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NFC East Foes Unlikely To Supplant The Dallas Cowboys

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The Dallas Cowboys, led by QB Tony Romo, should have control of the uncharacteristically weak NFC East by the end of October. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.
The Dallas Cowboys, led by QB Tony Romo, should have control of the uncharacteristically weak NFC East by the end of October. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images.

If the NFL playoffs started today … well, it's fortunate for the NFC that they don't. Only five teams in the conference carry a winning record, whereas 10 teams in the AFC are above .500.

The NFC East, at a combined 3-9, carries the worst divisional record in football. Only the Dallas Cowboys are upholding honor at 2-1.

Meanwhile, the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, both 0-3 out of the gate, seem to have buried their respective chances for the remainder of this season. Only three teams in a generation — the 1992 San Diego Chargers, the 1995 Detroit Lions and the 1998 Buffalo Bills — have made the playoffs after dropping their first three games, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

So where does that leave the somewhat mysterious Philadelphia Eagles, who had such an auspicious opening night in Washington, then quickly tumbled to earth with two straight home losses?

To answer that question, let's take a look at where each of the NFC combatants may stand through the end of October.

Dallas plays three of its next five games against teams with losing records. Barring upsets, the Cowboys should be no worse than 5-3 at the midpoint of the season.

Philadelphia plays its next three games on the road. At best, the Eagles are likely to salvage one of those meetings. They'll close out October at home with the Cowboys and Giants, and we'll charitably give them a split of those two contests. That would put the Eagles at 3-5.

New York must play at Kansas City and at Chicago in the next three weeks. We'll give a nod to Tom Coughlin's ability to motivate and predict a Giants victory in one of those two games. We'll also give the Giants a split of two games with the Eagles and a home victory over the Vikings. That would put the Giants at 3-5.

Washington should get a victory at Oakland in Week 4 — they couldn't possibly fall to 0-4, could they? — and will take their bye in Week 5. The ‘Skins then must run the gauntlet of playing the Cowboys, Bears and Broncos in three successive weeks. The best-case scenario looks like a single win for the Redskins in that grouping, which would put the Redskins at 2-5.

If we forecast a modest 9-7 record to capture the NFC East this year, Dallas should be in the driver's seat, needing only to split its last eight games to take the title. That stretch will include games with the Vikings, Giants, Raiders, Redskins and Eagles.

While all of this is subject to the vagaries of injuries at key positions, the Eagles, Giants and Redskins don't appear to ready to wrest control of a division that's there for the taking.