Maybe the football gods simply decided that it would be inappropriate for the Eagles to win the division this easily. They saw the Cowboys hire Mike McCarthy as their head coach, and they saw the Giants hire Jason Garrett as their offensive coordinator, and they saw Washington decide to head into the season with Dwayne Haskins as its starting quarterback. So they decided that an intercession was in order.
That’s a cruel way to operate the universe when you consider the personal impact of the Eagles' injury afflictions. Yet you can’t really fault the gods for thinking that something needed to be done. The only way the NFC East was going to offer viewers any amount of drama was for the Eagles to spend the first seven weeks of the season beating themselves. Even then, here they are, sitting at 2-4-1 and facing a realistic path to the postseason that requires them to win only four more games.
It was right around the time that Daniel Jones tripped over the 20-yard line that I decided to take a peek at what the future held in store for the NFC East. The Eagles seemed headed for an inexcusable loss that, in a lot of situations, might have constituted a fireable offense. The quarterback was running for his life and making the kind of throws that would get an intramural quarterback yanked. The defense was deciding that a quarterback keeper was the appropriate time to resume social distancing. And, apparently, the head coach was turning over his red-zone play-calling duties to the fan with the highest blood alcohol content.
As Jones stumbled to the turf at the end of an 80-yard run, a question crossed my mind. Is it really going to take seven wins to win this division?
As you might have guessed, the answer is a resounding no. At least, not necessarily. In fact, if you could sit here and tell me that one of these teams was actually going to make it to seven wins, I’d tell the trophy engravers to get started on the order.
I can’t blame you if you think that sounds far-fetched. Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, there has never been a team that has qualified for the playoffs with fewer than seven wins. Only twice has a seven-win team managed the feat: the 2014 Panthers and the 2010 Seahawks. (Interestingly, both ended up winning a wild-card game before losing in the divisional round). Only seven times has a team entered Week 8 with fewer than three wins and qualified for the playoffs. If the Cowboys lose to the Redskins on Sunday, somebody in the NFC East will be guaranteed to do it.
Can the Eagles get to seven? They might not even need to.
The Cowboys still have games against the Steelers and 49ers at home (loss and loss), the Ravens on the road (loss), and the Vikings (win) and Bengals (loss) on the road. Even if they steal one from Pittsburgh or San Francisco, or beat the Bengals in Cincy, that would still leave them needing to go 4-1 in their remaining division games just reach 8-8.
Likewise, the Giants play the Buccaneers at home next week, in addition to future road games against the Seahawks and Ravens. That leaves them staring at the likelihood of nine losses before we even consider their game in Cincinnati, or home games against the Cardinals and Browns, or their three remaining division games.
The Football Team down in Washington? If we must, mark them down for losses in Pittsburgh, in San Francisco, and at home against the Seahawks. Beyond that, Washington has a road game against the Lions (loss) and home games against the Bengals (win) and Panthers (win), plus four division games.
The Eagles' road isn’t exactly easy, but they do have the benefit of playing the Browns. I have them beating Cleveland, losing in Green Bay, and losing two out of three to the Seahawks and Saints at home and the Cardinals on the road.
Given all of these things, the Eagles would be sitting at 4-6-1, the Cowboys at 3-8, the Giants at 4-9, and Washington at 3-9 with the remaining division games unaccounted for.
Week 7: Dallas at Washington (DALLAS)
Week 8: Dallas at Eagles (EAGLES)
Week 9: New York at Washington (NEW YORK)
Week 10: Eagles at New York (EAGLES)
Week 12: Washington at Dallas (DALLAS)
Week 16: Eagles at Dallas (DALLAS)
Week 17: Washington at Eagles (EAGLES), Dallas at New York (DALLAS)
If everybody beats the Football Team, and the Eagles beat the Giants again and split with the Cowboys, the Eagles would finish the season at 7-8-1 (wins over Cleveland, Dallas, New York, Arizona, Washington), while the Cowboys would finish at a maximum of 7-9 (wins over Washington, Minnesota, Washington, Eagles, New York).
If Dallas loses one of those five games – it is currently a one-point favorite against Washington on Sunday – the Eagles win the division at 6-9-1 even with a loss to the Browns or Cardinals. Heck, winning it with a 5-10-1 record isn’t out of the question.
Your final NFC East standings:
Football Team 3-13
Hey, maybe the football gods are in favor of playing for the tie.