. That would give the Cowboys a chance to battle for the No. 1 seed in the NFC, as they still have a game to play against the Eagles and they own a head-to-head tiebreaker against the Vikings via their 40-3 win over them in Week 11.

Meanwhile, a loss would potentially knock the Giants as low as the No. 7 seed. It would depend on the result of Seattle's game against Las Vegas and San Francisco's against New Orleans.

If the 49ers and Seahawks both win, the Giants would be the No. 7 seed, as Seattle owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Giants. If either or both lose, the Giants would remain the No. 6 seed even with a loss.

MORE: Why Odell Beckham Jr. to the Cowboys rumors are heating up

NFC playoff picture if the Giants win

If the Giants beat the Cowboys, there will be a minor shake-up in the wild card seeding, as New York would move ahead of Dallas in the race for the No. 5 seed.

Seed Team Record
1 Eagles 9-1
2 Vikings 8-2
3 49ers 6-4
4 Buccaneers 5-5
5 Giants 8-3
6 Cowboys 7-4
7 Seahawks 6-4

The Giants improving to 8-3 would position them to challenge Philadelphia for the conference's No. 1 seed, similar to Dallas. Unlike the Cowboys, the Giants have yet to play the Eagles. So hypothetically, they would have a better opportunity to move ahead of the Eagles, as they have more games in which they can make up ground.

Of course, the Giants also haven't played the Vikings yet, so they don't own a tiebreak over them as the Cowboys do. Thus, New York's potential path to the NFC's No. 1 seed isn't any easier than that of the Cowboys.

New York's path to the top wild-card spot does get easier with a win over Dallas though. Why? Because the Giants would have a one-game lead over the Cowboys and would deny their opponent an opportunity to clinch the head-to-head tiebreaker against them. That would allow the Giants to compete with the Cowboys for the secondary tiebreaker, which would be based on their record in divisional games.

If Dallas loses, it can likely kiss its hopes of challenging Philly for the No. 1 spot in the NFC East goodbye. It would also risk falling to seventh in the postseason race, which would happen if both the Seahawks and 49ers beat the Raiders and Saints respectively.

Neither the Giants nor Cowboys will move significantly in the standings on Thursday, but make no mistake: this game will have a big impact on the NFC playoff picture. We just may not know exactly what it is until a couple of weeks down the line.

Author(s)
Author Photo
Jacob Camenker is a senior content producer at The Sporting News.
LATEST VIDEOS