There’s no getting around the fact that the NFC East has been an absolute disaster over the first four weeks of the 2020 NFL season. Coming into Week 4, it was the only division in which no team was above .500 and the only division with two winless teams. While the former still rings true, the latter at least changed as the Philadelphia Eagles were able to upset the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night to notch their first win, a victory that actually saved the NFC East from being the worst division of the modern era through four games.
Not to worry though. The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and the Washington Football Team (that name doesn’t help the division’s embarrassment factor) all still lost to help the NFC East to the second-worst start through four games in the last 50 years. Oh, that’s not what they were going for?
Let’s break down just how bad the NFC East has been through the first quarter of the 2020 NFL season.
The Philadelphia Eagles saved the NFC East from the worst start of the modern era
Since the NFL and AFL officially merged ahead of the 1970 season, there have been a total of 344 divisional races in the league. Of those 344, the 2020 NFC East is off to the second-worst start through four games with a combined record of 3-12-1. Only the 1984 AFC Central, which included the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns (the original version), and Houston Oilers, got off to a worse start at 3-13.
With the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, and the Washington Football Team all taking losses on Sunday, it was up to the Philadelphia Eagles to save the NFC East from owning such a horrible record and they actually came through. Furthermore, their Week 3 tie gave the division that half-game edge it needed to avoid that embarrassment, although that tie was quite embarrassing in itself.
The 2020 NFC East is the only division since the NFL realigned to not have four combined wins through four weeks
While the 2020 NFC East is just the second-worst division through four games over the last 50 years, it is the absolute worst since the NFL realigned in 2002 to accommodate the Houston Texans. Since the league went to the eight-division format that year, every single division had been able to combine for at least four wins through the first four weeks of the season. So congratulations to the NFC East for breaking that streak. And the division is actually lucky to have those three wins…well, at least two of them anyway.
Washington picked up the first win for the division in Week 1 but that was going to happen anyway since they played the Eagles. Actually, maybe that’s not true given Philadelphia’s tie in Week 3. As for the Dallas Cowboys’ lone victory, that took a miracle and it wasn’t so much that Dallas won the game but that Atlanta lost it. If the Falcons knew the rules to an onside kick, the Cowboys would be 0-4. And then there was the Eagles’ victory on Sunday night, which Nick Mullens essentially handed to them with that pick-six in the fourth quarter.
How does the division avoid being the worst in NFL history?
So how does the NFC East avoid becoming the worst division of all time? To avoid such a fate, the division needs to win a combined 23 games to avoid matching the 22-42 mark set by the 2008 NFC West. What saved that division that year was the fact that the Arizona Cardinals, who won the division with a 9-7 record, went on a crazy run in the postseason and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. And the 1984 AFC Central managed to get to 25 wins. But I digress.
Despite not being the worst division through four games, the 2020 NFC East is on pace to be over the course of 16. What that means is that the four teams have to win a combined 20 games over the remainder of this season. With the Redskins-Eagles matchup in Week 1 being the only game within the division thus far, that means there are 11 such games remaining this season. So assuming that none of those games end in a tie, that’s 11 wins right there, which brings the total to 14. That means that the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, and Washington need to combine to win nine games against non-NFC East opponents, which one wouldn’t think would be that difficult.
But given what we’ve seen from the division thus far, we could see some history made when the season comes to a close. And just think, one of these teams still gets to go to the playoffs, which leads us to one more embarrassing note for the road: the Eagles currently sit alone in first place atop the NFC East at 1-2-1.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference