Almost every year in the NFL, one division stands out as clearly worse than all the other divisions. In 2014, the NFC South was a historically bad division and the Carolina Panthers became the second team in NFL History to win their division with a losing record, and the first team to do it came just a few years earlier when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West in 2010 with a 7-9 record. While it is way too early in the season to start making claims about the playoffs, the NFC East could be on a similar path this year.
Right now, the Philadelphia Eagles are in the lead in the division with a 1-2-1 record. The Philadelphia Eagles are the only team in the NFC East with major recent success after winning a Super Bowl in the 2017 season, but in the two full years since they have put up somewhat lackluster 9-7 seasons and haven’t made it past the divisional round since their Super Bowl victory. The Eagles can take some positives from their subpar start with an impressive victory over reigning NFC Champions San Francisco 49ers as well as the fact that they got that win without Desean Jackson and Alshon Jefferey, two of their top receivers. The Eagles have also been without starting right guard Lane Johnson, who is expected to return at some point in the next few weeks. The Eagles could be in the driver’s seat in the NFC East if they can get all their starters back from injury, however they have the toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NFC East with their remaining opponents having a collective .511 winning percentage. The Eagles tough strength of schedule will be a difficult hurdle to overcome since the Dallas Cowboys remaining opponents have a league-worst .372 winning perecentage
The Cowboys had high expectations coming into this year, with many analysts listing them as Super Bowl contenders. However, horrendous defensive performances have led them to a dismal 1-3 start to open the season. Many thought the Cowboys could turn it around this season with a new head coach and defensive coordinator. However, this year looks to be more of the sameteam that seems haunted by the ghost of Jason Garrett and his numerous mediocre seasons. Despite the Cowboys offense being first in the league in yards per game and third in points per game, their defense is 29th in yards allowed per game and last in points per game, which has cost them precious wins. The highlight of the Cowboys’ season thus far happened with their comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons. They were down as much as 20 points in the first quarter, and with 2:52 left in the game, the Falcons were given a 99.9% win probability, but the Cowboys completed the comeback for their sole win this season. If the Cowboys can fix their defensive woes, it is still early enough in the season to live up to their pre-season hype. They hope to begin their turnaround against division opponent New York Giants this week.
The New York Giants were expected to be at the bottom of the NFL this year after going just 4-12 last year. This is quarterback Daniel Jones first full season as a starter after he took over the reigns from long-time starter Eli Manning early in last season. The Giants drafted Daniel Jones with the second overall pick in 2019, a highly controversial pick that remains to be seen whether or not it will pan out. Despite a successful 2016 season for the Giants where they had an 11-5 record and made the playoffs, they are 13-39 since then. While the Giants front office hopes the combo of Daniel Jones and former Rookie of the Year running back Saquon Barkley can lead them back to success, this season seems doomed after Barkley had a season-ending ACL tear in week 2. At this point, it seems the Giants are more likely to get the number one pick rather than a playoff spot. If the Giants get the coveted first pick, it seems almost a certainty that the Giants pick Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who has been considered to be the number one pick possibility since his freshman year, subsequently ending Jones’ quick stint as the starting quarterback.
The Washington Football Team looks to be the bottom of the barrel in the NFC East and the NFL as a whole. They last made the playoffs in 2015 and only have 3 winning seasons since 2008. After losing quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency after the 2017 season, Washington has had a carousel at quarterback that continues this season after head coach Ron Rivera announced this week that he is benching Dwayne Haskins for Kyle Allen. Dwayne Haskins was Washington’s first round pick in 2019. He was the backup his rookie year but started several games due to Case Keenum getting a concussion. Despite being named the starter this season, Rivera benched him after several subpar performances. Washington will most likely be fighting with the Giants and a slew of other teams for the number one pick, and probably, for Trevor Lawrence specifically.
It is still too early in the season to start making grand declarations, but if the trend continues the NFC East could rival the 2014 NFC South for one of the worst divisions in NFL history. The two division favorites, the Cowboys and Eagles, have had rough starts but both have the potential to turn the season around and fight for a playoff spot, but there is a clear divide between those teams and the Giants and Washington who will be competing for a higher draft pick.