What a difference (almost) a year makes.
On New Year’s Day, 2012, the 8-7 Dallas Cowboys traveled to a cold Northeast to face a division rival on Sunday Night Football, with a simple ultimatum: Win and you’re the NFC East Champions and No. 4 seed in the playoffs, lose and you go home.
They lost, they went home, and that division rival, the New York Giants, went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
Flash forward 365 days, and on Dec. 30, the Cowboys are once again in a similar situation. This time, however, the opponent is the Redskins and the locale is Washington, D.C. – but once again, they may be the Giants’ last hope for a playoff berth.
Standing at 8-7 themselves, the G-Men are currently the No. 9 team in the NFC, and need to beat Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon to even have a shot at making the playoffs. But, even if they do that, situations look bleak, as they also need Minnesota to lose to Green Bay, Chicago to lose to Detroit, and Dallas to lose to Washington as well.
If the first three are all accomplished by the time Sunday night rolls around, then Giants fans will actually be rooting for the Washington Redskins to win the NFC East. Then, should the Skins win to finish off the superfecta, the Giants’ 8-4 conference record would give them the tiebreaker over the Vikings and Bears and earn them the sixth and final NFC playoff berth.
Funny how Week 17 being one full of intra-division games makes for strange bedfellows, eh?
Should the Giants make the playoffs, they can only face one of two familiar opponents in the first round:
GREEN BAY: The Packers have clinched the NFC North, and can clinch the No. 2 seed with a win or losses by both the 49ers and Seahawks. Should they lose to Minnesota and watch either Seattle or San Francisco win, however, they will be the No. 3 seed at 11-5, and would host the No. 6 seeded Giants on Wild Card Weekend.
SAN FRANCISCO: The 49ers currently lead the NFC West at 10-4-1, will clinch the division with either a win or a Seattle loss, and could be the No. 2 seed with a win and a Packers loss. However, if the Packers get the No. 2 seed, then San Francisco as NFC West champion would be No. 3, sending the G-Men cross country to face the Niners for the third time in the 2012 calendar year – and as Giants fans certainly remember, those first two wins were an overtime win in last year’s NFC Championship Game and a convincing 26-3 win for Big Blue in Week 6 of this season.
Seattle could also technically be the No. 3 seed, but to do so, they would need Green Bay to lose to Minnesota – a scenario that would give the Vikings the final playoff spot and eliminate the Giants.