Exceeding Expectations: NFC East Midseason Update

The early success of the National Football Conference (NFC) East was a stark juxtaposition to the last few NFL seasons. With all four teams — the Philadelphia Eagles, the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Commanders — above .500 going into Week 11, the division had the highest combined record in the NFL at 26-11. Considering that in 2020, the NFC East teams all recorded a losing record, sending the 7-9 Commanders to the playoffs, their performances shocked fans, sports analysts and opposing teams alike. 

“Many factors have contributed to the NFC East’s turnaround, and I am excited to see the teams continue to excel,” sophomore Chase Hinton said.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the only undefeated team in the NFL through Week 9, with a record of 8-0. However, they lost their perfect record in Week 10 with a 32-21 loss to the Commanders. The Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to the Chicago Bears for defensive end Robert Quinn to improve their pass rush and put them in competition for one of the best defenses in the league. Despite failed offseason trade attempts to get top running back Kareem Hunt, the Eagles offense was still a top-three team in scoring and yards per game, according to CBS Sports. 

Armed with quarterback Jalen Hurts, who is rising as an MVP candidate for this season, and wide receiver A.J. Brown, the Eagles offensive output comes in at 27.3 points per game. Their defense is top-four in points and yards allowed per game, according to CBS Sports. Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Eagles have the easiest remaining schedule in the league, which will set them up well for a top playoff seed.

Close behind the Eagles were the New York Giants, with a 7-2 record headed into Week 11. The Giants traded wide receiver Kadarius Toney to the Kansas City Chiefs for a third- and sixth-round draft pick in next year’s draft during Week 10. The Giants had a very limited wide receiver core with Darius Slayton, Wan’Dale Robinson and Kenny Golladay, according to Fox Sports. With running back Saquon Barkey returning from a season-long injury, who accounted for 38% of their total yards per ESPN, and Daniel Jones recording fewer turnovers than last season, the team’s offensive production enabled them to outscore teams consistently. 

The Dallas Cowboys were ranked third in the NFC East with a 6-3 record as of Week 10. During Week 8, the Cowboys traded a sixth-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins to strengthen their defensive line heading into the second half of the season. Despite quarterback Dak Prescott suffering a thumb injury in Week 1, the Cowboys went 4-1 during his hiatus. Their success in the first five weeks was partially accredited to strong defensive output and running backs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot’s performances. 

Going into Week 12, the Washington Commanders were the lowest seed of the division at 5-5, though they managed to defeat the Eagles during Week 11. They traded cornerback William Jackson to the Pittsburgh Steelers, as he was “a bad fit in their defense,” according to Fox Sports analysts. With quarterback Taylor Heinicke heading the offense due to starting quarterback Carson Wentz’s injury-induced absence through Week 11, the Commanders produced an average 19.1 points per game, according to CBS Sports. Defensive tackles Jon Allen and Daron Payne were crucial members of Washington’s defense, leading them to fifth in yards allowed per carry and eighth in sack percentage, according to ESPN. 

With “easier” schedules for the remainder of the season, according to CBS Sports analysts, the Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and Commanders looked to build on their successes and make runs far into the postseason.