The NFC East has been the strangest of all the divisions this season. The Cowboys jumped out early, then the Eagles made their own run, and of late, the New York Giants have been making a push to get back into the playoff mix after starting the season 0-6. The only team that’s really been left for dead is the Washington Redskins.
The NFL is generally an unpredictable league, but the NFC East is a crapshoot at best. The Eagles have been able to stake a tenuous claim to the division title, but the Cowboys are right on their heels.
This weekend could change the division in a very curious way. The New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys Sunday evening, and with a win, they would pull within a game of the Eagles, who are on their bye week, and they would draw even with the Cowboys.
Although it hasn’t always been pretty, the Giants have been on a tear, winning four games in a row. In nearly every division in football, the Giants’ run would be a case of “too little, too late,” but this is the NFC East, where nothing quite makes sense anymore.
The Giants have more than just momentum running in their favor. New York’s closing schedule, while no walk in the park, is perfectly manageable, especially for a team that’s finally found ways to win games they should have been winning all along.
After hosting Dallas this weekend, the Giants will be on the road against the Redskins, at San Diego, home to host the Seahawks, at Detroit, and they’ll close the season out at home against the Redskins.
Of those remaining games, Seattle is obviously the most difficult game remaining on the Giants’ schedule. Aside from that game, there’s not a whole lot standing between the Giants and a divisional title. Detroit and San Diego aren’t easy wins, but if the Giants remain hot, it’s hard to imagine them losing to either of those opponents.
The Eagles, who represent the Giants’ biggest obstacle between themselves and a division title, have a more difficult path to their own playoff berth. The Eagles will face the Cardinals, Lions, Bears and Cowboys in the closing weeks of the season. In fact, the only “should win” game on their schedule left is in Minnesota.
In addition to a favorable schedule, the Giants have experience on their side. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have won two Super Bowls together, both times coming into the playoffs as longshots, and that may be their setup again by the end of the regular season.
Although Eli Manning has only thrown three touchdown passes in the Giants’ four victories this season, he’s also been able to limit his own mistakes in recent weeks. Since leading the Giants to their first victory of the season, Manning has thrown just two interceptions.
Manning’s modest stats line in the Giants’ victories tell us something very important about New York. The Giants are a team capable of winning through team efforts. They don’t need Manning to go out and throw three or four touchdowns each week to win games. They’ve shown that their defense, with support from their own offense, can hold teams to very few points, allowing them to win without scoring 30-plus points per game.
The NFC East is as difficult as ever to predict, and this weekend’s game between the Cowboys and the Giants has the potential to push the East into an even more ridiculous scenario. After starting 0-6, the Giants could actually make the playoffs, and considering the current state of their division, they could even become the favorite to climb to the top of the NFC East standings by the end of the year.