Around The NFC East: Looking Into Week 14 And Beyond

With three 5-7 teams and one 4-8 team, the NFC East is the worst division in football right now.  Even the AFC South, another symbol of mediocrity, has at least two teams with a .500 record right now.  That is not the case in the NFC East, though, where every team currently has a losing record, and no team is the decided favorite to win the division.

After the Redskins 16-19 loss to the Cowboys last night, the Redskins have failed again to win two consecutive games all season.  What is worse, though, is that, this time, they couldn’t break the trend against consecutive NFC East opponents after beating the Giants last week but losing to the Cowboys this week.  They are tied with a 2-2 divisional record with the Eagles, but they still sit atop the NFC East because they have head-to-head advantages over the Eagles and Giants at the moment.  However, they finish the season playing on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in Weeks 16 and 17, respectively.  Their remaining schedule goes as follows: @Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills, @Philadelphia Eagles, @Dallas Cowboys.  With the Bears (5-7) and Bills (6-6) as their next two opponents, they have the easiest two-game stretch among NFC East teams coming up, but they still need to prove that they can win two consecutive games this season before the advantage is given to them.  In addition, with three away games left on the schedule, they could have a difficult time winning the division considering that they have not won an away game all season, currently standing 0-5 in away games and 5-2 at home.

The Giants (5-7) are in a difficult spot because Washington and Philadelphia currently hold the tiebreaker edge against them, and they have just one divisional game left in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Giants, who are currently 2-3 in the division compared to the Redskins and Eagles at 2-2, have had multiple opportunities to run away with the division throughout the season, but they have not been able to take advantage of the situation and have the worst record of the NFC East teams over their past three games (0-3).  Their next four contests go as follows: @Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers, @Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles.  The Dolphins (5-7) are in the bottom of the AFC East, and they are a long shot to make playoffs this year.  The Carolina Panthers (12-0), the only undefeated team in the NFL, may have a first-round bye locked down by the time they face the Giants but are playing great football now regardless.  The Minnesota Vikings (8-4), currently tied atop the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers (8-4), are likely to be fighting for their playoff lives in the Week 16 game before the Giants face the Eagles.

The Philadelphia Eagles (5-7) are an erratic team in an inconsistent division over their past three games. They gave up 45 points to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions but then beat the Patriots, 35-28, at the Patriots stadium.  That outcome just doesn’t make sense.  Since the Eagles play the Redskins and Giants in Weeks 16 and 17, they would have the tiebreaker advantage against both teams if they win both games, and, since they are currently 2-2 in the division, they can go to 4-2 by the end of the season.  However, the Eagles schedule is not the easiest in the NFC East moving forward.  The Eagles schedule goes as follows: Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, @New York Giants.  Playing at home over the next three games could be seen as an advantage from one perspective; however, the next two weeks should be especially difficult, and the Eagles are 2-3 at home.  When they face the Bills (6-6) this week, they will be playing against LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia for the first time since he was traded in the offseason.  The Cardinals (10-2) have one of the best defenses in the league and the highest scoring offense in the league.  The Eagles will need play exceptionally well to beat the Cardinals before finishing the season against two division rivals.

The Dallas Cowboys (4-8) are surprisingly still in the playoff race because the NFC East is just that bad this season. The 4-8 teams in other NFC divisions – Detroit Lions, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers, and St. Louis Rams – are at least four games behind the leaders in their respective divisions.  But that’s not the case with the NFC East, and the Dallas Cowboys, who have lost twice as many games as they have won and suffered through a seven-game losing streak, are only one game behind the leaders and still in contention in the division.  What makes the situation even more striking, though, is that three of their four wins have come against divisional opponents, giving them a 3-2 record in the division – the best divisional record among NFC East teams.  Their remaining schedule goes as follows: @Green Bay Packers, New York Jets, @Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins.  Dallas just won their first game without Tony Romo playing quarterback, but they could struggle to continue that streak.  The Packers (8-2) are fighting to win the NFC North over Minnesota, and the Jets (7-5) currently hold the last wildcard spot in the AFC and will be hungry to keep the momentum moving with five teams tied or at least one game away from them in AFC standings.

None of the NFC East teams have shown any trend towards running away with the lead in the division, and, over the past three games, the records show no clear-cut front runner: Giants (0-3), Eagles (1-2), Redskins (1-2), and Cowboys (2-1).  Sure, Dallas has the best record over their past three games, but they have a tough schedule remaining and have struggled without Tony Romo playing quarterback.  The NFC East is a division of mediocrity, but, form another viewpoint, it can also be seen as one of contention.  It is fair to wonder if any of these teams will be able to make a deep playoff run even if they win the division, but the hope of the underdog winning makes the issue compelling.

Questions/Comments?  @sean__cumming

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