**A Giftmas Miracle: The Third Day of Giftmas 2011**

Each year around this time, I wish for a Giftmas Miracle. This year is no exception. The wish is the same. The only difference is the enormity of the denominator. And yes, I’m talking about the Eagles making the playoffs.

Believe it or not, they’re not dead yet. Beaten and bloody, but with a heartbeat. They have a 1 in 28 chance of winning the NFC East. Well, this is true if every game was determined by a coin flip. Which, obviously, they are not. Which means we need either the Bucs or the Skins to win this weekend. Which makes me wish games were decided by coin flips.

1 in 28?

*Are you just making shit up, Dustin?*I do make things up a lot. Guilty. But this is an actual number. I know this because it’s also the actual number of points we give up in the fourth quarter.OK, so here’s how we win the NFC East. Ready? Because you may want to get a sandwich now and clear your schedule for the next 10 minutes. Also, all teams will be referred to by their abbreviation because I plan on typing a lot. Here we go…

1. First off, PHI needs to win the rest of their games to get to 8-8 (NYJ, DAL, WAS). 7 wins won’t cut it since both NYG and DAL have 7 right now and they play each other, putting at least one of them at 8 wins.

2. NYG and DAL can only end up with 8 wins max. Thankfully, we own the tie-breaker against both of these teams individually and collectively. Or at least we will if we win out. We’ll be 2-0 against DAL and 1-1 against NYG with a 5-1 division record, whereas NYG and DAL are currently 2-2.

3. We already know one of them will get one in Week 17 when they play each other. Crap. So here comes the first of many if/then statements.

a. If NYG wins (the Week 17 game), we need them to lose games against WAS and NYJ. DAL will have already lost against PHI in this scenario, so that’s one less game we need to worry about. In this scenario, we can actually get away with DAL beating TB in Week 15.

i. This scenario requires that the following games go one certain way (Week 15 – PHI/NYJ, NYG/WAS: Week 16 – PHI/DAL: Week 17 – PHI/WAS). We’ve already assumed that NYG has won the Week 17 matchup against DAL, so it needn’t be in this equation. Instead, this number will be averaged with the number from the other variable of the if/then statement. There are 5 games in total, which means our odds of having them all go our way (coin flip style) is 1 in (2*2*2*2*2)=1/32. Ta da.

b. If DAL wins (the Week 17 game), it gets a little more complicated. They will now need to lose that game against TB (in addition to the PHI game already accounted for). Also, NYG will need to lose one of their remaining two games against WAS and NYJ.

i. Should NYG win the game against WAS, they then MUST beat NYJ. This means the following games must go a certain way (Week 15 – PHI/NYJ, DAL/TB: Week 16 – PHI/DAL, NYG/NYJ: Week 17 – PHI/WAS). Now, the NYG/WAS game has assumed a winner. So that, along with the NYG/DAL game, are not in this equation. There are again 5 games in total, making odds of 1/32 again.

ii. Should NYG lose the game against WAS, they can do whatever they want to against the NYJ, knocking the total of games that need go a certain way down to four (Week 15 – PHI/NYJ, DAL/TB: Week 16 – PHI/DAL, NYG/NYJ: Week 17 – PHI/WAS). Once again, the NYG/WAS and NYG/DAL games have been accounted for through the if/then statement. So this number is now 1 in (2*2*2*2)=1/16.

iii. Averaged together under the umbrella of DAL winning the NYG/DAL matchup, the odds of this happening is 1 in (32*16)/2=24, or 1/24.

c. So considering the 1/32 chance PHI has of making the playoffs if NYG wins that Week 17 match with DAL and the 1/24 chance if DAL wins, the odds of PHI getting to 8-8, while making sure that NYG and DAL keep to a max of 8 wins averages out to 1 in (32*24)/2, or 1/28. See. Told ya.

4. Incidentally, this translates into a 3.91% chance of winning the division. Better than you thought, eh? In order to keep alive through Week 15, PHI will need to win their game and have either NYG or DAL lose, which translates into a 1/3 chance. How about that?

5. Also, I didn’t bother to take into consideration ties, as coins rarely land on their sides.

Are you ready for the completely impossible stuff? Should we lose the NFC East race, we have a 1 in 589.5 chance of making the wild card.

*OK, that one’s gotta be made up.*Wrong again, Slick. Now you may want to get a bottle of wine and an adult diaper on for this. But I figured it all out, so I’m gonna ruin your day with math.*So you’re sayin there’s a chance…*

1. First of all, PHI needs to get to 8 wins since ATL and DET are already there.

a. This means that they must either be involved in the tie-breaker or have the #5 seed.

2. The following teams can all end the season at 8-8: PHI, ATL, DET, CHI, SEA, ARI, NYG, DAL

a. Only one team from any one division will be involved in the tie-break. If teams from the same division are tied, the in-division tie-breakers will be applied to determine which team will represent that division in the cross-division tie-break.

b. This means PHI will never be in a tiebreak with DAL or NYG. More on this later.

c. Of the other 5 teams, the only team not to beat us is DET. More on this later.

3. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head.

a. In multiple team tie-breakers, one team must have swept or been swept by the other teams in order to apply it.

4. Because DET is the only team that could be involved in a tie-break with PHI who hasn’t beat them, they must be involved in the wild card tie-break, or else PHI would be forced out by the head-to-head tie-break (3a).

a. This means that DET cannot have more than 8 wins, so they must lose the remainder of their games to go 8-8.

b. This will also make them 2-3 in common opponents with PHI (ATL, DAL, SF, CHI), who is also 2-3. This will be important later.

5. CHI is 7-6 right now and split their two meetings with DET. If they were to finish at 8-8, they would enter into a tie-break with DET to determine which team would represent the NFC North in the wild card tie-break (2a).

a. CHI is 2-2 in the division and DET is 3-2. If CHI wins their non-division game (SEA) and loses the other two, they will 1) have the same record, 2) be tied in head-to-head games, and 3) have a worse division record than DET. Therefore, PHI can afford CHI to win the SEA game.

b. A CHI win against GB or MIN would give them an equal division record (3-3), but CHI will have a 6-8 record in common games (all but wins against PHI and SEA), while DET will have a 7-7 record (win over DAL, loss to SF). Therefore, DET would still represent the NFC North if they win a division game.

c. Together, this means regardless of which game CHI wins, they will lose the tie-breaker to DET, so PHI can afford them to win any one of their games to still allow DET into the wild card tie-break.

6. SEA is currently 6-7, but they are 5-4 within the conference with 3 conference games to go. At 8-8, they would be 7-5 in the conference. However, they have all the same common opponents as DET and PHI and their current record in games against them is 0-3 with two to go. So as long as they don’t win their two games against SF and CHI, they could make it to 8-8.

a. Because SEA cannot win both of their games against SF and CHI, but they can still win two games, their game against ARI doesn’t matter. At least not to them.

7. ARI is 6-5 and a win against SEA would give them the tie-breaker against SEA, as they’d be 4-2 in the division and SEA would be 4-2 at beast (pun intended), though ARI would be 7-5 in conference and SEA (since they’re not allowed to win against SF and CHI) would be 6-6 at beast. This would make for a huge problem with PHI, as a 7-5 conference record would beat out all other 8-8 teams. So if ARI is going to win two games, it cannot win the SEA game.

8. I have a headache. This was actually, believe it or not, a lot easier before I realized that CHI could still lose to DET in a tie-break based on common opponents (5b). In my original prognosis, I skipped ahead to conference record and determined that CHI could not be 8-8 and still give PHI a chance at the wild card. Once I discovered that to be incorrect, PHI chances were better, but the problem got A LOT more complicated.

a. Also, this is all based around giving ATL the #5 seed. If PHI is tied with ATL and DET, ATL wins the tie-break based on beating DET and PHI head-to-head. However, if PHI, ATL, DET and SEA are all tied at 8-8, it will come down to points.

i. Which means that ARI or CHI could go 9-7 and get the #5 and PHI would still have a chance I strength of victory against those other three teams.

b. This scenario is actually true of the following multi-team matchups (PHI, ATL, DET, SEA – PHI, ATL, DET, ARI – PHI, DET, SEA – PHI, DET, ARI).

i. Again, strength of victory only comes in after considering head-to-head, division games, common opponents and conference games. Which I did in all cases. Of course, we still have to win strength of victory and we’re 57 behind DET right now. There is no coin to determine those percentages.

So again, in full disclosure, all this assumes that ATL either wins the #5 seed with an 8, 9, 10 or 11-win record OR they stay in the 8-8 muck without CHI, ARI or SEA besting them at 9-7 or 10-6. I will have to figure all that out tomorrow for you lovely people. Or maybe I’ll go to bed at a reasonable hour instead.