Every time a team moves to the top spot on this list, they lose. That's what happened to the Giants in Week 4, which had me debating heavily whether to take the top spot away from them, especially when you consider that they lost such a close game on the road.
Yet the entire NFC East is a toss-up right now, so I suppose it's only fair to go back to Philadelphia, who is the only team with either a winning or losing record in the division.
OK, it's at least a little bit funny that the Eagles have won their three games by a combined four points. Remember how much trouble this team had in close games last season? They're finishing stronger this year, which is a very good sign.
It's amazing. There's been all this talk about how inept the Dallas offense has been, and yet the 3-1 Eagles have scored only one more point than the Cowboys have thus far. But the defense is carrying them, and in a non-traditional way because they aren't really getting to the quarterback right now either.
The key is that they're winning despite poor play from Michael Vick, despite usually lacking balance on offense, despite a flood of injuries on offense, despite poor play-calling from Andy Reid and despite a lack of a pass rush.
If or when some or all of those things do come around, they could have a chance to really run away with this division.
2. New York Giants (2-2, 1st last week)
It's a concern that they're 0-2 within the division now, and injuries to Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Phillips could slow them down, but the loss to Philadelphia was by no means a disaster. The Giants have started 3-2 in each of their recent Super Bowl seasons and should have no issues hitting that mark against Cleveland in Week 5.
It was encouraging to see the ragged offensive line do a semi-decent job against a very good Philadelphia defensive front, and another receiver—Domenik Hixon—stepped up in Nicks' stead Sunday night. Had a break or two gone the opposite way on that final drive, we'd be talking about the 3-1 Giants and all of those positives right now.
3. Washington Redskins (2-2, 4th last week)
It's not as though the defensive concerns are gone based on a not-so-bad performance against a bad Tampa Bay offense, but for the first time all year Sunday we got an indication that these guys can survive despite a lack of talent on the back end.
DeAngelo Hall and Reed Doughty were graded by Pro Football Focus as the highest-rated players on the defense in the victory, which is a very positive sign. And Ryan Kerrigan continues to perform at a Pro Bowl level. In fact, I'd argue that, right now, Kerrigan's playing as well as Brian Orakpo ever has.
But it's almost embarrassing that I've used two full paragraphs to explain why the Redskins are moving up a spot without talking about the dynamic rookie duo of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.
RG3 shined again Sunday in Tampa, leading his first game-winning two-minute drill, but don't overlook Morris, who kept heat off of his franchise quarterback by hitting the century mark against the league's top-ranked run defense.
Is the ceiling higher on any other team in football?
4. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, 2nd last week)
If you remove Week 1 from the equation, the Cowboys have been one of the worst teams in football this season. There's plenty of time to recover and they're only one game out of first place, but it sure feels as though the sky's falling in Big D.
What's strange is that the Cowboys have fewer excuses for their struggles than their division rivals. Dallas has been relatively healthy on both sides of the ball. They just aren't performing up to task.
The running game's going nowhere fast, the "revamped" interior offensive line has been a bad joke, both tackles are struggling, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten have embarrassed themselves and even the pass rush is failing to get consistent pressure.
They've been saved thus far by good defense, but Rob Ryan's unit has failed to make big plays in order to compensate for the team's offensive struggles.
The bye week's going to be very interesting in Dallas.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!