Tuesday, May 18, 2021
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Sorry Redskins, but you don’t run the NFC East; the Cowboys do

The one thing we know about the NFC East is that we don’t know anything about the NFC East – and this year might be even more topsy-turvy than usual.

After losing to the New York Giants in Week 1, the Dallas Cowboys have won five straight. The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, won their first three games, but have now lost their last two. The Giants were able to stop a three-game losing skid thanks to a career day for receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who caught eight catches for 222 yards and two touchdowns. And the Washington Redskins got off to a rough 0-2 start, but they’re now on a four-game win streak.

“We run the damn East,” Redskins defensive end Ricky Jean Francois yelled to reporters after Sunday’s game. “Not Philly, not Dallas, not all of them. We run the East. Better remember we got that damn title.”

“Y’all forgot who the real champs of the NFC East is,” added Chris Baker.

The Redskins did win the NFC East title last season, but the division hasn’t had a repeat winner since the 2003 and 2004 Eagles. In addition, only once in the past six years has one of its teams won more than 10 games during the regular season.

And, as of Tuesday, the Cowboys run the NFC East.

According to the game charters at Pro Football Focus, only the Atlanta Falcons have a higher rated offense than Dallas. Football Outsiders had the same teams 1-2 heading into Week 6 action, per their Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.

The minimum amount of interceptions for Dallas is one driving factor for its high-ranking offense, but the team is also running a league-high 7.1 plays per drive while scoring the second-most points per drive (2.7) in the NFL. Only the Eagles come close to that efficiency among NFC East teams. League average, by comparison, is 1.8 points per drive.

The key to the Cowboys’ success has been the performance of two rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Prescott broke the NFL record for most pass attempts to start a career without an interception (176) on Sunday, which was previously held by Tom Brady (162). Elliott gained 157 yards against Green Bay, giving him his fourth consecutive game with at least 130 rushing yards, the longest such streak by a rookie in NFL history. He also leads the NFL in rushing (703) and pantsless interviews.

Plus, the Cowboys appear to be getting back their star wideout Dez Bryant after he suffered a knee injury against the Chicago Bears in Week 3. Bryant has been a key part of the Cowboys offense: the team’s quarterbacks see their passer rating drop from 93.3 to 86.3 when he doesn’t play.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have the stingiest defense in the NFL, allowing a mere 1.02 points per drive this season, edging out notable defenses like the Minnesota Vikings (No. 2 at 1.12) and Denver Broncos (No. 10 at 1.6). The Cowboys, Giants and Redskins are all below average in this regard.

They say defense wins championships, but, at least in this case, offense wins division titles.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL forecast, Dallas is the only team projected to win 10 or more games in the division. That obviously makes them a solid favorite to win the NFC East, with odds of 57 percent, compared to 19 and 17 percent for Philadelphia and Washington, respectively. The Giants have just an 8 percent chance of pulling off an upset as division champs.

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