Once upon a time there was a division in the NFL that was so good it was the envy of all others. It had a team in the nation's birthplace; a team in the nation's capital; a team in the nation's largest media market; and, of course, it had America's Team.

For a long period of time, it was also rare that the league held a Super Bowl without one of those teams.

The NFC East truly was a beast.

That, of course, has not been the case for quite some time. Only two of the division's four teams - the Eagles and New York Giants - have been to the Super Bowl since the turn of the century, and even though the Giants have won two Super Bowls, those were victories born out of perfect timing rather than sheer dominance.

It was not like the late 1980s through the mid-1990s, when the NFC East won seven out of 10 Super Bowl titles, a string broken up only by the San Francisco 49ers' dynasty. Other divisions had some great teams. The NFC East had battles royal.

Even after some lean years, the division's 12 Super Bowl titles are still more than any other, as are the 20 title-game appearances in the 46 years since the AFL-NFL merger. It is the only division in which every team has made at least two Super Bowl appearances and the only one that has had at least three teams win multiple titles.

This comes up now because it appears the NFC East is in the midst of a rebirth that could remind us of that great era during the 1980s and '90s.

One year after being the only division in the NFC that had a losing record outside its division, the Eagles, Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and Washington Redskins have combined to go 21-6-1 against the rest of the NFL so far this season.

The NFC East has gone four years without putting a team in the Super Bowl, and it has never gone five. The Cowboys, 10-1 after their Thanksgiving win over Washington, are the best bet to end that string this season because they have come up with a 21st-century version of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, and Dez Bryant are the best offensive trio in the game right now, and they are buoyed by a young offensive line filled with three first-round picks. As painful as it might be for fans of the other three teams in the division, the Cowboys appear to be built to last.

That does not mean the other teams in the division cannot contend with them in the coming years. Washington won the division last year, but skeptics remained because there were not a lot of believers in quarterback Kirk Cousins. There should be lots of Cousins believers now, and he's only 28 with a solid supporting cast of receivers and running backs.

At 7-3, the Giants might be the most surprising team in the division, but they spent their money wisely in the offseason to upgrade their defense and have a cast of dangerous young receivers. How good they remain into the future depends on how long and how well Eli Manning plays.

The Eagles, of course, are the only NFC East team that has not won the Super Bowl, unless you want to count the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, who moved to the NFC West in 2002. It appears the Eagles also might be the odd team out of the playoffs this season, although they would certainly be in the thick of the race with a win Monday night against Green Bay.

Even if the Eagles fail to make the playoffs this season, they, too, appear to have a promising future with Carson Wentz at quarterback and the best defense in the division.

Of course that might all sound familiar. The Eagles had some terrific young quarterbacks and incredible defenses during the dominant years of the NFC East, but they could never figure out how to be the last team standing.

@brookob