The Dallas Cowboys knew they'd won the NFC East before their game against the Washington Football Team even started. But while America's Team still delivered a near-fatal blow to one rival's postseason hopes, another has risen up in the wild card race.
Thanks to a three-game win streak and meandering from their competition, the Philadelphia Eagles finished Week 16 as the NFC's seventh seed and the last wild card team. They're currently tied with sixth-seeded San Francisco at 8-7, though the 49ers do hold a head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Eagles still have plenty of work to put in if they want to make the playoffs. Three other teams, Atlanta, Minnesota, and New Orleans, are all 7-8 and still in the hunt with two games left. Even Washington at 6-9 is still not mathematically eliminated.
Despite Dallas' early coronation as 2021 NFC East Champions, the lingering postseason hopes for the Eagles and the Football Team leave meaningful division football still to be played over the next two weeks. And for the Cowboys, the opportunity for a rare feat in the NFC East is on the table.
NFC East Standings
(Division Record in parentheses)
- Dallas Cowboys 11-4 (5-0)
- Philadelphia Eagles 8-7 (2-2)
- Washington Football Team 6-9 (1-3)
- New York Giants 4-11 (1-4)
If the Cowboys defeat the Eagles in Week 18 then they'll have only the third regular-season sweep of the entire division in its history. Dallas did it first in 1998, going 8-0 against the usual teams and former members the Arizona Cardinals. The Eagles went 6-0 against the current lineup in 2004.
Dallas' 2021 division title is their 24th since the NFC East was formed in 1967. They have more than double the 11 titles for Philadelphia and 10 for Washington.
Also, the Cowboys' victory took the streak of having no repeat winners in the division to 17 seasons. This is the longest such streak in NFL history.
The Giants' continue to have the longest drought, having not won the NFC East since 2011. The Cowboys have won four times over the last decade while Philly and Washington each have three titles.
While many Dallas fans aren't going to be satisfied without some bigger accomplishments in the postseason, and rightly so, a brief enjoyment of the present is still warranted. Not only have the Cowboys returned to their perch in the division but they've done it at a level of dominance we don't see very often in this contentious collection of rivals.