November 27, 2022
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NFC East is the NFC Least no more

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You’ve resurrected a season that looked to be doomed in Week 1, you say? Unearthed one of the most likable backup quarterbacks of this or any other season? Boasted the kind of ferocious defensive playmaking that any head coach would delight in? 

Wait, what, all of the above? 

Yeah, sorry Dallas Cowboys, not good enough. All those things are great, but it’s the bronze medal for you and nothing more, for now anyway. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.  

Who’s next? 

You’ve put together your franchise’s best start to a season in 14 years? Lifted the spirits of your long-suffering fan base to unthinkable levels? Beaten up some fine teams and happened upon a guy who seems to be an unexpected coaching genius? 

Huh, all of the above, again? 

Yeah, sorry New York Giants, not good enough from you either. All that fun and optimism, and still it’s just the silver medal, until you prove otherwise. 

Welcome to the wacky world of the NFC East, home of the hottest teams in professional football, and where a scarcely conceivable turnaround has taken place. 

Worst-to-first truly applies when it comes to taking the present quality level of the division formerly known as the NFC Least, and matching it up with the rather dire stuff it produced through the past several years. Right now the division is being fronted, of course, by the indomitable Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL’s only undefeated team as they emerge from a well-deserved bye week. 

The Eagles’ surge behind QB Jalen Hurts is why the 5-2 Cowboys, heading into Sunday’s home clash against the Chicago Bears (1 p.m. ET on FOX and FOX Sports App), need to win to avoid getting cut loose, never mind the warm feelings generated by Cooper Rush’s admirable deputization and Dak Prescott’s welcome return. 

It is also why the Giants carry some pressure into their road tilt with the Seattle Seahawks (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App), regardless of being in the heady sphere of a 6-1 start, the kind of thing not experienced since the days when Michael Strahan and Eli Manning got paid for donning football uniforms instead of hosting TV shows. 

“The Giants have become the best second half football team in the league,” FS1’s Colin Cowherd said, on “The Herd.” “They are the second-best rushing team in the league. They are on a four-game winning streak.  

“Brian Daboll, situationally, has done a remarkable job. They are not going to blow a lot of teams out. They are going to win close, that’s what they are. That’s what they have.” 

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As things stand, it appears to be not just a possibility that the division could send three teams to the postseason, but a distinct likelihood. 

Which, in itself, creates a quirky little paradox for the Giants and Cowboys. There’s unmitigated glee about the burgeoning form, sure, but also a sense that it might not be quite enough for divisional bragging rights and a home playoff game, no matter what they do. 

The NFC East’s teams started rapidly and have managed to keep it going. It’s been based on people stepping up, like Hurts and Daniel Jones and Rush under center, and on the performances of defensive maestros like Micah Parsons in Dallas, free agent pickup Haason Reddick in Philly and a Giants unit that comes up big when it counts. 

Even the cellar-dwelling Washington Commanders aren’t that bad at 3-5, having trumped the Green Bay Packers last weekend, even though it did nothing to stop them remaining well off the NFC East’s blistering pace. In games against non-division teams, the NFC East is 16-3. 

The Eagles have just flown clear, the Giants have surprised on a weekly basis, and the Cowboys have survived a number of squeakers, despite an offensive approach that prioritized caution than explosiveness during Prescott’s absence. 

The division’s new-found bullishness was summed up by Dallas owner Jerry Jones, speaking about playoff action not as a goal, but as an assumption. 

“When you get to the playoffs, you better be ready to play that way,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan, referring to how the team’s had hung tough in recent close games. “When you get to the playoffs you’re going to be in close games more than likely. Things are tighter fits all the way around. I think we are practicing playoff football.” 

All the redemptive vibes have combined to make a blockbuster story, in reality a series of tales wrapped into one. Each effort – from the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys – is worthy and notable. That they’ve all happened simultaneously is one of those freaky football coincidences, and it’s made their division the go-to place for excellent football and high drama. 

Around Thanksgiving time is when it is going to get even juicier, for that is when the meat of the divisional slate is situated. 

For now, it is simply about trying to keep the momentum going, albeit peppered by the slightly disquieting thought that – this season – excellence still might not be good enough. 

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter. 


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