The Eagles and Cowboys are the best that the flailing NFC East has to offer. (Roger Steinman/AP)

Every divisional winner, by rule, is represented in the NFL postseason. That includes whoever wins the NFC East, the weakest division of 2019. The Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, as a group, have a 13-24 record, giving the NFC East the lowest win rate (.351) in the NFL.

In fact, this is the lowest win rate the NFC East has recorded at this point of the season since the league expanded to 32 teams and realigned to eight four-team divisions in 2002. It eclipses the 2015 mark of 15-22 (.405), per data from TruMedia.

Division in 2019 Record Points for Points allowed Differential
NFC West 24-13-1 (.645) 982 855 +127
NFC North 22-15-1 (.592) 891 781 +110
AFC South 20-17 (.541) 811 770 +41
AFC East 18-18 (.500) 693 754 -61
AFC West 18-20 (.474) 848 843 +5
NFC South 17-19 (.472) 880 948 -68
AFC North 16-22 (.421) 829 878 -49
NFC East 13-24 (.351) 786 891 -105

You can thank the Giants and Redskins, of course, for much of the poor performance. Despite the oddsmakers in Las Vegas showing some optimism by setting their win totals at 6 and 6½ games, respectively, each should come in significantly below those projections. New York has two wins in 10 games, one against the Redskins and another against the 3-6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Washington has one win in nine games, a narrow victory at the 2-7 Miami Dolphins a week after Jay Gruden was fired.

While both teams are using rookie quarterbacks, a common thread to their underwhelming performance actually comes on defense. The Giants and Redskins are both allowing an above-average rate of points per drive, which looks much worse after you adjust for strength of schedule, as Football Outsiders shows. According to its Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric, which measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent, the Giants and Redskins have among the 10 worst defenses of 2019. The Cowboys (20th) are also below average per DVOA, leaving the Eagles (ninth) as the only NFC East team in the top 10.

The offensive efficiencies for Washington and New York aren’t great, either. The Redskins have the fourth-worst offense and the Giants the sixth-worst, per DVOA, no doubt weighed down by the performance of those inconsistent rookie quarterbacks. New York’s Daniel Jones has completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,984 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions, giving him a below-average passer rating of 88.0 through nine games and eight starts. Washington will start its own rookie, Dwayne Haskins, for the second time Sunday. In his three appearances, he has completed 27 of 44 passes (61 percent) for 284 yards, no touchdowns and four interceptions.

And yet the NFC East will still crown a champion. When handicapping the race to the playoffs, give a slight edge to the Eagles. Philadelphia will have to weather a couple of tough opponents before feasting on the dregs of the league. Its next two games, against the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, are daunting, but then the Eagles face the Dolphins, Giants, Redskins, Cowboys and Giants.

Game Eagles win probability
Week 11: New England Patriots 28 percent
Week 12: Seattle Seahawks 47 percent
Week 13: at Miami Dolphins 80 percent
Week 14: New York Giants 75 percent
Week 15: at Washington Redskins 76 percent
Week 16: Dallas Cowboys 49 percent
Week 17: at New York Giants 69 percent

The Cowboys’ road to the playoffs isn’t as easy, with upcoming games against the Detroit Lions, Patriots, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams before finishing the season against the Eagles and Redskins. The toughest matchup in that span is against New England. Dallas has a win probability of just 26 percent in that game, but all of the others tilt in the Cowboys’ favor, albeit slightly in some cases.

Game Cowboys win probability
Week 11: at Detroit Lions 64 percent
Week 12: at New England Patriots 26 percent
Week 13: Buffalo Bills 58 percent
Week 14: at Chicago Bears 56 percent
Week 15: Los Angeles Rams 54 percent
Week 16: at Philadelphia Eagles 51 percent
Week 17: Washington Redskins 83 percent

Based on their true talent level — derived by looking at actual win rates, projected win rates based on points scored and allowed, and a regressed win rate that accounts for the small sample size of a partial season — we can project the season 1,000 times and find Philadelphia should finish the regular season with nine wins, on average, with a 43 percent chance of winning 10 games or more. There is only a 25 percent chance that the Eagles finish .500 or worse. Dallas also finishes the regular season with nine wins on average, with a 32 percent chance of winning 10 games or more.

The Redskins and Giants are going nowhere fast. Nine of 10 simulations have them combining for nine wins or fewer. In other words, look for both to finish 5-11 or worse.

Projected record Eagles Cowboys Redskins Giants
1-15 8 percent
2-14 22 percent 4 percent
3-13 36 percent 20 percent
4-12 22 percent 34 percent
5-11 <1 percent 9 percent 29 percent
6-10 1 percent 3 percent 3 percent 11 percent
7-9 6 percent 9 percent <1 percent 2 percent
8-8 18 percent 23 percent
9-7 33 percent 33 percent
10-6 28 percent 23 percent
11-5 11 percent 8 percent
12-4 3 percent 2 percent

The Eagles have the edge in terms of earning a postseason appearance, but it is slight. Our simulations see Philadelphia making the playoffs 57 percent of the time, compared to 53 percent for Dallas. (Both still have slight wild-card hopes.) The next matchup between the teams, in the penultimate game of the season, could be key because the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. Philadelphia lost the first game against Dallas, 37-10, in Week 7 and looks to be a slight underdog in the rematch.

In 2015, the division winner wound up being the 9-7 Redskins, the only NFC East team to finish above .500. This year’s final standings could be similarly grim.


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