- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2020

The NFC East is on pace to be the NFL’s worst division of all time in terms of winning percentage. But if you’re a fan of one of the four teams in the division, you likely woke up Monday with a strange feeling: Hope.

OK, maybe “hope” is too strong a word for anyone in Philadelphia.

The Eagles’ 22-17 loss Sunday to the Cleveland Browns dropped Philadelphia to 3-6-1 this season. The Washington Football Team is now a half-game back for the division lead. So too are the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants — all three are at 3-7.

That’s right, your team can win the NFC East. Even the Eagles, no matter how dire things must feel after Carson Wentz laid another egg. Let’s look at the paths for each.

Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1)

Games left: Seahawks, at Packers, Saints, at Cardinals, at Cowboys, Washington.

The Eagles have a brutal upcoming three-game slate, but the schedule gets softer after that — and has two divisional games to end the year. Five-thirty still pegs their chances of winning the division at 38%, better than the other three. Let’s ignore that the percentage was 70% higher two weeks ago.

But more than anything else, Philadelphia’s Week 3 tie with the Cincinnati Bengals could end up being a huge advantage down the stretch. The tie, after all, is a key reason why the Eagles still have the division lead. Philadelphia is just 2-2 in the NFC East, while the Giants are 3-2.

New York Giants (3-7)

Games left: at Bengals, at Seahawks, Cardinals, Browns, at Ravens, Cowboys.

New York was on a bye over the weekend, but the team entered the break with momentum. The Giants seem to be coming together under first-year coach Joe Judge, whose no-nonsense approach has helped New York play tough, physical football. Their defense is a pleasant surprise, ranking 12th in points per game allowed (23.6).

The offense, too, has withstood the loss of running back Saquon Barkley as Wayne Gallman and Alfred Morris have gotten the job done. 

The most impressive thing about New York’s two-game winning streak, however, has been quarterback Daniel Jones’ ability to protect the football. The 23-year-old went both wins without a turnover, the longest streak of his two-year career.

Dallas Cowboys (3-7)

Games left: Washington, at Ravens, at Bengals, 49ers, Eagles, at Giants.

Don’t look now, but here come the Cowboys. Sure, quarterback Andy Dalton still may be dealing with COVID-19 side effects — he told reporters last week he has yet to fully regain his sense of smell and taste after catching the virus — but the veteran was impressive in Dallas’ 31-28 upset over the Minnesota Vikings. Dalton had his best outing of the season with three touchdowns, and the Cowboys need him to just play well enough with the exceptional playmakers (Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup) around him.

The Cowboys have the easiest schedule remaining of any team in the division — with only one (6-4 Baltimore Ravens) of their last six opponents currently above .500. Dallas was a trainwreck to begin the year, but may have figured things out. The team jettisoned veterans Dontari Poe and Daryl Worley on defense, and the unit has been better since. The Cowboys are giving up 25 points per game over their last three contests — a number that’s still bad, but better than the historically awful 34.7 points per game allowed over the first half of the season.

Washington (3-7)

Games left: at Cowboys, at Steelers, at San Francisco, Seahawks, Panthers, at Eagles.

Here’s a fun fact, Washington actually leads the NFC East in point differential. The team has still been outscored by a total of 27 points, but the stat shows that Washington has played in more competitive games than the rest of the division. Washington’s last three losses have been by a field goal or less.

Coach Ron Rivera believes that the close defeats are starting to pay dividends for his young, developing team. Washington beat the Bengals 20-9 on Sunday, forcing a comeback after Joe Burrow’s injury. “They play hard to the end,” he said Monday. “They put themselves in position to win. Now, it’s just a matter of winning.” Washington’s three straight road games aren’t ideal, but it has a chance to temporarily grab first-place with a win over the Cowboys on Thursday.


• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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