It’s amazing what a team’s last game can do to shape your opinion of them, and that applies stupendously to every single team in the NFC East coming out of Week 4.
The first three weeks of the season showed us a dynamic Philadelphia offense take control of the division, while the Cowboys’ offense got in its own way with costly mistakes. The Giants looked hapless, sometimes on both sides of the ball, as Calvin Johnson’s Week 1 explosion could attest, and the Redskins had plenty of reason to be optimistic about the dawning of the Kirk Cousins Era.
Absolutely none of that looks like the case as Week 5 begins. The Cowboys looked unstoppable – flawless, even – in their 38-17 demolition of the Saints. Out on the West Coast, the Eagles sputtered to a mere 213 yards and four turnovers in their loss to San Francisco.
The Giants and Redskins kicked all of this upheaval off last Thursday, as New York completely whitewashed Washington in a 45-14 housing. Eli Manning put up his best quarterback rating since Dec. 1, 2013, with a four-touchdown performance, while Cousins torpedoed Washington’s chances with four picks.
My biggest impression through the whole confounding mess is that this division will be just as wild and unpredictable as it has typically been the past few years. The Eagles and Cowboys look like the top teams through four weeks, but we’ve now seen both teams play at their impressive best and their embarrassing worst. Do we really know how either will play from week to week? Meanwhile, New York is on a two-game winning streak – albeit against questionable competition.
It’s all very confusing to this point. Washington leads the division in total offense at No. 4, and they’re last in the East in scoring offense – No. 14. Dallas is all the way back at No. 26 in total defense, but that impressive scoring defense is No. 10 overall, helping boost them into the win column on several occasions.
With such wild swings from week-to-week, how well can we expect any of this to hold up? Having just watched that demolition of the Saints in AT&T Stadium, it’s much easier to envision the Cowboys making a playoff push than it was a month ago.
Perhaps the biggest constant in the division, other than Dallas’ run game, is that Philadelphia can move the ball. Despite the egg they laid in San Francisco, the Eagles still rank eighth in total offense and third in scoring offense. Impressively, they’re basically doing that without LeSean McCoy – who is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry and has just 192 yards on the season.
A big part of that is the decimation to their offensive line. Center Jason Kelce is likely out for the next month or so after undergoing sports hernia surgery, and Pro Bowl guard Evan Mathis is on short-term IR until Week 9 with a knee injury.
There’s some good news for them, as suspended right tackle Lane Johnson is free to return to the lineup this week, and he has been activated to the 53-man roster. It remains to be seen if he can single-handedly improve the fortune of the ground game, but the Eagles will need him to help maintain until more reinforcements arrive.
They might also want to work on improving their defense. Through four games, they boast the most consistently awful group in the division, ranking 29th in total defense and 25th in scoring defense.
The best part is that we’ve still got the bulk of the division play to go. The NFC East will play 12 games between its members during the regular season, and we’ve only seen two of those to this point – Philly outscored the Redskins in Week 3, and the Giants blew past them on Thursday.
The Cowboys play two division games in October, and then they don’t play an NFC East team until the week of Thanksgiving. They finish the season playing division foes in four of their last six games. The Eagles play four of their last five against NFC East teams, and both Philadelphia and Washington play division games in each of the last three weeks.
Only the Giants get the bulk of the division work out of the way early, as their Nov. 23 game against Dallas will be their fourth against the NFC East.
Clearly, we’ve got a lot left to learn, and plenty to be decided in the later stages of the season.