Throughout the NFL’s 100 year history, no division has sustained more success than the National Football Conference East. Teams in the division have won 13 Super Bowls, more than any other division, and every organization in the division has had stretches of sustained success.
However, this season the division has been historically bad, with every team failing to meet their expectations.
Currently, the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles are the “leaders” of the struggling division with a record of 6-7. The Cowboys are on a three-game losing streak, headlined by a loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving day. The Eagles are coming off a Monday Night Football win against their NFC East rival the New York Giants.
They started off the year with Super Bowl expectations and won their first three games convincingly. However, they have only won three games since Week Three, and have failed to beat a team with a winning record all season.
On the field, the Cowboys’ running game has not been as productive as in past seasons, forcing them to emphasize their passing attack more than they would like to.
Off the field, there is speculation about head coach Jason Garrett’s job security as this is the last year of his contract.
While owner Jerry Jones and Garrett have a good relationship, their current losing streak has challenged Jones’ patience.
The Cowboys’ only serious challenger, the Philadelphia Eagles, were on their own losing streak, highlighted by a loss in Miami to the lowly Dolphins, until winning a thrilling overtime Monday Night Football game against the Giants led by quarterback Eli Manning.
In recent losses against the Patriots and Seahawks their defense performed well, allowing 17 points in each game, but Carson Wentz and the offense sputtered, only scoring one touchdown in each game. Both Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson have missed significant time due to various injuries, and their other receivers have not stepped up in their absences.
Meanwhile against Miami, the offense gave them a 28-14 lead early in the third quarter, but the Dolphins scored touchdowns on consecutive drives of 75, 61 and 96 yards to take the lead for good.
While they had the easiest remaining schedule in the league before their game against Miami, they showed that there are no easy wins in the NFL.
Washington is 3-10, has already fired its head coach and has transitioned to rookie Dwayne Haskins as their starting quarterback. While they were eliminated with this week’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, they have one game each against the Eagles and Cowboys for a chance to play spoiler.
Their future looks bleak as well, as they need to hire a new head coach, develop Haskins into the future franchise quarterback and most importantly repair the relationship with their fanbase.
Arguably, no team in the NFL has been playing as poorly as the Giants, who have not won a game since Week Four against Washington.
The Giants are also dealing with some growing pains of playing a rookie quarterback in Daniel Jones. Jones has shown flashes, with two games over 300 yards passing and four passing touchdowns. However, ball security remains a massive concern for Jones, as his 15 fumbles lead the NFL.
With each mounting loss, it is becoming more and more plausible that the Giants move on from head coach Pat Shurmer and General Manager Dave Gettleman once the season comes to a close.
Ultimately, the most important game to find the “winner” of the NFC East will be when the Cowboys travel to Philadelphia on December 22. When Philadelphia visited Dallas Week Seven, Dallas cruised to a 37-10 win. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for over 230 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown.
With a win over the Giants on Monday night, the Eagles and Cowboys are tied for first place at 6-7. Philadelphia’s remaining schedule includes games at Washington and the Giants. Dallas hosts the Rams and Washington.
For the Eagles to win the division and return to the postseason, they will need to beat Dallas (a series sweep gives the Cowboys another win and the tie-breaker). However, I believe that Philadelphia will gain confidence with a win over Washington and will beat Dallas by stopping Ezekiel Elliott and the running game, and forcing Dak Prescott into mistakes, which will propel them to a division “championship.”