After seven weeks of the 2018 NFL Season, things are tightly contested in the NFC East. With the Dallas Cowboys on their bye week, it seemed a good time to look at the division and where everyone stands. We'll also look at how the standings could change over the next few weeks of the schedule.
Going into Week 8, here are the current NFC East standings:
- Washington Redskins — 4-2 overall, 1-0 division
- Philadelphia Eagles — 3-4 overall, 1-0 division
- Dallas Cowboys — 3-4 overall, 1-1 division
- New York Giants — 1-6 overall, 0-2 division
Washington's division win came against the Cowboys last week. Dallas and Philadelphia each have a victory over the Giants.
For this discussion, there's not much point in worrying about New York. Not only are they deep in the win-loss basement, but the team is trading off their talent now (e.g. Damon Harrison, Eli Apple) to prepare for a full rebuild. Their season is over and they know it.
So our focus will be on the Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins. With more than half the season still to go, any of these teams could wind up as NFC East Champion.
And this year, that will likely be their only route to the playoffs.
Barring some big shifts across the conference, it's not looking good for one of the Wild Card spots to go to our division. Teams like the Packers and Panthers, who are currently second in their own divisions, are a game or two ahead of Dallas and Philly right now in overall record.
Again, plenty of time for that to change. Those teams may fall, or the NFC East teams could get hot. But right now, we can only go by what we've seen. Winning the division is always the best bet for making the playoffs, and that's especially true this season.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the bye week will likely result in a bigger lead Washington. They're on the road to face to the Giants, who shouldn't put up much of a fight. The Redskins should be 5-2 and then host the 3-4 Atlanta Falcons. That one could go either way.
The Eagles are on the road this week in Jacksonville, who are in a state of emergency right now. Uncertainty at quarterback and reports of locker room angst could make the Jaguars easy pickings for Philadelphia.
Dallas is already third in the NFC East because of their 1-1 division record, dropping them just below the Eagles, and that could be more solidified after Week 8.
In Week 9, the Cowboys host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. Both teams are currently 3-4 and will be coming off their bye. The Titans are on a three-game losing streak.
If Washington falls to the Falcons, and Dallas handles business against the Titans, that should bring them to 5-3 and 4-4 in the standings with eight games to go.
Even though the Redskins currently have the top spot in the NFC East, you can't shake the feeling that this will still come down to the Cowboys and Eagles. Washington feels like a team taking advantage of others' misfortune right now, rather than winning on their own merit.
Dallas and Philly still have their two games to play, the first of which will come in Week 10. Being tied currently, the head-to-head and division tiebreakers will become all the more critical as the schedule narrows.
And if the Redskins don't falter, this three-way race could be one of the most intriguing we've seen in the NFC East. The Eagles and Redskins face each other in Week 17 in Philadelphia.
Beginning soon, I will be doing weekly breakdowns of that week's schedule and how it could impact the NFC playoff standings. Hopefully, the Cowboys remain in playoff contention the rest of the way.
But as we've discussed, Dallas' chances of making the playoffs may only be relevant to their positioning in their own division. Unless they go on some post-Amari Cooper trade tear, the Cowboys will have a hard time catching up to the current Wild Card contenders.
For now, in the bye week, we can only watch the pieces move around us. Let's hope they make the path a little easier.