State Of The NFC East
All things considered, the New York Giants picked the perfect year to take the first half of the season off. With 10 weeks of the 2013 NFL season in the books, the 3-6 Giants would not be defined as a playoff contender by any stretch of the imagination, yet they sit only one game back in the loss column with a huge matchup against the first-place Dallas Cowboys lingering on the horizon in Week 12. Is it a miracle? Not quite. Rather, they've benefitted from some favorable circumstances within the division. Simply put, the NFC East is a full-fledged disaster right now.
For starters, the division features the league's two worst defenses: the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles defense has recovered some of their dignity after a slow start, but the Cowboys defense continues to put on a clinic on how to get shredded in almost every way possible. The Washington Redskins aren't too much better, ranked 25th in the league in total defense. And the best defense in the division belongs to … you guessed it, the New York Giants, currently ranked 11th. Of course, the Giants' improved ranking is thanks in part to their last three wins in which they surrendered fewer than 250 yards of offense in each one.
The division's problems go far beyond just poor defense, though. The teams have also suffered from inflated expectations during the offseason, expectations that inevitably led to sweeping disappointment across the board. The Redskins, a playoff team a year ago, have looked like anything but this season, while the Eagles' first season under new head coach Chip Kelly has seen them struggle to find their identity until the recent emergence of Nick Foles as a viable starting quarterback. The Giants' problems have been thoroughly analyzed in this space for months now, and the Cowboys are … well, they're the Cowboys.
All of this has resulted in the Giants' playoff pipe dreams being kept on life support despite the fact that they have looked, at times this season, like the worst team in the league. With a Week 11 matchup at home against the Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers, the Giants can realistically be playing for a share of first place in Week 12, depending on the outcome of the Eagles-Redskins game next Sunday.
Less than a month ago, putting the New York Giants and "playoff hopes" together in the same sentence would have seemed absurd and more than a little ambitious, but alas, here we are. No matter what happens over the course of the next six weeks, the team that represents this division in the playoffs is going to be a serious underdog. But with a weakened NFC that only has one truly dominating team (the 8-1 Seahawks), the conference is pretty much there for the taking if the right team gets hot at the right time.
Speaking of which, the Giants have built quite the reputation in the past few years for being that team that manages to get hot at the right time. Am I telling you to prepare for another improbable playoff run? Of course not. I've watched every second of Giants football this season, and have not seen much, if anything, that would convince me that this team has the ability to make a playoff run even during this three-game winning streak.
But the NFL will be the NFL until it's no longer the NFL, and until that happens I've learned not to be surprised by anything.