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The NFC East is once again the best

Just don’t look under the hood

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

We are at the one third mark of the NFL season. A coach has already been fired, a QB has already been benched, and a nation has finally had it with Russell Wilson’s bullshit. And the NFC East is the best division. Not just because of the record, but because the NFC East is at its best when things are things are weird.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-0)

What is working? Nearly everything, they are undefeated. In particular every addition of significance has been a hit: AJ Brown and Haason Reddick have been the difference makers they were brought in to be, while Kyzir White and James Bradberry have exceeded expectations. CJ Gardner-Johnson and Zach Pascal have been fine additions. Jordan Davis has looked good while the rest of the draft class can’t get on the field because everyone above them is playing so well.

They just beat the Cowboys on national TV to take a commanding lead for the top seed in the division and conference. So next up is usually when it all comes crashing down. But not this time, because next up is the bye week. Maybe this really is a special season.

What is not working? Punt and kickoff return coverage has been brutal. In a close game it may be the difference between a win and a loss. As problems to have go, kickoff coverage is a pretty good one to have because you have to score a lot for it to be an issue. Nobody on the Bears is worried about their kickoff coverage because they don’t do a lot of kicking off. The Eagles on the other hand have the fourth most kickoffs.

What’s next: A bye and then the soft schedule resumes, the Eagles next face the Steelers, Texans, Commanders, Colts, and Packers. An 11-0 start is a realistic possibility, and if at 11-0 someone says “yeah but they haven’t really beaten anyone” they would not be completely wrong. But a team can only play what is on the schedule.

Bottom line: The NFC is full of empty calories this year, but the Eagles are clearly the best team in it. The toughest game they face the rest of the year is the rematch of the Cowboys, who they just beat, and by the time that game kicks off the Eagles could easily have 12+ wins and the #1 seed in the conference all but in the bag, making the game about little more than bragging rights.

Weirdness factor: High. Last season the Eagles looked totally out of place among the best teams in the league. In the offseason they made some high profile moves but the bulk of the team is the same as last year. And yet this season they’re clearly the best team in the NFC.

New York Giants (5-1)

What is working? They’ve won five games, the second most in the league. Unless Saquon Barkley’s legs fall off, which could happen, this team is going to the playoffs. Which is incredible because other than Saquon Barkley turning back the clock, this team isn’t good. Nor are they bad. They’re just, as the kids say these days, mid. That’s the ceiling of a Daniel Jones led team, and they’re hitting it!

What is not working? For a team with the Giants record, quite a bit.

The defense is bad. Really bad. They’re a hugely misleading 7th in scoring defense. The Giants are 30th in defensive DVOA. They’re extremely bad at stopping the run. They are 28th in rush DVOA and rush yards per game, last in yards per rushing attempt, and there’s no small sample size issues here, their attempts against is the same as the league average. Their pass defense is performing similarly to the Eagles last year: they don’t give up a lot of catches, with the 5th best completion percentage, but when they do they give up yards, their yards per catch is 21st. The Giants blitz more than any team in the league yet are 16th in sack rate and have just one interception. And they’ve been boosted by playing against Ryan Tannehill, Justin Fields, Cooper Rush, and Baker Mayfield.

They’ve gotten some very fortunate turnovers. Lamar Jackson coughed up the ball on back to back possessions to end the game last week. The Panthers fumbled the opening kickoff and gifted the Giants a three and out that resulted in a field goal, the Giants went on to win by three.

Every game the Giants have played has been a one score game. You only have to change a handful of plays and this team is in last place.

What’s next: The Giants go on the road in back to back games at Jacksonville and then at Seattle then host the Texans and Lions after a bye. Then they get their toughest test of the season so far at Dallas on Thanksgiving.

Bottom line: It’s nice to be 5-1, but as 5-1 teams go the Giants are awful. Let’s not fool ourselves that this is a quality team.

Their offense is middle of the pack with no reason to believe it will improve. Daniel Jones is who he is and has no one to throw to, while Saquon Barkley is having his best season since his rookie year. There is no room for growth for this offense. The defense is a sieve and the team has been extremely lucky in close games, at some point that runs out. Enjoy it while it lasts Giants fans.

Weirdness factor: Also high. Brian Daboll is going to win Coach of the Year and then a few years later we’ll forget all about it. If you have difficulty believing that I would like to remind you that Matt Nagy won Coach of the Year after a 12-4 season in his first year, he never had a winning season after that.

RELATED CONTENT: Every week, Brandon Lee Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation and RJ Ochoa from Blogging The Boys get together to talk about the NFL’s most important division on The NFC East Mixtape. Subscribe to BGN’s podcast feed to check out the latest episode:

You can also watch the episode by subscribing to BGN’s YouTube channel:

Dallas Cowboys (4-2)

What is working? The defense continues to be the engine for the Cowboys, which is impressive because they are performing very differently from last year. Last year the defense made big plays for everyone. They led the league in turnovers but were 29th in yards per completion. They had the second best third down defense, and were middle of the pack in sack rate. This season they are middle of the pack in turnovers, but have the 2nd best sack rate. Their interception rate is also middle of the pack, but they’re 3rd in yards per reception.

What is not working? Predictably the Cowboys have not been able to replace the talent they lost in the offseason. The Cowboys were hoping that internal development would fill the gaps, but that hasn’t happened. CeeDee Lamb has not stepped up to replace Amari Cooper, he has the 4th worst catch rate of 35 players with at least 40 targets. His yards per target has dropped from 20th to 82nd. Cooper Rush has certainly hurt the Cowboys offense, but Dak Prescott played poorly in the season opener, his return may not be the panacea Dallas is hoping for.

What’s next: They host the Lions and Bears before a bye. Then the schedule gets a little difficult. The Cowboys travel back to back against the Packers and Vikings then play the Giants at home on a short week on Thanksgiving. Not a brutal schedule, but it should shock no one if the travel and short week add up to a lackluster performance against the Giants in what might be a must win game.

Bottom line: No matter how you cut it, going 4-1 with a backup QB is excellent. But it’s also raised the stakes a bit. The Cowboys have to be nearly flawless between now and the Christmas Eve rematch with the Eagles if they want to win the division. Had the Cowboys come out of the first third of the season at 3-3 they’d have recalibrated to lower expectations that they could easily exceed. Instead, they have little room for error to meet their goals. Oh well.

Weirdness factor: Low. The Cowboys lost to the best teams they faced and gorged on teams playing poorly. Standard fare.

Washington Football Team Commanders (2-4)

What is working?

What is not working? This franchise is a total train wreck. Actually, that is unfair to train wrecks, there is a level of awe in seeing a train collide with something such as a nuclear flask. This team has no appeal, not even a pending implosion will be entertaining. Off the field Jim Irsay said the league can and should get rid of Dan Snyder, which is an enormous change in inter-owner protocol. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On the field the Commanders are just plain terrible. Carson Wentz has led one of the worst offenses in the league, in their last four games the Commanders offense has scored a combined 45 points. There is no hope for this team this year. The players, who aren’t good enough, don’t respect the coach; the owner, who isn’t good enough, doesn’t respect the coach; and the coach, who isn’t good enough, probably won’t be too upset when he’s inevitably fired.

What’s next: Carson Wentz is out for 4-6 weeks. Which is to say that the Carson Wentz era in Washington might already be over. WASTEAM’s schedule over the next six weeks: host the Packers, at the Colts, host the Vikings, at the Eagles, at the Texans, host the Falcons. If Taylor Heinicke can “lead” the Commanders to a 3-3 record it’s hard to see Ron Rivera go back to Wentz unless Dan Snyder forces him to, which he probably will. As unlikely as it is if they go 4-2, forget about it, Wentz is done. A 2-4 record is more realistic, and it will be enough to create a QB controversy. Get ready for the lamest QB controversy you can imagine.

Bottom line: The off the field issues surrounding the Commanders overshadow that in a year where most of the NFC stinks, WASTEAM is abysmal. They just snapped a four game losing streak and they might have a few more of those this season. I don’t know who the next head coach to be fired will be, but there are worse ways to spend your money than putting it on Ron Rivera.

Weirdness factor: Compared to any other team? High. Compared to themselves? Medium. Dan Snyder vs the other owners is the only thing worth paying attention to with this team.

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