Only six weeks ago, the New York Giants were running away with the NFC East. They had a three-game lead on the Washington Redskins and a two-and-a-half-game edge on the Dallas Cowboys. They were healthier than those two division rivals, and they still had a bye week ahead of them to get recharged.
That's why it's so hard to believe that we're now sitting here, one week from Christmas, with the Giants technically in third place in the division and on the outside looking in at the playoff picture.
No other division has a tie at the top, and only one other division leader has a one-game edge on the second-place team. And yet, in the NFC East, we have a three-way tie involving three of the most successful and popular franchises in the history of American sports.
So it's safe to say that the upcoming fortnight is going to be pretty fun and may be a little bit nerve racking.
Here's how I view the league's most popular division with only two weeks remaining in 2012.
1. Washington Redskins (8-6, 1st Last Week)
The Redskins haven't been this hot since 2005, and they're now favorites to win the division for the first time since 1999. I thought they'd be much better this year after an offseason overhaul, but few expected this.
Then, when you throw in that they're battling without guys like Brian Orakpo, Fred Davis and (currently) Robert Griffin III, it becomes almost hard to believe this is happening.
Now they just have to hope that injured offensive linemen Will Montgomery and Tyler Polumbus are OK, because this team can't afford to lose any more starters.
They finish the season with seven straight wins and host the the Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend.
2. Dallas Cowboys (8-6, 3rd Last Week)
When's the last time they won in impressive fashion? I don't want to say, "Who cares?" because the purpose of power rankings is to go beyond win-loss records, but the Cowboys deserve credit for suddenly becoming professionals in the field of finding ways to win despite lacking power due to injuries.
Whatever, this is the first time since 2007 that they've been able to win five out of six games in the second half of the season.
They look inspired and driven, and that just might be enough to get them back into the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
I think they can do it, so I wouldn't bet against them. That said, I think they still fall to Washington in Week 17, meaning a wild-card spot is the best-case scenario.
And with that tiebreaker disadvantage with Chicago in mind, I'm thinking they fall short despite the admirable effort.
3. New York Giants (8-6, 2nd Last Week)
I've heard that they lost four in a row at about this time last season and still won the Super Bowl, but Giants players and fans have to stop assuming that means they'll bounce back yet again.
Remember, the fact that such a turnaround took place last year only decreases the natural odds that such a thing will take place again. Something about lightning striking twice.
And while I do think this team is dangerous when in trouble, it shouldn't be forgotten that it also collapsed down the stretch when trying to defend its last Super Bowl, in 2008, and then again after a 5-0 start in 2009.
With Philadelphia in Week 17 at home, it all comes down to this game in Baltimore. They might get in either way, but I think they'll beat the struggling Ravens anyway. That might not be enough to win the division, but I have the Giants as my No. 6 seed.
Would be fun to see them in Green Bay or San Francisco Wild Card Weekend.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-10, 4th Last Week)
They're running into the Redskins and Giants at a bad time, so a 4-12 finish is likely. They still haven't won a home game since September, after getting crushed by Cincinnati last Thursday, and now they should be expecting a tough reception in their home finale Sunday.
At least it's almost over, Eagles fans. The offseason will be packed with changes, and free agency and the draft are right around the corner.
I guess all that matters now is where they wind up drafting. And if they lose their final two games, which I believe they will, they'll have a top-five draft pick.
My early prediction is that they use that pick on either an offensive tackle or a cornerback.
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