Regardless of what happens tonight in the District, the Cowboys are going to be up a division game on two of their three opponents for the NFC East crown.
That’s a pretty enviable place to be after just one week of football.
It’s also a rare place. Twelve of the 32 teams in the league will have played a division game when Week 1 finished up Monday night, but the NFC East is the only one of the eight division to have finished a full round of divisional matchups at this early stage of the season.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the early division win doesn’t mean a whole lot these days – not in a division with four different winners the past four years. Obviously, there’s still five NFC East games to play, not to mention 15 regular season games.
But it’s still a bit startling just how little an opening win has meant in the recent past. Going back to 2009, the past four NFC East champions started their division campaign in a hole: last year’s surprise Redskins team dropped their first division game to New York before reeling off five straight wins, the 2011 Giants opened their season with a loss to Washington, the 2010 Eagles fell to Washington in Week 4 and the 2009 Cowboys lost a thriller to the Giants in the first game at their new stadium.
The stats are even less favorable for Dallas. Sunday night’s 36-31 win marks the second straight year the Cowboys have started the season with a win, and it’s the third straight season they have won their first division game. They went 3-3 in NFC East play after winning last year’s opener with New York, and they sputtered to a 2-4 mark in 2011 after they downed the Redskins in Week 3.
And, as I pointed out earlier, the Cowboys actually dropped their division opener last time they reached the playoffs – go figure.
Of course, this is all pretty immaterial at this point in the season. There are still 15 games to play, and the Cowboys have a month’s worth of games before they play another division foe. But it’s interesting to note the volatility and unpredictability in this division the past four or five years.
You’d have to imagine four division wins, combined with a good performance on the rest of the schedule, is the mark you want to hit to win a division championship. The Cowboys took a good first step against the Giants, but there’s still a hard road ahead.