Historical patterns don't always hold water. We just watched the Golden State Warriors become only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Special teams rise above the circumstances.
Right now nobody in the NFC East looks all that special. Maybe we'll change tune in retrospect, but it appears that all four teams have a chance to be competitive. That's been the nature of our division for a while now, and it has led to an interesting pattern.
The Philadelphia Eagles won four straight NFC East Championships from 2001-2004. That was the last time a team in our division won even two consecutive titles. The last 11 seasons have produced a different division winner every year.
- 2015 – Washington (9-7)
- 2014- Dallas Cowboys (12-4)
- 2013 – Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
- 2012 – Washington (10-6)
- 2011 – New York Giants (9-7)
- 2010 – Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
- 2009 – Dallas Cowboys (11-5)
- 2008 – New York Giants (12-4)
- 2007 – Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
- 2006 – Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
- 2005 – New York Giants (11-5)
Washington has stability, bringing back coach Jay Gruden, quarterback Kirk Cousins, and most of the same pieces. However, they were also a 9-7 division champion who benefited from Tony Romo's injury, a down year in New York, and the culmination of Chip Kelly's work in Philly.
The Cowboys and Giants are poised to get back into contention. Dallas gets Romo back and has improved an already-great running game with rookie Ezekiel Elliott. The Giants needed a fresh voice and moved on Tom Coughlin, though they have kept their schemes intact and were very active in free agency. New York has a tendency to bounce back well form their bad seasons.
The Eagles are a wild card. We can't be sure who their starting quarterback is, especially with Sam Bradford's recent behavior and now talk that rookie Carson Wentz is doing better at picking up their new offense. Still, they were a 7-9 team last year and only two games off from the champion.
So, natural question at this point; why does the NFC East have such a topsy-turvy history over the last decade?
For Philadelphia and Washington it's been been consistent with change at quarterback and coach. The Eagles have gone from Donovan McNabb's twilight years to a few seasons of Michael Vick, then Nick Foles, then Bradford, and now maybe Wentz. They had a major organizational overhaul when Chip Kelly replaced Andy Reid, and now are in line for another as they integrate Doug Pederson.
Washington's had even more tumult with four different head coaches and six different starting QBs since 2005. That's a pretty good reason for why they've had the fewest division titles of the four teams during that time span.
2016 promises to be another unpredictable year. Just on the Cowboys alone I've seen projections that put them anywhere from a 6-10 team to one of the top teams in the entire NFC. New York's up-and-down history makes them very hard to gauge. Philly and Washington are both in positions to be either competitive or sink back to the basement.
If history holds and there is no repeat champion, Dallas' basic odds of winning improve from 25% to 33%. After the misery of last season, I'll take whatever I can get!