Redskins the only NFC East team without a losing record
The Washington Redskins haven’t done a lot yet in this still-young NFL season.
But what they have done is good enough for first place in a suddenly woeful NFC East.
Through five weeks, the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys sit at 2-3 and the New York Giants are 1-4. The NFC West is the only other division in football with at least three teams under .500.
A Redskins loss at New Orleans on Monday night would have dropped Washington, which had an early bye week, to 2-2, while a win would have given the franchise an early, unexpected edge in the race for a division title.
The Redskins have not finished with a record better than 10-6 since their Super Bowl XXVI win and have captured just three division titles in the 26 intervening years. But 10 wins or even nine might be enough to guarantee Washington wins the NFC East, which comes with at least one home game in the playoffs.
While many still consider the Eagles the favorites to win the division, no team has won the NFC East in back-to-back years since 2004. The only constant is change.
The Eagles’ struggles are perhaps the biggest surprise of them all. They had an early setback against Tampa Bay when Ryan Fitzpatrick was hot, but since quarterback Carson Wentz returned to action, Philly is 1-2. The offense has yet to score more than 23 points in a game, and a fourth-quarter comeback fell short Sunday against Minnesota.
The Cowboys held the Houston Texans to fewer than 20 points on Sunday Night Football and yet still lost, 19-16, on an overtime field goal. Dak Prescott is averaging a meager 6.7 yards per attempt, partly because his targets are the likes of Geoff Swaim and Rico Gathers. Center Travis Frederick is on injured reserve with a rare autoimmune disease, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, and linebacker Sean Lee who has not been healthy for a full 16-game NFL season since 2010 is hurt again.
Then there are the Giants. When Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars could only drop 20 points on them on opening day, the Giants only mustered 15. When the Giants found a way to ring up 31 points, trick plays and all, they lost 33-31 to the Carolina Panthers on a near-record 63-yard field goal.
If there’s a common thread that binds the Giants, Cowboys and Eagles, as of this weekend it is the second-guessing of the people calling the plays. Dallas owner Jerry Jones publicly disagreed with the team’s decision to punt in Houston territory during overtime a decision made by coach Jason Garrett, speculated to be on the hot seat. Eagles running back Jay Ajayi complained Sunday that the team did not run the ball enough.
But of course, Odell Beckham Jr. leads the league in second-guessing. ESPN reportedly circumvented the Giants and went straight to Beckham to arrange a sit-down interview that aired Sunday morning, in which Beckham threw coach Pat Shurmur and quarterback Eli Manning under the bus for not using him to his full potential.
The division race is sure to heat up in the second half of the season. The Redskins don’t play their first NFC East contest until they host Dallas Week 7. Similarly, the Eagles have yet to play a divisional contest (they square off with the Giants on Thursday night). Washington plays both its games against the Eagles in December.