It’s been a while since the storied heyday of the N.F.C. East. From 1980 to 2000, teams currently in the division won the Super Bowl seven times. Overall, the N.F.C. East has produced 13 Super Bowl champions and made 21 appearances in the game.
All that seems like a long time ago.
The Philadelphia Eagles, who barely defeated the injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night, now sit atop the East with a 1-2-1 record. If the regular season ended today, the Eagles would be in the playoffs, because that’s slightly better than the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Football Team, who are 1-3, and the hapless Giants, who are winless through four games.
This is more than a run of bad luck or tough early scheduling. The N.F.C. East is 2-11-1 in games against non-division opponents. The only thing that will get an East team near or above .500 is that the teams are going to start playing each other more.
The Dallas Cowboys, the one team in the division that was expected to make noise in the playoffs, had a nightmare of a game on Sunday in a 49-38 loss to Cleveland. The Cowboys defense is among the league’s worst and gave up a franchise record 307 rushing yards to the Browns, who lost their top running back Nick Chubb to an injury in the first quarter. Dallas has been in the league since 1960, when N.F.L. teams ran the football about 80 percent of the time, yet no Dallas opponent had ever run for 307 yards.
How bad are things in Dallas? Listen to its first-year coach, Mike McCarthy, on Sunday: “What I don’t like is the pattern of the four games. The points are outrageous.”
Is it really any better with the Washington Football Team?
Dwayne Haskins, the second-year quarterback, has thrown three interceptions and lost a fumble while passing for four touchdowns. He’s been sacked 13 times. Yes, the team is in a rebuild. The big problem is, the team doesn’t yet know if Haskins is the quarterback to lead them out of the abyss of three successive losing seasons (and a 17-31 record in those games). Until a team has identified its quarterback, it is hopelessly wandering in the woods.
Speaking of daunting renovation projects, the Giants have been in the overhaul business since 2016 and are a stunning 12-40 since then. The Giants haven’t scored a touchdown in their last two games and have put the football in the end zone just three times all season. Joe Judge, the new Giants coach, was set to build his team’s offense around running back Saquon Barkley to ease the pass rush burden on second-year quarterback Daniel Jones. Then Barkley was lost for the season in Week 2 with a knee injury.
The Giants have put up a good fight in three of their four losses, which counts for something, but the most perceptive thing ex-Giants Coach Bill Parcells ever said was: “You are what your record says you are.” And the Giants are 0-4.
Finally, there is first-place Philadelphia. The Eagles’ only significant accomplishment so far is that they haven’t lost at least 75 percent of their games like everyone else in the division. The offense is erratic, and quarterback Carson Wentz spends most of each game running for his life — and he still has been sacked 14 times. Not surprisingly, he also has three more interceptions than touchdown passes.
The team turnover ratio is minus-5. The defense can be ferocious and plays hard. Nonetheless, if the 49ers weren’t playing their second string — and then their third-string — quarterbacks on Sunday night, the Eagles would have lost.
It would have been OK if they had. They would still be just a half game from first place in the N.F.C. East.