Since 2004, when the Philadelphia Eagles won their fourth consecutive division title, no team has repeated as NFC East champion. Over the past seven seasons, the New York Giants, Eagles and Dallas Cowboys have been tossing the honor around like a hot potato.
The Giants have held the title three times and the Eagles and Cowboys twice each. New York obviously won this year, so who is best-suited to take the crown in 2012?
With all the troubles and negative stories about the Eagles this year, it almost seems like the Cowboys had a better season, but they actually ended up in third place, behind the Eagles. This year is over, at least for those two teams, so who is set up for more success next year?
It's hard to know at this point but there are a few ways you can look at it.
First, you can take the premise that the Eagles really played as bad as they possibly could. They were unprecedented in the way they lost games—five blown fourth-quarter leads and two losses with the awful Vince Young starting at quarterback.
Things really couldn't have been any worse. Then the final month happened. The Eagles won four games in dominating fashion which may be meaningless, but Dallas managed to lose four of their last five, eliminating themselves from the playoffs.
The Eagles started their season 1-4 and that's exactly how the Cowboys finished theirs. Does it mean anything? Nobody really knows yet.
Will the seven-year trend come to an end next year and see a repeat NFC East Champ?
Statistically, the two teams stack up pretty evenly over 16 games. The Eagles scored 24.8 points per game, the Cowboys 23.1. The Eagles gave up 20.5 points per game and Dallas gave up 21.7.
The Eagles gained 6.2 yards per play and Dallas gained 5.9. The Eagles gave up 5.3 yards per play and Dallas gave up 5.6. The Eagles had 1.5 takeaways per game and Dallas had 1.6. The Eagles had 2.4 giveaways per game and Dallas had 1.3.
It almost all comes out in a wash. Even in sacks, the Eagles' defensive strength, they only outperformed Dallas by 0.5 per game.
Both teams feel they are trying to win next year, so each team will remain mostly intact. The determining factor will likely be the quarterbacks, and that actually favors the Eagles.
Despite the collapse, Tony Romo had a superior year to Michael Vick statistically speaking. He completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 4,184 yards with 31 touchdowns and 13 turnovers. It was basically a career-year for Romo.
Vick was up and down, some his own fault, some the fault of his teammates and coaches. He completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 3,303 yards with 18 touchdowns and 18 turnovers. Nowhere near his 2010 performance.
How does this present an advantage to the Eagles?
Romo pretty much played to the best of his ability. There isn't really much room for him to improve, unless he starts playing like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Romo is none of those three.
Vick really, by law of averages, has to have a better year next year. There were a lot of weird things that happened in the first part of the season, and the offensive line improved as the year went on. It would be shocking if Vick put up similar numbers next year.
This is a quarterback-driven league, and with their quarterback playing his best football, Dallas still collapsed and missed the playoffs.
With Vick having a rough season, the Eagles still managed to come within one game of the playoffs, and appeared to be surging toward the end.
It is true that the winning streak is likely to be fool's gold, but it is also true that Michael Vick will improve play next season.
There is a lot of offseason left before you can start making predictions, but the odds may be slightly in favor of the Eagles.