In 2020, the NFC east division finished the season with a combined record of 23-40-1. The division was so abysmal the 6-10 New York Giants had a shot to win it in week 17. The 7-9 division winners, the Washington Commanders, lost a 31-23 home game to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Outrage ensued by media members and fans of other teams, who demanded division winners lose their ability to host a home playoff game. 2021 improved, with a combined division record of 32-36. The Dallas Cowboys finished 12-5, and the Philadelphia Eagles 9-8. The Commanders finished at a respectable 7-10, and the Giants at 4-13.
In 2022, all four teams were either in a playoff spot or playoff contention in week 17. The division combined finished with a 43-23-2 record, a ridiculous resurgence. The Eagles finished 14-3, the Cowboys 12-5, the Giants 9-7-1, and the Commanders 8-8-1. The Commanders’ 8-8-1 finish is even respectable for a last-place team. It’s possible the NFC east would have sent four teams to the playoffs if the Commanders didn’t start Carson Wentz in week 17. Washington could have kept their playoff spot with a win over the Cleveland Browns, but instead, were eliminated.
2007 and 2008 were the last times the NFC east finished with no losing teams, with combined records of 40-24 and 38-25-1. In 2022, the NFC east made history. With the Cowboys’ and Giants’ wins on wild card weekend, three NFC east teams will play in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
It’s the first division since the 2002 realignment to have three teams advance to that round. It was done once in 1997, before the realignment in the NFC central. The Green Bay Packers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Minnesota Vikings all advanced to the divisional round that year as well. The Packers enjoyed a bye that wild-card weekend and the Vikings and Buccaneers won their wild-card matchups.
The NFC east has a 75% chance of reaching the Super Bowl, and we could see two potential NFC east championship game matchups. We could see the Eagles host the Cowboys, or the Cowboys host the Giants. An NFC championship game in Philadelphia with the Eagles and Cowboys would be the NFL’s dream, for both fans and media. One has to wonder if the NFL strategically officiates both games this weekend to make this happen.
Will The NFC East Division Success Continue?
The sky is the limit for this team. Jalen Hurts is only 24 years old, and the Eagles 2023 roster will be filled with young talent. Their only weaknesses lie in the secondary if Bradberry leaves, and the interior defensive line. Luckily they have the draft capital and a cap space wizard in Howie Roseman to keep the Eagles depth chart. The only thing that could hurt the Eagles is not having adequate replacements for the coaches they could lose.
Dak Prescott is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL, but he’ll be 30 years old this year. The Cowboys are getting older on the offensive line and could use help in the secondary and at wide receiver. Zeke will be another year older. The Cowboys will be a contender, but it will be interesting to see how Jerry rebuilds in the trenches on offense.
New York Giants:
The Giants have found their coaching staff, but they need the talent. They are weak at skill positions on offense and could use trench help on offense and defense. Daniel Jones is having his best season 4 years into his career and could earn a payday. It’s possible that could hinder the Giants’ ability to add more talent, but are a wild-card contender at worst, barring setbacks and injury.
The Commanders are poorly coached, inconsistent on defense, and have no long-term answer at quarterback. Sam Howell will be starting in 2023, and he’s still unknown. At present moment, they are the NFC east team most likely to miss the playoffs in 2023. If their defense is respectable, they could still hover close to a .500 record.
It should be noted that the NFC east faces a tougher collective NFL schedule in 2023, making it unlikely to see similar results. It’s extremely tough for three teams from a division to make the divisional round of the playoffs, which is why it rarely happens.
For now, however, the NFC “beast” is back.
It’s Okay To Embrace or NOT Embrace Divisional Success
In a perfect world, I’d prefer only the Eagles to be good. I am very vocal about wanting our rivals to be terrible indefinitely, and I hate when they improve. I do not want rival teams or fans enjoying any playoff success or Lombardi trophies. It was tough to stomach both Giants’ wins in the last decade.
Others may feel differently and enjoy the division’s dominance after the criticism of 2020. They may feel pride knowing that a tough division makes the team battle-tested. A tough division also dispels any strength of schedule narratives. Strangely, it may even make NFC east rivals bond. Who knows?
The NFC ‘beast’ has not had back-to-back divisional winners since 2003 and 2004, is the division of parity and is never boring. It’s still the only division where all four members have a Super Bowl. Now we have the possibility of seeing two members face off in the NFC championship game, two seasons after being the worst division in the NFL.
Although facing a rival in a title game could be unsettling, I must admit the atmosphere would be out of this world. The NFC east turnaround also reminds us why the NFL is the greatest sport, with the easiest opportunity for a quick rebuild. I can acknowledge that the NFC beast success has a great and historical meaning for the NFL and will drive ratings.
Enough with the divisional pride. It’s time to eliminate the Giants. Get your popcorn ready.