NFC East Odds: Redskins Are Favored to Win Division but What Team Will Win It?
The NFC East has long been considered the best division in NFL history and for good reason.
The Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and New York Giants have combined to win 11, or nearly one quarter of all Vince Lombardi Trophies handed out by season's end.
Even though the Philadelphia Eagles don't bring any hardware to the table, their two Super Bowl appearances help the NFC East account for more than 40 percent of the NFC teams playing in the final game of the year.
Teams don't squeak through to division titles either. Since the division was established in 1967 only two division winners have finished with less than 10 wins according to Wikipedia.com.
Dallas finished with nine wins back in 1967. The missing piece of information is Dallas only played 14 games that season. To think they wouldn't win one more game with a 16-game schedule would be foolish. In fact, they beat the Cleveland Browns 52-14 in the playoffs before falling to the Green Bay Packers 21-17 in the Ice Bowl.
The Washington Redskins managed to win the division with eight wins in 1982. It's pretty impressive when you consider a strike shortened the schedule to nine games. The Redskins went on to win Super Bowl XVII 27-17 against the Miami Dolphins.
This year the division could hit a new low.
Washington currently leads the division at 3-1, but it doesn't seem like anyone believes. New York is a logical choice to overtake the Redskins, but does anyone trust Eli Manning? Speaking of trust, how can anyone back Tony Romo?
And then there's Philadelphia.
The team with the most talented individuals are off to a horrific 1-4 start but could be within striking distance if they can beat Washington this weekend.
Washington is currently the favorite to win the division according to sportsbetting.com after five weeks. Can they hold on to win it by the end of week 17?
The Favorite: Washington Redskins (3:2)
Washington couldn't have asked for a better start to their season.
The entered the bye week at 3-1 and have the opportunity to end Philadelphia's season with a win this Sunday at FedEx field.
The 'Skins better take advantage of the moment because their schedule takes a turn for the worse at the end of the season.
Over the final five games Washington gets the New York Jets and New England at home followed by road trips to the New York Giants and Philadelphia. It's a tough stretch of games, especially for a franchise seeking its first division title since 1999.
You can rip Washington all you want, but you cannot deny how well they run the ball and play defense.
Ryan Torain, Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are the keys to helping Washington rush for 126.8 yards per game. It ranks eighth in the NFL and has long been a formula for winning in the NFC East. The game has certainly changed, but when the cold weather rolls around the teams who run the ball effectively late in the season will get the most out of their teams.
The other ingredient to winning in the NFC East is playing defense.
Washington is allowing 296.5 yards per game, which ranks sixth in the NFL. In years past it wasn't a big deal to hold teams under three bills, but the way offenses move the ball it's actually a decent number to strive for.
The Contender: New York Giants (11:5)
Eli Manning should be the poster child for ant-bullying.
People make fun of the way he shrugs his shoulders after he airmails a receiver. He's the butt-end of jokes when he throws a handful of picks. And his lone Super Bowl lumps him into the category of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson instead of Drew Brees and his brother Peyton.
It's never going to look good with Eli, but he will give his team a chance to win games. And if the Giants find a way to win the division, it is almost a guarantee it will be ugly.
New York has back-to-back road games against New England and San Francisco in three weeks. If the Giants can emerge with a split, they should feel good about themselves.
But then all hell can break loose.
New York gets Philly at home followed by a trip to New Orleans and a visit from the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers.
The final nine games of their season will square them off with teams battling for a playoff berth. A 5-4 mark could get them to nine wins and it just may be enough to win the division.
Remember, it will not be a pretty ride.
The Enigma: Dallas Cowboys (5:2)
One week Tony Romo is praised for being a courageous warrior and the next week he is considered a choke artist.
If Romo can find a way to come up clutch a few more times than not, the Cowboys can legitimately win the NFC East this year.
Dallas has a stern test this week as they head to New England.
Following that things shape up nicely for the Cowboys. Four of their next six games are at home and they get to play against the Rams, Seahawks, Bills, and Dolphins. That could be the opportunity Dallas makes a run at the division title and Romo builds a lot of confidence against some inferior opponents.
Many would consider their record hollow, but the point is not to find which team can contend in the playoffs. We are only trying to identify who will emerge from this mess at the end of the season.
The Underachiever: Philadelphia Eagles (3:1)
If you happen to find yourself traveling through Philadelphia turn your radio to 97.5 or 94.1 and listen to the mass-hysteria among Eagles fans.
It's hard to blame them for being this upset and I am one of them. But if you step back from the situation, the Eagles actually have a shot to win this awful division.
There is a distinct possibility 9-7 wins the division. And if that's the case the Eagles need to go 8-3 over the final 11 games. It's not an easy task, but definitely a possibility for a team loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball.
Eagles fans might need to remind themselves how teams like New Orleans, New England and Green Bay are built with great offenses and either average to below-average defenses.
It's amazing how much the books respect the Eagles too. Denver and Carolina are in similar situations. Each is 1-4 and they division leader only has one loss.
The odds of Denver winning the division stands at 60-1 and the odds for Carolina sits at 80-1.
The Atlanta Falcons, who beat the Eagles this year and have a 2-3 record are considered more of a long-shot to win their division (5-1) than the Eagles.
It all comes down to how bad the division is this year.
Dallas Wins the Division
Take the team with a good blend of talent, experience, a beneficial schedule and a win over the current division leader.
Tony Romo will have a handful of moments when Jon Kitna seems like a better option. That's where the talent around him kicks in.
Players like Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray can take the pressure off their quarterback and hide his blemishes.
On the other side of the ball, DeMarcus Ware has the ability to take over a game, pressure the opposing quarterback enough to force turnovers and give the offense better field position.
And it's too hard to ignore the faults of the other teams.
Philadelphia can't stop anybody and Andy Reid can't figure out how to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Rex Grossman will inevitably go through a bad stretch of games. And when that happens it's hard to imagine he will bounce back to rattle off a couple wins.
The Giants have a brutal schedule and it's going to catch up to Eli Manning at some point. All of the ugliness will rear its head in a way to bury the Giants, and don't be surprised if it happens at the end of the year when the Giants and Cowboys face off for what could be the game to determine the division.