FRISCO, Texas – It may be a tired talking point by now, but it clearly isn't going away.
The NFC East's struggles became noticeable as early as September, as its four members all opened the season with losing records. As December dawns, the division is right where it started – bringing up the rear in a crowded playoff picture as the only division in the NFL without a winning team.
The struggles continued Monday night, as Philadelphia lost to Seattle to earn their third-straight loss and drop to 3-7-1 on the season.
At the same time, the loss only emphasizes the lowly state of the NFC East, where just one game separates all four teams fighting for the division championship. New York and Washington, having won this past weekend, sit at 4-7. Philadelphia and Dallas, coming off of losses, bring up the rear at 3-7-1 and 3-8.
Ugly as it might look, it's understandable why Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones thinks things are still wide open heading into this final month of the season.
"I think it's stay tuned. I think it's frankly, without arm-waving, I think it's quarter to quarter," Jones said Tuesday. "I don't believe it's quite series to series, but I think it is real cause for adjustments."
It's probably hard to feel good about where the Cowboys sit in that picture after their most recent game. Washington put together its first win streak of the season last Thursday by pounding them, 41-16, to earn a season sweep of the series. If that wasn't bad enough, the Cowboys lost starting tackles Cam Erving and Zack Martin to injury, and neither looks likely to be back in the immediate future.
As Jones noted, though, that's par for the course in this division – and across the league as a whole.
The Eagles struggled mightily to protect Carson Wentz on Monday night, as injuries across their offensive front helped Seattle sack Wentz six different times. Up the road in New Jersey, the Giants are dealing with a hamstring injury to starting quarterback Daniel Jones.
Between that and the ongoing challenge of working around COVID-19, it's a situation the underscores the importance of adaptability.
"The game has always been about adjusting. It's always been about availability of players, injury, that type of thing," Jones said. "It's always been about adjusting real bad matchups between potential players, their talent level as to what you're trying to get them done. It's always been about controversial technique, and all of this is coming to play right now."
Obviously, the remaining schedule also comes into play.
The last-place Cowboys travel to Baltimore next Tuesday to play the Ravens, who haven't yet played their Week 12 against Pittsburgh. After that, their four remaining opponents – Cincinnati, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York – boast a combined record of 14-28-2.
Conversely, the team's above them in the standings all seem to have significant rows to hoe. The Eagles, whose next three games come against Green Bay, New Orleans and Arizona, are facing a combined mark of 30-25. Washington's is similar, at 30-24-1 with games against undefeated Pittsburgh and Seattle remaining. First-place New York is facing a slate of 31-23, with games remaining against Seattle, Arizona and Cleveland.
Obviously, it'd be a mistake to assume the next month will play out so logically – that hasn't been the narrative of this entire season.
But it is interesting to note that the struggles of this division means that everything is still up for grabs, and the Cowboys – somehow – are still in the thick of it. How it plays out is anyone's guess.