Eight is enough?
Nine wins will get job done
IRVING, Texas -- It's easy to bash the NFC East right now.
The Cowboys lead the division with a 2-2 record. Washington got its first win last week. Philadelphia has lost three in a row after winning Chip Kelly's first game. The New York Giants are winless.
For a long time, this division was among the best in the NFL and the most competitive. But now we wonder whether the winner of the East will have a winning record.
Maybe those 8-8 finishes the Cowboys had in 2011 and '12 will be enough to win the division this year. But I wouldn't bank on it.
The winner of the division will reach nine victories. And I still think it will be the Cowboys, even after their 2-2 start. Call me foolish (or more foolish than I've been), if you like.
But of the teams in the East, the Cowboys have the fewest issues. (Well, that might change after this week's game against the Denver Broncos if the defense does not show some push back after getting lit up by Philip Rivers and San Diego last week.) The offensive line has been better than expected. Tony Romo has not turned the ball over. The defense has shown the ability to take the ball away. Dan Bailey's misses the last week notwithstanding, I'd still take him as the best in the division.
The other teams have major holes. The Redskins are working Robert Griffin III into form, but their defense is struggling. Same with the Giants and Eagles. Michael Vick might not last the season with the punishment he's taken. And we can say the same about Eli Manning.
The Cowboys' recent track record holds them back and keeps fans from believing they have turned a corner. A perfectly Cowboys thing to do would be to beat Peyton Manning on Sunday and lose the next two games to Washington and Philadelphia.
The Cowboys have five games left in the division. Let's say they win four of them. That's six wins on the year. They have home games against Minnesota (1-3) and Oakland (1-3) that should be wins, although that Vikings game is hardly a gimme. That's eight wins. Now they need to steal a win against Detroit, Chicago or Green Bay (at AT&T Stadium) to get to nine.
Is that impossible?
Doesn't seem like it to me.
But what do I know? I had the Cowboys winning 10 games when the season started and taking a wild-card spot.
Clearly that won't happen.
Mediocrity rules division
The NFC East is so messed up that an eight-win or maybe even a seven-win team will take the division the season.
The last time a team won fewer than 10 games to clinch the NFC East was in 2011, when the Giants won nine games. The year before, in the NFC West, Seattle went 7-9 to earn the fourth seed.
It's not the end of the world for a team in this division to have a lackluster record and claim a title.
Each team is flawed in its own way, starting with the Cowboys, who hold first place with a 2-2 mark. They have all the talent in the world but can't shake this roller-coaster win, lose, win, lose stretch.
Good luck with that.
Philadelphia is 1-3, although it should have at least two wins on its ledger, but the defense -- next to last against the pass, allowing 325 yards per game -- could drive Chip Kelly back to a college campus. Michael Vick is his usual inconsistent self, and despite LeSean McCoy being the NFL's top rushing attack, the Eagles just can't be trusted.
The Washington Redskins are tied with the Eagles for second place, but you get the feeling the season is about to fall apart despite the win over Oakland last week. Robert Griffin III might find a groove at some point this season, but when he does, will it be too late for a playoff run?
The New York Giants are 0-4 and have one defensive player saying he'll punch people in the mouth if they don't support the head coach and another saying Big Blue will run the table. The Giants have a track record of fixing their season when it counts, but if that happens, it will upset another team's dreams of a division title.
None of the teams in the NFC East give you confidence they can make a deep playoff run because they'll beat each other up during the season and can't handle the elite teams outside the division.
I'm not sure how good Kansas City is, but three of their four wins were against the NFC East in September. The Chiefs visit Washington on Dec. 8.
If you want to say Dallas will win the division title, then good, you might be right. But guess what? Winning more than nine games won't happen.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Following Dallas' loss to San Diego, Richard Durrett, Chuck Cooperstein and Landry Locker discuss the Cowboys' pros and cons.