Talk of Fame Network
The NFC East will crown a champion this season.
Actually, it will crown a survivor.
Once the pride of all divisions -- it captured four consecutive Super Bowls from 1990-93 by three different franchises -- the NFC East is now the worst division in football. It’s become the NFC Least.
The East is the only division whose leader has a record under .500. Two games under, in fact, with just four weekends left in the season. Make that leaders plural. Everyone is tied for first place in the East except the Cowboys. The Eagles, Giants and Redskins are all 5-7 with the Cowboys a game back at 4-8.
Since the NFL implemented a 16-game schedule in 1978, there have been only four teams that have won division titles with eight losses and another with nine losses. That was the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, who captured the NFC West with a 7-9 record.
The 1985 Cleveland Browns, 2008 San Diego Chargers and 2011 Denver Broncos all won divisions with 8-8 records and the 2014 Carolina Panthers slipped in at 7-8-1.
An 8-8 record would all but guarantee an NFC East title this season but a 7-9 record could very well be enough in a division that no one seems to want to win.
In this week’s poll, we ask our listeners and readers of The Talk of Fame Network to tell us who is going to be standing at the end. Here are the candidates:
(Dez Bryant photo courtesy of the Dallas Cowboys)
The Cowboys will close out their season without quarterback Tony Romo. Two separate broken clavicles this season limited him to four starts and Dallas won three of them. But now he’s gone and it’s up to journeyman Matt Cassel to quarterback the Cowboys down the stretch. Dallas picked him up in September when Romo fractured his clavicle the first time. Dallas became his fifth NFL team. What the Cowboys do have is the best defense in the division -- a Top 5 defense. Dez Bryant is a game-breaker if Cassel can get him the ball and Jason Witten has joined a very select fraternity with his 1,000th career catch this season. The biggest negative? The Cowboys are a league-worst minus-14 in turnovers.
(Eli Manning photo courtesy of the New York Giants)
New York Giants
The Giants have the best receiver in the NFC East in Odell Beckham Jr., and the best passing attack. New York ranks seventh in the NFL in passing and Beckham is in the Top 5 individually in catches, yards and touchdowns. The offensive line has been ravaged with injuries. Left tackle Will Beatty and right guard Geoff Schwartz are both gone for the season and the Giants still have a date looming in mid-December with the unbeaten Carolina Panthers. New York has a know-how, though, that their three division rivals lack. The Giants have a head coach and quarterback who have won two Super Bowls apiece. Coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning know how to win this time of year.
(Chip Kelly photo courtesy of the Philadelphia Eagles)
The Eagles have the biggest win in the division to date -- a 35-28 upset of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots on the opening weekend of December. Philadelphia also has the best pass rush in the division. The Eagles have sacked 30 quarterbacks, seven more than the East runnerup Cowboys, and knocked Tony Romo out in September with a hit that gave him his first fractured clavicle. The Eagles do have the reigning NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who left the Cowboys in free agency, but haven’t figured out how to use him in Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense. He was a beast for the Cowboys down the stretch last December with 418 yards and five touchdowns in the final four games of the season. He could be Philadelphia’s edge this December. The Eagles play the Arizona Cardinals at home the same weekend the Giants play the Panthers.
(Kirk Cousins photo courtesy of the Washington Redskins)
The Redskins have the best quarterback in the division in Kirk Cousins. He doesn’t make the mistakes that Manning has become prone to making in New York. Cousins has thrown only two interceptions in his last five games as the Redskins have scrambled to get back into the East race. Manning has thrown six over his last five games as the Giants have been scrambling to get out of the race. Washington also have the softest closing schedule. None of their final four opponents has a winning record and the toughest of the bunch, 6-6 Buffalo, visits FedEx Field where the Redskins have the division’s best home record at 5-2.Washington also has the best potential to run the ball down the stretch with Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones.