Sports

The NFC East Must Fulfill Its Duty to Produce the Worst Division Champion Ever

The New York Giants' Wayne Gallman leaps into a pile of Giants and Eagles players.
A healthy heap of NFC East. Elsa/Getty Images

The NFC East is a landfill. Not literally, as landfills serve a vital purpose. They teem with garbage but also life, and seagulls, rats, and insects gather to feed on the heaps of stinking detritus. The NFC East, meanwhile, offers only the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Football Team. There is no sustenance there.

The season is more than halfway over, and the Eagles, the “best” team in the NFL’s worst division, have only three wins to their name. The cream of the NFC East does not rise to the top. It curdles, and Philly’s lead atop the standings warrants little celebration.

Philadelphia Eagles: 3-5-1
New York Giants: 3-7
Washington Football Team: 2-7
Dallas Cowboys: 2-7

Of those 10 combined wins, eight came against other NFC East teams. Outside of their own division the NFC East teams are 2-18-1. One of those wins was the Cowboys’ furious Week 2 comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, back before Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a catastrophic, season-ending leg injury. The other was the Eagles’ Week 4 victory over an injury-depleted San Francisco 49ers squad. (The fallen that day included the Niners’ starting quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo.)

As was pointed out in this week’s episode of Hang Up and Listen, the 2020 NFC East is on track to be the worst division in NFL history. The four teams have a cumulative winning percentage of .284, which easily limbos under the all-time low-mark of .344 set by the NFC West in 2008.

You may recall that the Arizona Cardinals, the winner of the NFC West that year, went on to play in the Super Bowl and were a miraculous Santonio Holmes catch away from winning it all. But unlike this current crop of NFC East teams, the Cardinals actually won more games than they lost. (They went 9-7 during the regular season.) Few paths exist for any NFC East team to compile a winning record this year. FiveThirtyEight’s computer models have the Eagles as the division favorites while projecting them to finish 5-10-1.

In a reasonable society, a 5-10-1 team would be cast into the woods on a moonless night. But the NFL is a Marxist-Leninist dystopia where every division winner gets to host a playoff game. In all likelihood, the NFC East champion will have a losing record, making it the third sub-.500 team since the AFL-NFL merger to win its division. Their predecessors: the 2010 Seattle Seahawks, who went 7-9, and the 2014 Carolina Panthers, who finished 7-8-1. Both, strangely enough, won their first playoff games. (The Seahawks did so, in part, with the help of a “Beast Quake.”)

If those Seahawks and Panthers were an aberration, what does that make the team that will eventually crawl from the wreckage of the NFC East? Look upon their works and despair: With only four divisional games left, it’s unlikely that anyone will manage to cobble together enough wins to reach the lofty heights of 7-9. The NFC East champion could very well be a four-win team, and that possibility is alive for each member of this sorry quartet.

A four-win divisional triumph would be one of the most impressively pathetic achievements in the history of American professional sports. It’s also the only thing that could redeem the NFC East’s season of woe. We must pray that it happens lest all those terrible games be for naught.

The following scenarios are predicated on the completely fair assumption that each of these teams will lose all of their remaining games outside of the division. This is an NFC East matter, after all, and it needs to be settled in-house.

The NFC East champion Washington Football Team finishes the season with four wins.

How it could happen.
Washington beats Dallas in Week 12 and Philadelphia in Week 17 while the Cowboys beat the Eagles in Week 16 and the Giants in Week 17.

Will it happen?
With a name like Football Team you just know this football team is up for any challenge.

The NFC East champion New York Giants finish the season with four wins.

How it could happen.
Washington loses that Week 12 game against Dallas (but still beats Philadelphia in Week 17) and the Giants beat the Cowboys in Week 17.

Will it happen?
Much depends on Daniel Jones’ ability not to fall on his face during the last game of the season.

The NFC East champion Philadelphia Eagles finish the season with four wins.

How it could happen.
The Cowboys beat the Eagles and Giants in Weeks 16 and 17, but the Eagles beat Washington in Week 17.

Will it happen?
The outlook is good given Philadelphia’s propensity for come-from-behind victories in contests that shouldn’t have been close to begin with.

The NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys finish the season with 4 wins.

How it could happen:
The same as the Eagles’ scenario with one twist: Philadelphia and Washington tie their game in Week 17.

Will it happen?
In the words of Anton Chekhov, “If you tie against the Bengals in the first act, then you have to tie another game by the season’s end.” Congrats, Jerry Jones: You get to host a playoff game.

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