It’s a non sequitur typically used in reference to the AFC South: “Someone’s gotta win it.” For years the AFC South was considered the weakest division in the NFL, with the Indianapolis Colts largely coasting through their division mates and rolling into the postseason unscathed.
This year, the NFC East is actually on pace to wrangle the title of worst division in football. The AFC South has two teams sitting at .500, Indianapolis and Houston at 6-6, while the NFC East has none with even the 3-8 Dallas Cowboys still in contention for the title and a spot in the postseason.
The Washington Redskins and Cowboys will square off on “Monday Night Football” and close out Week 13, and a win for Dallas would further complicate and tighten what’s already been a wild year for all four of the division’s squads.
Let’s take a look at each team’s chances, as well as their remaining schedule and predict who will win the NFC East.
Washington Redskins (5-6, 2-1 division record) Currently 1st place
After overtaking the Giants in Week 12, the Redskins are the current division leader, but they have a very difficult road ahead before claiming their first NFC East crown since 2012 and just the second since 1999. Washington has three road games left, including the last two of the season.
Head coach Jay Gruden’s team owns first for now thanks to a 2-1 division mark and can solidify their stance by beating Dallas Monday night. But Washington still has a division gauntlet to run. The Redskins have two division games remaining, with both on the road and they’ve gone 0-5 on the road this season. Currently they own the tiebreaker over Philadelphia, and New York based off division record.
A loss to the Cowboys will hurt but not too much. But Week 14’s road to trip to Chicago followed by a visit from Buffalo will be huge for Washington, as they end the regular season at Philadelphia and at Dallas.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 22-36
Philadelphia Eagles (5-7, 2-2) 2nd place
The Eagles snapped a three-game slide by upsetting New England and flashing the kind of offensive firepower fans hoped to see when Chip Kelly arrived three years ago. Philadelphia’s 2-2 division mark and their 27-7 victory over New York earlier this season, keeps them in second just ahead of the Giants.
In terms of venue, Philadelphia technically has the easiest route to the division with its next three games at home. Like the Redskins, the Eagles will also get a visit from Buffalo, but then tangle with 10-2 Arizona and host Washington, with a season-finale on the road against the Giants.
If quarterback Sam Bradford can stay healthy, the Eagles may be Washington’s biggest threat down the stretch.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 26-21
New York Giants (5-7, 2-3) 3rd place
Another blown lead leaves the Giants in turmoil, but certainly not out of the running. New York’s three losses in the division have it mired in third, and it only has one more division game to get back to .500, Week 17’s home matchup with Philadelphia.
Otherwise the Giants have difficult road trips to Miami and Minnesota bookending a home game against the undefeated and seemingly unstoppable Carolina Panthers.
It appears New York will need to go 3-1 to end the regular season, and may need some help from Washington and Philadelphia in order to advance and make the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 30-18
Dallas Cowboys (3-8, 2-2) 4th place
Quarterback Tony Romo’s two serious collarbone injuries should have derailed Dallas’ hopes, but the Cowboys do have a chance. Monday’s matchup is one of two remaining with Washington, with Week 17’s finale a potentially huge date for Dallas.
But in between the Redskins’ games, Dallas travels to Lambeau to face Green Bay, then hosts the New York Jets and hit the road for the last time at Buffalo. All very difficult games to win without your All-Pro quarterback.
With wins over the Giants and Eagles, the Cowboys best chances lie in sweeping Washington and stealing another two games.
Combined record of remaining opponents: 31-27
Prediction: Philadelphia is the pick due to its slightly easier schedule compared to everyone else, and the considerable attack at its disposal. The Giants are likely to fall out during that harrowing two-week stretch against Carolina and at Minnesota. Washington may split with the Cowboys, but they are expected to struggle against Chicago and Buffalo. Dallas needs too much help from everyone else and also needs to win out in order to have a shot.