NFC East Title Race: Cowboys, Giants And What The Numbers Say

Cowboys seem poised to rise above the competition...with a little help from new additions like DeMarco Murray.

Week 10 went perfectly for the Cowboys and their fans. With a dominating victory for Dallas and losses for all their NFC East rivals, things couldn't have been scripted better. The Cowboys found themselves with a .500 record at the midway point to the season, but are currently 5-4 and only one game behind the New York Giants for the lead in the division. With two games versus the Giants still to come, the Cowboys are poised to compete for the division title.

Not many thought that possible in the beginning of the season or even a few weeks ago. Most pundits had the Cowboys at nine or ten wins for the season, and while that may still be the case, few thought it would be good enough to win the division. The Philadelphia Eagles and the Washington Redskins both have a 3-6 record and I do not remember any team making the playoffs after losing six of their first nine games of the season. There is still plenty of football to play, but the New York Giants appear to be the only legitimate competition for the NFC East title.

That's not to say the Redskins and Eagles can't play spoilers. The Cowboys have four division games left on their schedule. They face the Redskins next week, and the final four weeks of the regular season include a rematch versus the Eagles and two games against the Giants.

Not to get ahead of ourselves, but Dallas travels to the Meadowlands to face the Giants Week 17 in a rivalry game that could determine the NFC East champions.

Taking a closer look at the Cowboys possible path to the division crown...  

Team Record PF PA Points +/- Division Conference
Giants 6-3 218 211 7 1-1 3-3
Cowboys 5-4 223 183 41 1-1 4-2
Eagles 3-6 220 203 17 2-1 3-5
Redskins 3-6 136 178 -42 1-2 3-4

The New York Giants have the best record in the division, a game ahead of the Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eagles have the best record against divisional opponents. Other than that, the Cowboys appear to be the clear favorites.

No team in the division has a better point differential than Dallas. In fact, it's not even close. The Cowboys have scored more points than any other NFC East team and allowed only five points more than the Redskins, who lead the division. Of course, with the ineptitude of the Redskins offense their point differential is by far the worst in the division and the only negative total. While the Giants have scored nearly as many points as the Cowboys, their defense has allowed nearly 30 points more. It may equate to only 3.2 points more allowed per game, but when you compare their point differentials, the Giants average less than one point difference per game though the Cowboys differential is over 4.5 points per game.  It's the best in the division and ranks tenth best in the league.

It would appear the Cowboys should be able to defeat the Redskins next week for the second time this season. While the Redskins defense is usually solid, most would assume the ‘Skins offense will be hard pressed to score against the Cowboys defense or at least to keep up with the Cowboys offense. The rematch versus the Eagles is another story. Everything went wrong for the Cowboys in the first contest, but the Cowboys should be able to make the next game competitive. The Giants are an interesting case. There was a time when the Giants would win games with their brutal defense and rushing attack, but this season is different. The Giants are one of the worst teams in the league in rushing yards and average, but are one of the best in passing yards and average.

Offense Rush Avg. Rush Yards Play +20 Pass Avg. Pass Yards Plays +20 Turnover +/-
Dallas 4.8 125.4 9 8.1 278.4 39 +4
Giants 3.3 89.2 2 8.4 285 38 +6
Eagles 5.8 171.6 15 7.2 246.7 32 -7
Redskins 3.9 86.7 5 6.7 223.4 26 -8

Defense Rush Avg. Rush Yards Plays +20 Pass Avg. Pass Yards Plays +20
Dallas 4.5 106 5 6.9 221.8 26
Giants 4.6 121.6 7 7.5 237.3 33
Eagles 4.8 120 9 7.3 219.6 28
Redskins 4.3 120.4 10 7.6 216.7 36

Dallas seems to match up well with their division rivals. They are the second best rushing and passing offense in the division, as well as the second best in turnover differential. However, the Cowboys are the best offense in plays of over 20 yards and the best defense in stopping plays of over 20 yards. They also have the top rush defense in the division and arguably the best passing defense.

No other team ranks so well in the division in so many categories.

Offense Rush Avg. Rush Yards Plays +20 Pass Avg. Pass Yards Plays +20 Turnover +/- Average
Dallas 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 2nd 1.86
Giants 4th 3rd 4th 1st 1st 2nd 1st 2.28
Eagles 1st 1st 1st 3rd 3rd 3rd 3rd 2.14
Redskins 3rd 4th 3rd 4th 4th 4th 4th 3.71

Defense Rush Avg. Rush Yards Plays +20 Pass Avg. Pass Yards Plays +20 Average
Dallas 2nd 1st 1st 1st 3rd 1st 1.5
Giants 3rd 4th 2nd 3rd 4th 3rd 3.17
Eagles 4th 2nd 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 2.5
Redskins 1st 3rd 4th 4th 1st 4th 2.83

Games are not won and lost on the stat sheets, but if the teams in the NFC East continue to perform at comparable levels of success then the Cowboys seem poised to beat their division rivals in the weeks to come.

The Redskins seem outmatched in virtually every aspect and the Cowboys should be able to beat them in the second matchup as well. The Eagles will be a more difficult challenge, but if things don't get out of hand as quickly as the first matchup the Cowboys do seem to stack up well. The Eagles have the best rushing offense, but the Cowboys have the best defense versus the run. The Eagles passing offense also appears outmatched by the Cowboys pass defense. Meanwhile, the Eagles pass defense could be up to the challenge of stopping the Cowboys high-powered passing attack, but Dallas should be able to run very well against the Eagles. If the Cowboys can manage to take an early lead and hold the Eagles to few +20 yard plays and continue to win the turnover differential, the rematch should have a much different result.

The Giants appear to be the most difficult opponent in the division. While their rankings do not appear to be as good as the Eagles, they may prove a more difficult challenge. What bodes well for the Cowboys is the Giants apparent inability to stop big plays, especially considering the Cowboys have the best big play offense in the division. The Giants defense also seems outmatched in every category. The problem will be the Giants passing attack. The Giants may not be able to stop the Cowboys rushing attack or big gains through the air, but with an efficient passing game the Giants will never be totally overmatched. Their ability to create turnovers and minimize their own mistakes should also help keep the games close.

You know what they say, on any given Sunday....

But it appears the Cowboys match up well against their rivals and appear to be getting better every week. With a little luck, the Cowboys could also see several starters returning from injury in time for the three division games in the final four games of the season. This is all conjecture, but one thing is certain. The Cowboys are in a good position to make a run for the NFC East title.

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