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NFL playoff picture: First-place Giants celebrate their good fortune

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Somehow, the Giants still have a share of first place.

Dan Bailey and the Cowboys celebrate Monday's victory
Dan Bailey and the Cowboys celebrate Monday's victory
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Thank you, Dallas Cowboys! Monday night's 19-16 last-second victory by the Cowboys over the Washington Redskins put the New York Giants -- despite their own bumbling -- in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East. The Redskins, Giants and Philadelphia Eagles all have 5-7 records. The 4-8 Cowboys are -- amazingly -- one game out of first place.

The NFC East is nothing if not entertaining. Awful, but entertaining. Doesn't anyone want to win this thing? Giants players took to Twitter to celebrate after Dan Bailey of Dallas hit the game-winning field goal.

The Giants, of course, wouldn't be in the position of having to be thankful for the rest of the division's ineptitude if their own recent play was worth celebrating. Opportunity, though, is opportunity. Will the Giants be the team that takes advantage of it?

"We're still very much in it, but we've got to win some games and just got to start now. Got to start with Miami, so we've got to --€” we can't get discouraged, we can't have any quit in us, we've got to keep fighting, continue to have a great week of preparation, practice, and then perform at a higher level on game day," quarterback Eli Manning said on Monday. "Just get some energy back into the locker room, get some excitement and get that winning feeling back."

NFC East standings

NFC East Overall W-L Pct GB Div W-L Home Road Streak
Philadelphia 5-7 0.417 -- 2-2 2-3 3-4 W1
Washington 5-7 0.417 -- 2-2 5-2 0-5 L1
NY Giants 5-7 0.417 -- 2-3 3-3 2-4 L3
Dallas 4-8 0.333 1.0 3-2 1-5 3-3 W1

Remaining schedules

Giants

12/14 -- @ Miami Dolphins
12/20 -- vs. Carolina Panthers
12/27 -- @ Minnesota Vikings
1/3 -- vs. Eagles

Eagles

12/13 -- vs. Buffalo Bills
12/20 -- vs. Arizona Cardinals
12/26 -- vs. Washington Redskins
1/3 -- @ Giants

Redskins

12/13 -- @ Chicago Bears
12/20 -- vs. Buffalo Bills
12/26 -- @ Eagles
1/3 -- @ Cowboys

Cowboys

12/13 -- @ Green Bay Packers
12/19 -- vs. New York Jets
12/27 -- @ Buffalo Bills
1/3 -- vs. Washington Redskins

Final thoughts

Some alleged fans have already checked out on the season, rooting for losses, a higher draft pick and the firings of Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese. Rooting for your team to fail is incomprehensible.

As I said above, opportunity is opportunity. They don't come along every year, and despite the Giants' failings this is their best opportunity since 2012. Of course it would be nice if the Giants hadn't blown so many games, had eight or nine wins and were cruising to the division title. They aren't, but they still have a chance. They should be excited about that. You should, too.

You never know what can happen if you get into the tournament. If any team is proof of that, it is the Giants themselves. Besides, reaching the playoffs would be a good experience for this group of young Giants who haven't experienced that success. To get there they will have to do some things right down the stretch, and doing that would be a building block for the future.

Look at the Carolina Panthers. They reached the playoffs last season with a 7-8-1 record. Ugly, but they got there. This season they are 12-0, the league's only remaining unbeaten team. Maybe the Giants can use a playoff run as a similar springboard to a successful 2016 season.

Looking at the schedules above, does anyone have an advantage? Impossible to tell with the inconsistent nature of all of these teams. The thing that jumps out, though, is that the Eagles have three straight home games before their Week 17 game at MetLife Stadium against the Giants.

Somehow, it still seems possible that Eagles-Giants in Week 17 could be for all the marbles in the NFC East. That would be fun, regardless of how the teams get there.