Under normal circumstances a 1-3-1 start for the Eagles—heading into a matchup with Baltimore no less—would have fans and media pressing the panic button, and understandably so. But the NFC East is a beast of it’s own, and not in a good way.
With New York and Washington in the throes of a full-blown rebuild, the 2020 race for the NFC East was always poised to be a two-man chase between Dallas and Philly, and through the first four games the major takeaway on the 1-3 Cowboys was that they easily could have been 0-4. While it‘s early in the season, Dallas’ defense legitimately looks like the worst in the NFL—any coverage or tackling issues you perceive the Eagles to have, the Cowboys have it worse.
Fast forward a week later, and the only real bright spot for Dallas—Dak Prescott and his league-leading 422.5 passing yards per game—is now lost for the season with what appears to be a brutal ankle injury. Insert Andy Dalton, and it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys offense keeping pace enough to mask what will be a bad defense all season long.
With the division even softer than it was a week ago, just how much did the Eagles margin for error grow? What’s the magic number for them to win the NFC East?
While the Eagles sit a half-game behind the Cowboys for the division lead, FiveThirtyEight has them listed as clear favorites to win the NFC East at 47% compared to Dallas’ 33%, with those odds even improving from a week ago despite the loss to Pittsburgh and the Cowboys winning.
A week ago 8-wins felt like a good target number to win the division, with 9 feeling like a lock and 7 being a possibility. At 2-3 it was already going to take a 6-5 finish for Dallas to reach 8-8, and while that seemed realistic with Dak, that no longer feels reasonable—I’ll say they max out at 7-9 with 6-10 feeling more likely.
That means a 7-8-1 season (6-5 finish) would pretty much guarantee a division title—that’s not a terribly high bar to clear. I’ll even posit that there’s over a 50% chance a 6-9-1 season (5-6 finish) would deliver the NFC East to the Birds. That’s definitely not a high bar to clear for a team with five of their eleven remaining games coming against WAS, & NYG/DAL twice each. Figure they take care of business and go 4-1 in those matchups (obviously not a given), that would then require a 2-4, or even just 1-5 showing in the other six games against Baltimore, Cleveland, Seattle, Arizona, New Orleans, and Green Bay. Though that’s a pretty meaty non-divisional schedule, the Eagles have proved over the last two weeks that they can hang with the leagues better teams as long as they manage to get Carson Wentz comfortable.
Look, obviously there are concerns with this roster long-term, but that doesn’t mean the fan base shouldn’t compartmentalize and try to enjoy a division chase/prospect of a playoff berth. No matter how glaring some of the issues with this Eagles team may be, there’s always a thought in the back of the mind that anything can happen so long as you reach the postseason. For now, it really looks like this 1-3-1 football team is in a good position to do just that.
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