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Are 10 Wins Enough To Win The NFC East In 2015?

The last five seasons suggest 10 wins are the ceiling for NFC East teams, with one notable exception.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get started on the NFC East as a whole, let's get something out of the way right off the bat.

Just because the Cowboys won 12 games last year doesn't mean they'll win 12 games again this year.

This may read like a "Well, duh!" sentence, but trust me, it is far harder to repeat a 12-win season than most fans think it is. Our natural inclination is to assume the Cowboys will win 12 games again and repeat as NFC East champs. But what if they "only" win 11 games? As long as they still make the playoffs, you'd probably be okay with that. What about 10 wins? That would probably be a little disappointing, especially since those ten wins will be interspersed with six losses, some of them likely to our division rivals. Nine wins? Getouttahere.

Yet here are some very sobering facts about 12-game winners:

  • In the 55 years the five-time Super Bowl winning Dallas Cowboys have been in the NFL, they've won 12 or more games only 12 times.
  • Since 2002, only 18 NFL teams have managed to repeat as 12+ win teams. If you exclude teams quarterbacked by Tom Brady or Peyton Manning, that number drops to six teams.
  • Over the last ten seasons, only three NFC East teams have managed 12+ wins, the Cowboys in 2007 and 2014, and the Giants in 2008. That's it.

But it's not just about 12-win seasons. Repeating as division champs is no small task either. No team has repeated as NFC East Champion since the Eagles did it in 2004. Since realignment in 2002, only 39 of the 96 (40%) division winners were able to repeat as division winners the next year. If you exclude the AFC East, where the Patriots have won 11 of the last 12 division titles, that percentage drops to 34% (30/88).

But back to the question in the title: will 10 wins be enough to win the East this year?

Over the last five seasons, the 2014 Cowboys were the only NFC East team to achieve more than 10 wins. Prior to that, the 2009 Cowboys and Eagles, both with 11-5 records, were the last teams to achieve more than 10 wins. In the five seasons since, the NFC East has seen five 10-game winners: The Eagles and Giants in 2010, the Redskins in 2012, and the Eagles in 2013 and 2014.

With rare exceptions, 10 wins seems to be some sort of a ceiling in the NFC East, and with that kind of track record, 2015 could easily be another season in which 10 wins could be enough to win the NFC East.

Last year, the Cowboys compiled a 4-2 division record and an 8-2 record outside the division. But as impressive as that non-divisional record is, it also highlights a particular issue in the NFC East. Over the last five years, the NFC East teams have not been particularly impressive outside of their own division. The 2014 Cowboys (8-2 in non-division games) and the 2010 Giants (7-3) are the only NFC East team to manage a 7-3 or better non-divisional record.

Sticking with the image of a ceiling, and going by the record of the past five years, a 6-4 record outside the division feels like a ceiling of sorts, just as a 4-2 division record feels like a celing. Add that all up, and it's not much of a reach to expect the NFC East winner to be a 10-win team.

So if you're wondering where the upside is in all of this, here it is: There's no reason whatsoever that the Cowboys couldn't be the team to win the NFC East, even if they end up doing it with a 10-6 record.

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