Division Rundown: Taking Closer Look At NFC East

Twenty-five percent of the season has been played and the NFC East is as wide open as ever. Perhaps the only division that looks to be as competitive is the NFC West. Week 4 featured only the second divisional game of the season: a one-point win giving the Eagles the division lead. It also featured a Monday night blowout and Tampa Bay once again falling victim to a team from the NFC East.

Three of the four teams now occupy the No. 2 spot in the division.

Below is a quick recap of the NFC East going into Week 4.

Philadelphia Eagles              3-1

Dallas Cowboys                     2-2

New York Giants                    2-2

Washington Redskins           2-2

Eagles:

It took them until Week 4, but the team that led the league in turnovers through three weeks managed to play an entire game without a giveaway. The result was a two-point victory over the New York Giants. It was a grind-'em-out game, the Eagles relying on four field goals by Alex Henery to secure the 19-17 lead.

Philadelphia may have the most explosive weapons in the NFL on offense, but their win over the Giants might have proven that they are at their best when they don't try too hard to utilize those weapons. They defeated New York with their defense and running game. They shut down the Giants ground attack and were able to pick off Eli Manning at one point to give them great field position.

But most importantly, they did not cancel out that great defense by trying to force huge plays. With running back LaSean McCoy rushed for 123 yards, the Eagles finally realized that the big play will come as long as they don't force it, which was evidenced by the 19-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson in the second quarter.

It might be fair to call the Eagles' first two victories lucky (they were both decided by one point), but the fact of the matter is that they are sitting at the top of the division and have seemed to discover that their playmaking defense is the key to winning games. However, don't crown them just yet. They're only a Michael Vick red-zone interception away from letting any team back into a game.

Cowboys:

Speaking of interceptions, last Monday night was probably the worst performance of Tony Romo's career. The story coming into the game was the inadequacy of the offensive lines of both the Bears and the Cowboys. The story after the game was Romo's five interceptions. And against the Cowboys, the Bears O-line did not look all that bad.

The Bears completely shut down the Dallas rushing game, holding DeMarco Murray to 24 yards rushing. Two of Romo's five interceptions were returned for touchdowns, including one in which Romo and Dez Bryant were on completely different pages, leading the quarterback to throw it directly to Bears cornerback Charles Tillman.

Analyzing the defensive performance of the Cowboys seems to almost to be a moot point because the game would certainly have gone in a different direction if the Cowboys did not give the ball away so many times. But the fact that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, a high turnover risk himself, was comfortable enough to play a nearly flawless game cannot be comforting for the 'Boys.

Dallas can do its best to spin the performance as a team playing out of character because they fell behind with a few sloppy plays, and right now the Cowboys are still tied for second in the division. But any more performances like Monday night, and it will only be a matter of time before New York and Washington jump them in the standings.

Giants:

The Giants are now 0-2 in divisional games. In what looks like a very close divisional race, that statistic won't work in their favor when it comes to tiebreakers. But if the Giants have proven anything over the past few years it is that they have been the most resilient team in the division.

After losing to the Eagles, it is clear what their weakness is: the running game. After a breakout performance from backup Antonio Brown against the Panthers, Ahmad Bradshaw returned from injury and looked about as mediocre as he had before he went down. The Giants seem to be burdened with the hope of giving carries to both backs, but they may need to commit a higher number of carries to one or the other to see any real production. Against the Eagles, the two combined for 54 yards with Bradshaw getting the majority of the attempts.

The Giants passing game will continue to be one of the most effective in the league as Manning continues to find new targets while Hakeem Nicks is out with an injury. Their defense seems to have a bend-don't-break mentality, as their secondary is prone to getting beaten through the air.

The Giants look to be having just another typical Giants' season. In other words, don't count them out.

Redskins:

The Redskins' season has been a little bit like a tower of Jenga blocks. They seem to be playing their hearts out and are overachieving thus far, but it feels like it's just a matter of time before a couple of back-to-back losses pile up and they reveal themselves as a mainstay at the bottom of the division. Through four weeks, though, they are still standing with a share of second place in the NFC East.

The rookie Robert Griffin III continues to be the most efficient quarterback in the division as he rushed for one touchdown and basically ran in another (his fumble inches before the end zone was easily recovered by Pierre Garcon). He also passed for over 320 yards.

Washington won a 24-22 game over the Buccaneers who are now 0-3 against the NFC East. The biggest development for the Redskins has been their most overlooked rookie. While RGIII is getting all the hype, freshman running back Alfred Morris has been tremendous thus far. Against Tampa Bay, he rushed for 113 yards and a touchdown.

With the two rookies leading the way, the Redskins clearly have a bright future ahead of them. As far as this season goes, we will just have to wait and see. The Redskins two victories are against teams that have combined for one win this season. Will the Redskins use their division games to make a name for themselves or will those Jenga blocks come crumbling down?

Injuries:

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys made it through their loss without any significant injures. In fact, help may be on the way for the 'Boys. Defensive linemen Jay Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman were present in practice on Wednesday, and with Dallas entering its bye week, could possibly return against Baltimore. The same goes for center Phil Costa. However, no official timetable has been set for any of the players.

New York Giants: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw returned against Philadelphia and rushed for 39 yards. Wide receiver Ramses Barden, has been held out of practice with concussion symptoms. Center David Bass (hand) and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (foot/knee) also have been held out of practice this week.

Philadelphia Eagles: Eagles Coach Andy Reid remained vague about the status of his injured players. He claimed that linebacker Akeem Jordan (hamstring) is "close" to returning. Right guard Danny Watkins (chest) was held out of practice Wednesday, but is expected to be ready to play on Sunday.

Washington Redskins: The Redskins have already been decimated by injuries this season and their luck got a whole lot worse in a freak accident prior to their game against Tampa Bay. Just activated safety Brandon Meriweather had a collision with wide receiver Aldrick Robinson which knocked Robinson unconscious and caused Meriweather to reinjure his knee. Both were deactivated for the game. Meriweather will not play this Sunday and Robinson is undergoing NFL protocol for concussions.

 National Attention:

NFL.com Power Rankings:

7 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #10)

9– New York Giants (previously #5)

15 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #12)

18– Washington Redskins (previously #21)

ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:

7 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #9)

10 – New York Giants (previously #6)

15 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #12)

18 – Washington Redskins (previously #22)

Miscellaneous:

  • Tony Romo's five-interception game now puts his total for the season at eight, the highest number among quarterbacks in the NFC East. Rookie Robert Griffin III has now gone three straight games without an interception and only has one on the year.
  • The Dallas Cowboys are ranked in the top five in passing yards per game (5th) and passing yards allowed per game (1st), but struggle rushing the ball (30th) and defending the rush (17th).
  • The Cowboys are the only team in the division that currently has the same record (2-2) as they did after Week 4 last season.

 Week Four:

Philadelphia Eagles @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday, Oct. 7, Noon CT (FOX)

Cleveland Browns @ New York Giants

Sunday, Oct. 7, Noon CT (FOX)

Atlanta Falcons @ Washington Redskins

Sunday, Oct. 7, Noon CT (FOX)

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