PHILADELPHIA -- The Giants are alive. Just barely.
And not really.
They are still alive for a playoff berth and the NFC East title, even after their heart-breaking, 25-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon -- but only in the mathematical sense. The Giants (3-8) are three games behind the division-leading Cowboys and Redskins (both 6-5) and there are still five games left to play.
But simple math won't be enough to help them this time. The Giants will need to win out, of course, but they'll also need help. Lots of help. And very specific help. Because their 0-4 record in the division (and for the wild card scenarios, their 2-7 record in the NFC) makes it almost impossible for them to win any scenario that involves a tie.
So how can the Giants still make it?
Well, start with the simple scenario. If they win their final five games and finish with an 8-8 record, they would get in and win the NFC East if no one else in the division finishes with a better record than 7-9.
That's still possible, but it's made unlikely by the fact that the Eagles, Redskins and Cowboys still have three more games against each other combined (the Redskins and Eagles play each other twice, and the Eagles and Cowboys play once). Someone has to win those games -- unless they tie (but this gets really messy if you start considering ties … so don't).
Since the Redskins and Eagles still play twice, the Redskins can eliminate the Giants by winning both of those games, because if they do they'd get to eight wins and would have four wins in the division. The most the Giants can have is two. So they'd really have to split those games and then lose all their others. Or they can lose twice to the Eagles and then win only one other game the rest of the way.
The Eagles (5-6) can still win twice - as long as at least one is against the Redskins. But if they get to eight wins, they win a tie with the Giants because they won the season series 2-0.
And as for the Cowboys, they're already 3-1 in the division -- more wins than the Giants can possibly have. They can beat the Eagles in two weeks, but they can only win one more the rest of the way, otherwise the Giants are out of the division race.
It gets even more complicated if you're looking at the wild-card race where the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are both 6-5, tied for the second spot with the Redskins, behind the Minnesota Vikings (6-4-1). The Giants' 2-7 record in the conference makes that a virtually impossible path.
So the division remains the most likely road to the playoffs -- even though it's still not likely at all. But believe it or not, there is one scenario (at least) where the Giants can win the division at 8-8 and on a tie-breaker. The Eagles would have to beat the Redskins twice and lose all their other games, which would make them 7-9, and the Cowboys would have to beat the Eagles, but lose their other four, making them 7-9 too. Then the Redskins could lose to the Eagles twice and to the Giants, making them 2-4 in the division, but win their other two games (against Jacksonville and Tennessee) to finish 8-8.
That would leave the Giants and Redskins tied at 8-8 and 2-4 in the division, with the Cowboys and Eagles being at 7-9. In that scenario, the Giants would win the division on the third tie-breaker -- common games.
Confused? That's why it's better to just focus on the reality: There's basically no chance the Giants will make the playoffs at all.