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January 16, 2017

The NFC East teams dropped like flies when it mattered

Eagles NFL

Heading into the season, the common sentiment was that the NFC East was among the weakest divisions in the NFL. In 2015, for example, the Washington Redskins won the division with a 9-7 record, and the division as a whole had a combined record of 26-38 (.406).

In 2016, the NFC East had something of a rejuvenation, when two teams -- the Dallas Cowboys (13-3) and New York Giants (11-5) -- finished with the two best records in the NFC. The division as a whole was vastly improved:

 NFC EastCombined record  Combined point differential
 201526-38 (.406) -165 
 2016 39-24-1 (.617)+190 

However, regular season records didn't translate to squat when the games mattered. One by one, the NFC East teams were eliminated from the playoff contention.

The first was the Philadelphia Eagles, of course, who were "5,000,000-to-one" longshots to make the playoffs heading into their Week 15 matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. They lost on a failed two point conversion attempt, and were gone.

A week passed with no additional carnage, but with their season on the line, the Redskins faced something close to a "win-and-in" scenario when they faced the Giants Week 17. Already locked into the No. 5 seed in the NFC playoffs and having nothing to play for, the Giants were eight point underdogs in Washington. However, rather than rest their starters, the Giants went all out and beat the Redskins 19-10.

Two down.

In the wildcard round of the playoffs the following week, the Giants had the unenviable task of going on the road to Green Bay to take on the red hot Packers, who closed the regular season on a six game winning streak. The Giants' hyped defense allowed 38 points to Aaron Rodgers and company, going down in the first round with a whimper.

Three down.

And then last night, as everyone saw, in what will be a hard game to top this postseason, the Packers once again took down an NFC East team, beating the Cowboys on a last second field goal 34-31. 

The Cowboys' season, from their fans' perspective, was something close to a four-month party, which came crashing down quickly in their first playoff game against a team with wide receiver playing running back, their best wide receiver out, and a defensive secondary ravaged by injuries. Of course, they did run into arguably the best football player on the planet.

The NFC East was vastly improved in 2016. But it's still not that good yet.

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