The NFC East: A Division No One Wants To Win
A year ago, the NFC East was a competitive division between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys. Eventually the Cowboys won out the division and the Eagles went home despite having a 10-6 record. The prevailing thought coming into this season was the division would be tougher. The Giants could not possibly be as bad as they were in 2014 and the Redskins had to show signs of life correct? As far as the Eagles, they underwent a makeover this offseason. Gone were quarterback Nick Foles, running back LaSean McCoy and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. And to replace them, the Eagles brought in quarterback Sam Bradford, running back DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Dallas brought in controversial pass rusher Greg Hardy to give them a legit threat in their offensive line while losing Murray to their division rivals, the Eagles. And to replace him, the Eagles signed veteran running back DeMarco Murray along with allowing young back Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar to compete for the job. The thought by many is this division would be highly competitive yet again. The competitiveness has been there, but the records and good play has not. Looking at all the teams in the division currently, not one team has more than five wins, as the Giants, Eagles and Redskins are all tied atop the division at 5-7. Sitting one game behind them is the Cowboys, who are 4-8 and still alive in this division after beating the Redskins Monday night at home.
This eyesore of this division brings back memories of the 2014 NFC South (Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7-8-1 record) and the 2010 NFC West (Seahawks won the division at 7-9). But what makes it worse in this division is each team has taken their turn being embarrassing on the field. The Eagles recently redeemed themselves this past Sunday by winning in New England. But before that, the Eagles were a team that had 45 points hung on them in consecutive weeks. The offense looked inconsistent and the defense just could not consistently defend anyone through the air. The prized defensive free agent, cornerback Byron Maxwell, was playing like an average corner instead of what they expected him to be. And the experiment of DeMarco Murray and Sam Bradford as the running back/quarterback pairing has mired in mediocrity. Despite how bad they have been, they have a chance to win the division. And with five games left, they could very well get on a roll. Given what has happened for them this season so far, they could go South at any time. But they can afford to be inconsistent based upon their divisional opponents.
The Cowboys, who were considered one of the Eagles’ main competitors, started the season 3-0. But injuries to star players Dez Bryant (foot) and Tony Romo (clavicle) changed the fortunes of this team. The Eagles would go on to lose seven straight games without Romo at the helm. It just seemed like their backup quarterbacks could not get the job done. Dallas started with Brandon Weeden out there replacing Romo and he could not get the job done. They acquired Buffalo Bills quarterback Matt Cassel when Romo went down and they ended up trotting him out there after Weeden failed at steadying the ship. Romo came back for one game, but he re-broke his clavicle and was out for the year this time. Monday was the first time they have won a game without Romo. But injuries weren’t the only issue there. The once-feared offensive line has taken a step back this season. It looks more and more like both DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys offensive line needed each other. The team cannot just bully people like they used to up front and that has been an issue. And as far as defensively, the Hardy addition has not given them the boost they thought and the turnovers they forced last season are not coming as much as they did in the past. Despite losing seven games in a row and all the problems they have had, Dallas is still in the running for the division. Some may say it is a miracle. But others may call it the teams surrounding them snatching loses from the jaws of defeat.
The Giants also have a hand in this mess of a division. Going into this season, many wondered if the Giants would pick up where they left in terms of the offensive momentum. Odell Beckham Jr and Eli seemingly picked up where they left off on the field, electrifying crowds when they connected. But for the most part, the offense of the Giants has been inconsistent. And with that inconsistency has come an uneven offense that can score points one moment and have issues the next. But they were not the only issue here. Teams seemingly light up when they see this defense. To give a few examples, the San Francisco 49ers scored their season-high in points against them and they gave up 52 points to the New Orleans Saints (that is not a typo folks). The defense has had its moments, but along with their offense, the Giants team has given up fourth quarter leads time after time. A good team would learn how to close out games. But this team just does not learn at all. This past Sunday they had a chance to close out the Jets. Instead of kicking a field goal to put them up 23-10, they went for the touchdown on fourth down and it ended up costing them the game. That’s just what kind of year it has been for the Giants. But they still have a shot at redemption within these last five games.
Last but not least, we cannot leave out the Redskins. They were leading the division heading into Monday night versus the Dallas Cowboys. With a chance to take control of the NFC East, the Redskins dropped the ball. The game showed the flaws the Redskins have been showing us all season. At times, they have had problems scoring. They have an explosive offensive weapon in wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but they tend to ignore him for long stretches of the game. The Redskins running game has been ranked towards the bottom half of the league and that showed up yet again in this one. And defensively, the Redskins actually hung in there. But they just ran out of energy and defensive backs as well. The loss dropped the Redskins to 5-2 at home this season. Not bad for a team that not many expected much from this season. But the sad thing about that 5-2 home record is that contains all the wins the Redskins have for the season. Washington only has one more home game left for the season and three more road games. The number of road games is something that is not good for Cousins, who has thrown eight of his ten interceptions there. With the Redskins trying to make that last push, they are going to have to overcome some things on the road. The good thing for them is they have the Cowboys and Eagles one more time during their home stretch albeit on the road.
The Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Cowboys have made the NFC East one of the worst divisions in football. And some are even debating whether this is the worst division ever in football. That is debatable with the NFC West Seattle won with seven wins and the NFC South Carolina won with seven wins. But what can be said is the NFC East has totally flipped from what many thought it would be this year. And instead of someone stepping up and claiming the division, it seems like each team is trying to back into the playoffs in the most frustrating style ever. We shall see what happens with four games left. The NFC East is there for the taking. Does anyone want to actually go win it?