The League

Sean McCann
Beat Writer

Sean McCann

Former Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for Gannett

Eastern let down

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Unrealistic expectations have doomed one of the best divisions in the NFL to disappointment, almost regardless of the outcome of the season.

Big media markets, past successes and larger-than-life personalities have made the NFC East -- the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins -- an easy target for scrutiny and criticism, whereas other divisions -- the NFC West, for example -- have no such burdens. Every time Dallas or Philly loses, it's America's Team failing to honor its own legacy, or it's McNabb and Reid choking again. But if St. Louis or Seattle drops a game or three, it's simply the Rams or Seahawks doing what they do.

Coming into the 2009 season, many believed the NFC East to be one of the NFL's top divisions, and after 11 weeks, the numbers bear that out despite the lack of any dominant team.
Only the AFC South -- led by the undefeated Colts -- has a better record in non-division games than the NFC East. Indy and company is 17-6 against the rest of the league, and the NFC East is 16-12. Every other division is within a game or two of .500, with the exception of the NFC West, which is a shocking 8-18 in non-division games.

Numbers aren't everything, of course, but it's hard to find an angle from which the NFC East doesn't look pretty good.

The division lacks one of those truly bad teams -- Detroit, Kansas City, Tampa, St. Louis, Cleveland, Oakland, maybe even Buffalo. Washington is 3-7, but the Redskins' physically imposing defense makes them a punishing opponent, evidenced by their 3-4 record outside the division.

With Dallas, Philly and the Giants all at 6-4 or better, the NFC East has the best chance of all the divisions of sending three teams to the playoffs. In fact, if the season were to end today, the two NFC wild cards would be Philadelphia and Green Bay, with New York losing out on a tiebreaker.

Fans of the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins all wake up each September with Super Bowl hopes, if not expectations. That's certainly nothing to discourage, but we shouldn't be surprised when, come December, those hopes have taken a beating.

By Sean McCann  |  November 23, 2009; 12:34 PM ET  | Category:  Dallas Cowboys , New York Giants , Philadelphia Eagles , Washington Redskins Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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