The NFC Least? Nay, too easy everybody uses that. The wild, wild east? I like that one more. I know the saying is a bit off, but what other way is there to describe the NFL’s most underwhelming and most unpredictable division? If that wasn’t clear before, then Monday Night’s supposed NFC east showdown proved it.
The Cowboys win over the Redskins left the NFC east with all teams under .500. Currently, three teams: Washington, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles, are all tied for first place in the division with a pathetic 5-7 record. Dallas is now one game behind with a 4-8 record.
This division is a hot mess, there is no other way to describe it. The only reason to talk about the NFC Least—I had to say it at least once—is because someone has to win it and subsequently host a playoff game—something that is completely unfair and must be changed but I digress.
The truth is the division has been wild for a long time now. The last four years have featured each team winning the division once—Dallas last year, Philly in 2013, Washington in 2012 and NY in 2011. If the Cowboys fail to repeat as division champions, then this will be the 11th consecutive year that a different team has won the NFC east.
Yet, all past seasons combined is nothing compared to the bad football we have seen from all of these teams this year. But maybe that’s the appeal? For whatever reason, every week I’m more and more intrigued by the poor play I continue to see. So much so that I’m actually going to try to predict—I know, it’s blasphemous to even try—the standings of the NFC east at the end of week 17. This will be fun.
#4 Dallas Cowboys (4-12)
Predicting the Cowboys will lose their last four games is not shocking at all. Dallas is left without its star quarterback Tony Romo for the rest of the season. Romo’s backup, Matt Cassel, has ranged from looking awful to looking completely average with five touchdowns to five interceptions and a QB rating of 79.0. The Cowboys’ passing offense currently ranks 28th in the league.
The running game has been okay, ranking 13th in the league behind Darren Mcfadden’s 687 yards which ranks 14th in the NFL. However, over the next four weeks; the Cowboys will face two top 15 defenses against the run, including the No. 1 team— the New York Jets.
Defensively, the Cowboys are much improved and it has shown in their performance on the field. They rank fifth in total defense and fifth against the pass. While the defense looks like a bright spot, it will not be able to overcome the Cowboys lack of points. They rank 29th in points scored with 18.9. Overall, the Cowboys are a good team but injuries plagued their once promising season.
#3 New York Giants (6-10)
The Giants have the toughest remaining schedule with games against two tough NFC opponents, the undefeated Carolina Panthers and a team tied for first in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings. That combined with the fact that they have the second-to-worst defense in the NFL will be their downfall.
It doesn’t help that New York has been horrible in the running game this year, managing only 88 yards per game, ranking 29th in the league. Its two good rankings are in the passing game and the points scored per game department, which both rank seventh in the league.
However, the last two weeks have been difficult for Eli Manning as he has shown glimpses of his old ways, turning the ball over four times. His total QBR is currently 14th in the league at 62.4 which is admirable but most likely not enough to carry his team to a division championship.
The Giants should be on top of the NFC east easily by this point in the season. They have been the healthiest team and they have the best quarterback in the division since Tony Romo is hurt. Yet, they have blown five fourth quarter leads this season, thus explaining the 5-7 record and my belief that they will finish 6-10 with losses to the two aforementioned opponents and to the Eagles in Week 17.
#2 Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Philadelphia is definitely the weirdest team of the bunch. This past weekend it went into Foxboro and beat the New England Patriots in a game that could end up being the upset of the year. What made it such an upset was the fact that they had been outscored 90-31 the last two weeks alone.
Still, the Eagles have been subpar all season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They only average 352 yards per game which ranks 16th in the NFL and their passing game is very limited behind quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford is currently 31st in total QBR with a 37.1 percentage.
Their illustrious free agent acquisition, Demarco Murray, has been a shell of himself only having 569 yards this season and four rushing touchdowns. At this point last year, Murray had over 1,000 yards. This has led the Eagles to have the 12th best rushing attack in the league. Philadelphia has halfheartedly included Murray within its offense, maintaining its lateral, east-west running style, a system that has yet to properly suit Murray. With the latest rumored complaints by Murray, the Eagles’ backfield situation alongside a horrendous defense which ranks 26th in yards allowed will be too problematic to overcome.
Philadelphia’s schedule looks a lot easier since they finish the season with three of its last four games at home. However, one of those is against the NFC West leading Arizona Cardinals, who just clinched their playoff spot with a 23-20 win over Minnesota, and a division game against Washington who already beat them once this year. I predict they lose both of those games, giving the Redskins the tiebreaker.
#1 Washington Redskins (7-9; Tiebreaker over Eagles)
The Redskins have the easiest remaining schedule of the bunch. Their next four opponents have a combined 20-28 record. However, Washington itself is not a great team. It has yet to win a game on the road and three of its last four games happen to be outside of the D.C area.
Washington has been pretty bad in the stats column this year. It currently ranks 25th in total yards, 21st in points scored, 26th in rushing yards and 21st in total defense. However, the reason I like the Redskins the most is because currently they are the team with the most consistent quarterback under center in Kirk Cousins. Yes, Kirk, we like that.
Over the last six weeks, Cousins has thrown 11 touchdowns to two interceptions. He has thrown over 300 yards in four games this season, the most by any Redskins QB since 1999. This has led to Washington winning four of its last six games, making it the division’s most consistent team so far.
I expect the Redskins to lose their next two games which are against formidable opponents in the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills. However, where they—and their quarterback—will shine is in the final two weeks against division opponents.
By winning the last two games against the Eagles and Cowboys they will win the division and become the third team in NFL history to make the postseason with a losing record. What a great way to end such a wild season.