The NFC East is quickly heating up. We are a third of the way through the season and the standings in the East may as well be the NFC standings as a whole right now. With only Minnesota (5-1) setting themselves apart outside of the East.
NFC East Winning With Old School Football
With the Giants 5-1, the Eagles 6-0, and the Cowboys 4-2, these three teams all reside in the top four of the conference. The big surprise this season has been teams like Tampa Bay, and Green Bay being at .500 after six weeks. It remains to be seen how quickly these teams can get it turned around. If they don’t hurry they’ll quickly fall behind these three teams.
We could very well see Philadelphia, Dallas, and New York all in the playoffs this season. One thing is for sure the East’s style of smash mouth football: run the ball and play defense travels well. This could make for a very interesting playoff picture.
We could realistically see all three of these coaches in consideration for coach of the year in 2022. Nick Siriani is building an unstoppable offense with Jalen Hurts, Miles Sanders, Aj Brown, DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Mike McCarthy and his offensive unit have evolved from a pass first scheme centered around Dak Prescott, to a run first, play action heavy offense carrying a backup quarterback in Cooper Rush. Then Brian Daboll has his offense rolling despite an endless cycle of injuries at wide receiver, and some bumps and bruises at quarterback. I don’t think anyone saw this division posting a combined 15-3 record from the top three teams in 6 weeks.
On defense all four teams from the NFC East find themselves atop the charts in some key defensive statistics:
Completion Rate Allowed: Eagles 2nd with 56.8%, Commanders are 4th with 57.9%, Giants 5th with 58.1%, and Cowboys are 9th with 62.1%.
Yards Allowed Per Pass Attempt: Eagles tied for 1st with 4.9 yard average, Cowboys are 3rd with a 5.2 yard average, and the Giants find themselves 10th with a 6.3 yard average.
Big Plays: Eagles are 2nd in interceptions with 9, and 8th in sacks with 17, Cowboys lead the league with 24 sacks, and allow 1st downs just 28% of the time 2nd lowest in the league, Washington is tied for 4th with 19 sacks.
Passing Yards Allowed: Cowboys 4th, Eagles 6th, Giants 8th
As you can see these defenses, even Washington’s are built to rush the passer, and prevent or create big plays. Whether it’s Dallas led by Micah Parsons, Philly led by Darius Slay, New York with Dexter Lawrence, or Washington with Jonathan Allen, all of these teams have a player that is setting the tone for their unit with big plays on a weekly basis.
Protect the Ball
Each and every team in the NFC East has limited turnovers. The Eagles again are 2nd in the league having thrown just 2 interceptions. The Giants have thrown just 3 interceptions, and the Cowboys currently sit at 4, after watching Cooper Rush throw 3 of those in week 6 to the Eagles.
Ironically despite this fact, or maybe because of it, the Eagles, Giants, and Commanders have already allowed a combined 57 sacks, while Dallas has allowed just 9. This could be one weakness to watch for these teams going forward. Washington’s woes may actually be a lot easier to solve than most fans think. Having allowed a league leading 23 sacks, Washington has still managed to complete over 62% of their passing attempts, with 10 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Cut down on sacks, and you likely in turn cut down on errant pass attempts using the two birds with one stone method.
As mentioned before the run game has been crucial to all of these teams. With the one team showing an inability to run the ball with consistent efficiency being Washington. It is no coincidence they find themselves with the worst record in the division so far, or the most sacks allowed in the league. It also begins to paint a picture of what Carson Wentz was working with prior to his injury. Enter Taylor Heinicke…former St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback.
The Giants are currently averaging 5 yards per carry as a team. Producing 978 yards rushing, placing them 5th in the league. The Eagles are just behind them in 6th with 936 yards, but have produced just 4.2 yards per carry so far this season. Cowboys have a 4.4 yard per carry average and 713 total rushing yards as a team. Washington falls in last in the division with 4 yards per carry, and just 573 rushing yards per game, nearly half of what the Giants offense has produced.
The Eagles lead the league in rushing touchdowns with 13. Jalen Hurts is an absolute weapon in the red-zone with the ball in his hands as a runner, and the Eagles have played to his strengths. The Giants sit in a tie for third with 8 touchdowns on the season. While the Cowboys, and Commanders have combined for just 7 total.
Special Teams Doing Their Part
In Philadelphia, Dallas, and New York the kickers have all managed to convert on 85.7% of their field goal attempts or more. The Giants are the only team in the division currently 100% on all of their extra point attempts.
On the coverage units the Cowboys are currently allowing the 4th least yards per return with just 18 yards. The Giants find themselves at 11th allowing just 20.8 yards per return. The Eagles, and Commanders have some work to do in this regard.
In the return game the Cowboys stand apart. On just 8 attempts the absolutely electric, and down right scary player to watch as an opposing fan, KaVontae Turpin has produced 24.6 yards per return, for a total of 197 yards. On punt returns he has been just as dangerous, producing an impressive 12.2 yards per return on 9 attempts for 110 yards total. He has had 2 punt returns for over 20 yards, and 1 kick return for over 40 yards.
The Giants find themselves again just outside the top ten statistically producing just over 22 yards per return. Meanwhile the Eagles sit bottom of the league with just 15 yards per return with just 3 going over 20 yards. The Commanders have had better luck in this category, on 14 attempts they have produced 7 returns 20+ yard returns, averaging 20.9 yards per return.
Long Term Outlook
Many people will say this division has yet to be really tested. However according to Yahoo.com, three of the four NFC East teams are in the top ten for win percentage by opponents. Only Philadelphia falls outside the top ten and sits 16th.
The Giants in particular have beaten the Packers, Titans, and Ravens all teams that have been regular playoff contenders in years past. Dallas beat the Bengals, Giants, and Rams, two of which appeared in the Super Bowl just last season. Philadelphia was tested by Arizona, and SHOULD have lost that game. However, they beat Dallas which is likely one of the best teams in the NFC, handed Minnesota their only loss of the season so far, and beat a surprisingly scrappy Jacksonville team. The question is starting to become, who can beat Philadelphia on their schedule?
With an early bye week we could see injuries pile up late in the season and affect the roster. Dallas will get Dak back, two weeks before their bye week which could prove to be crucial going forward. The Giants have two tough games against Jacksonville, and Seattle before they see their bye week. Washington who might need the bye week the most, face a murderers row of opponents for the next 7 weeks before seeing their bye in week 14. Could Carson Wentz have lost his job by then?
Also Check out our NFL Roundtable this Sunday: