Strange quirk in the NFL this season. The NFC East is strong; the NFC as a whole is weak-ish.
Apparently. As the Eagles come off their bye week, this is the landscape they see.
Each week we wait for order to be restored. We’re still waiting. We see the Packers at 3-4 and wonder: Was wide receiver Davante Adams that good for Green Bay? We see the Bucs at 3-4 and think Tom Brady should have remained retired.
We see the Eagles are 6-0 and we’re surprised, if not shocked. The Giants are 6-1. That’s shocking. New coach Brian Daboll is that good?
Dallas is 5-2, right about where everybody expected to see the Cowboys. The Commanders are 3-4, lurking, and maybe with an upgrade at quarterback now that Taylor Heinicke is 1-0 while Carson Wentz is injured and out for at least three more weeks.
We read, watch video, analyze the analytics, talk to experts, do everything to help us understand the NFL, then the NFC East comes along this year and does all of this.
Remember 2020 — two whole seasons ago? Washington won the division with a 7-9 record. The Giants and Cowboys were 6-10 and the Eagles — three years removed from winning the Super Bowl — were 4-11-1.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Going into 2022, NFC East teams were among those with the easiest schedules. Based on combined winning percentages from the 2021 season, the Commanders and Cowboys tied for the easiest schedule, closely followed by the Eagles and Giants.
The schedule is the schedule, no excuses. The NFL has a formula and you play the teams on your schedule. No one should apologize for a weak schedule. Nobody can do anything about it.
The NFC East is 20-7, and four of the losses are against each other. This season’s results are more than a weak schedule; the East is legit.
The Giants defeated the Titans, Packers and Ravens — all expected losses.
The Cowboys defeated both of last year’s Super Bowl teams, the Bengals and Rams. The Commanders defeated the Packers.
What does it mean? The Eagles, even at 6-0, might not run away with the division. It means the remaining division games should be tight, maybe one-score games.
It means the first Eagles-Giants game on Dec. 11, should be very interesting — which no one expected during the offseason. Three of the Eagles’ last five games are in the division. The other two: Christmas Eve at Dallas; Jan. 8 vs. the Giants.
THE NFC BEAST
The NFC East once was the greatest division in not only football, but all of sports. No division has more Super Bowl titles (13). It’s the only division where every team has won the Lombardi Trophy, once the Eagles took the 2017 title.
- The Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1971, 1977, 1992, 1992 and 1995.
- The Giants won in 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011. The 2007 Giants defeated an 18-0 Patriots team in the Super Bowl.
- Washington won in 1982, 1987 and 1991.
WHAT UP, NFC?
As for the NFC, what is happening? The recently strong teams are struggling. There are only two NFC teams with winning records outside of the East.
Seattle leads the NFC West at 4-3. The Seahawks traded Russell Wilson in the offseason and “Vegas Insider” had 5.5 as the over/under for victories.
Minnesota leads the NFC North at 5-1, the loss at the Eagles. The NFC South has Brady but not one team with a winning record.
Brady’s Bucs are 3-4. Aaron Rodgers’ Packers are 3-4. The defending champion Rams are 3-3. The 49ers are 3-4, as are the Cardinals. The Bucs, Packers, Rams, Niners and Cardinals were playoff teams last season.
What does it mean? Does it mean the NFC East is about to dominate the NFC for the next five years? Well, possibly. The Eagles, Cowboys and Giants don’t seem like one-hit wonders, even if we’re not entirely sold on the Giants, just yet.
Will the NFC title game feature two NFC East teams? Well, possibly.
Expect one of the alleged NFC powers to go on a run and, if not challenge for the best record in the conference, at least win their division and prep for a playoff run. Of course, when you’re 3-4, you’re desperate to win a game, any game.
The Niners and Rams seemed the best equipped to get on track. Brady is Brady and Rodgers is Rodgers and you can’t count them out — no matter how disjointed they look right now.
Meanwhile, in the city of the World Series-bound Phillies, the Eagles are taking it all in, saying their focus is locked in on the Steelers on Sunday. The rest of the schedule will get here in due time.
That’s what good teams do — one game at a time. The other stuff can wait.