The NFC East has the distinction of being the only division in the NFL where all four teams have won a Super Bowl title. It also is set to reach a level of futility no division winner in league history has staked a claim to. The NFC East is making its case to have the worst division champion in NFL history, with the eventual champ potentially owning just six wins at the conclusion of the 2020 season. If the Dallas Cowboys continue their 2-4 pace (.333 win percentage) and maintain the division lead, they will win the division with a maximum of six wins -- the lowest amount of victories for a division winner in NFL history.
Fortunately, Dallas still plays the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles twice, and the New York Giants once. However, as Monday night's beatdown by the Arizona Cardinals demonstrated, those division victories are not even close to guaranteed with Dak Prescott out for the season and the defense allowing the most points through six games since the merger in 1970.
The Philadelphia Eagles may have the best chance to make the division somewhat relevant with three consecutive games against division opponents -- two against the Giants -- as victories in all three games would put them at .500 heading into their bye week. We can't count the Giants out either if they can pull off an upset over the Eagles, or Washington if it upsets Dallas.
Here are the current NFC East standings:
- Philadelphia 2-4-1
- Washington 2-5
- Dallas: 2-5
- New York: 1-6
The NFC East champion -- barring a miracle run by any of these teams -- is surely going to be the worst division champion in its 50-year history. Let's take a look at the worst NFC East champions to come out of this prestigious division -- we'll go with regular-season record and point differential -- and where they ended up in the postseason.
5. 2018 Dallas Cowboys: 10-6, +15 PD
The NFC East actually had two teams make the playoffs in 2018, but Dallas was the winner of a division where Washington finished 7-9 with a minus-78 point differential. The Eagles (plus-19) actually had a higher point differential than the Cowboys, but that was only in the positive because they beat Washington by 24 on the season's final day just to make the playoffs.
Dallas was sitting at 3-4 before the Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper and went on a 7-2 tear to clinch the division title (the Cowboys actually finished the year 7-1). They even defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the wild-card round before bowing out to the Los Angeles Rams the next week.
The Cowboys won eight consecutive one-score games but were just 1-4 in the regular season against teams over .500 outside the NFC East. This season was the start of the division's current run of futility.
4. 1985 Dallas Cowboys: 10-6, +24 PD
The 1985 Cowboys were winners of a three-way tie for the division title with New York and Washington based on a better head-to-head record (4-0 for Cowboys to 1-3 for New York and Washington). This team, which was the last Cowboys squad to make the playoffs under Tom Landry, got shut out by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round, which they reached thanks to only division winners getting byes in a 10-team playoff field.
An aging Danny White and Tony Dorsett couldn't make up for a mediocre defense that gave up 44 points to the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears and 50 to the Cincinnati Bengals, who were only 7-9 that year. The 1985 Cowboys weren't the best team in the division in 1985, but they took care of business in the East -- which got them to the playoffs in the first place.
3. 2019 Philadelphia Eagles: 9-7, +31 PD
Someone had to win the NFC East in 2019, and the Eagles took the crown by going 4-0 in their final four games -- all against division opponents -- to close out the season. Their signature win was a 17-9 victory over the Cowboys in Week 16 that essentially sealed the division in a year in which Carson Wentz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 4,000 yards without a wide receiver that had over 500 yards.
Wentz was injured after nine snaps in his first playoff game and the Eagles couldn't muster a touchdown against a Seattle Seahawks team surviving by bringing Marshawn Lynch out of retirement in the wild-card round. The Giants and Washington were a combined 7-25 while the Cowboys had a plus-117 point differential but went 2-6 against teams over .500.
Again, someone had to win the East.
2. 2015 Washington Football Team: 9-7, +10 PD
This team made the playoffs with a Week 16 victory over an Eagles team that fired Chip Kelly as its head coach three days later, so that should explain everything on how bad the division was in 2015. The Cowboys lost Tony Romo for the season and finished 4-12, while the Giants were ending the Tom Coughlin era at 6-10.
Washington was sitting at 5-7 before reeling off four consecutive victories behind the arm of Kirk Cousins to take the playoff berth in the division. The team played just three games that finished over .500 all season -- and lost all three of them! Washington's fourth opponent that finished over .500 was the Green Bay Packers, who outscored the NFC East champs 17-0 in the final 24:41 of the wild-card game for a quick playoff exit by Washington.
Cousins and his play saved Washington from being a lot worse, as it ranked in the bottom three in yards per carry and yards per attempt allowed.
1. 2011 New York Giants: 9-7, -6 PD
The Giants are the only team in NFC East history to win the division with a minus point differential -- and they won the Super Bowl! Despite that great playoff run, the regular-season record and point differential shows the 2011 Giants were the worst division champion in NFC East history.
The point differential form the Giants was a result of a defense that gave up the seventh-most points and fifth-most yards in the league, surrendering an average of 38.3 points per game in three consecutive games while in the midst of a four-game losing streak at midseason. New York sat at 6-6, rallying to beat the Cowboys twice in the final four weeks to capture the division crown.
The defense straightened out in the postseason -- allowing 14 points a game -- and Eli Manning threw nine touchdown passes to just one interception in the postseason en route toward leading New York to its second upset of the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in five years. Manning and the emergence of Victor Cruz kept the Giants alive throughout the year, even when the team suffered a midseason lull.
Giants fans will certainly take the end result, and the regular-season struggles make that Super Bowl title even more impressive.