Who wins the NFC East in 2017 may come down to one state - California.
Thanks to the NFL’s rotating schedule (per the divisional realignment in 2002) the NFC East will be playing the NFC West and AFC West in 2017. Two years ago these two divisions only featured three teams based in the Golden State (shout out to the Warriors I guess?), but thanks to the Rams relocating to Los Angeles we’ve got a nice cuatro.
This means that the NFL’s most storied division will be playing California-based teams for half of their matchups against the west-based divisions: Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders (still California for now), and Los Angeles Chargers (Los Angeles, San Diego, what’s the difference?).
When you think about it the Cowboys have 12 games in common with the Redskins, Giants, and Eagles every year. There’s the eight from the two divisions they each play, and the four common games from within the NFC East. That means 33% of common games within the NFC East will depend on the state of California, or the state of their NFL teams.
It’s worth keeping in mind that we’re talking about the NFC East here and that the Cowboys happen to be more centrally located as far as the continental United States are concerned. Each team within the division will travel to California twice, and that’s a much longer trip for our rivals.
This of course means that of all the home games within the division against California teams that said teams won’t have to travel as far to play the Cowboys, but it’s important when we consider which teams we’re talking about.
The Cowboys/Giants will travel to play the 49ers/Raiders and will host the Rams/Chargers. The Redskins/Eagles will travel to play the Rams/Chargers and will host the 49ers/Raiders. Confused? Nah, I trust you.
It’s fair to say at this point that the New York Giants pose the biggest threat to the Dallas Cowboys keeping the NFC East crown in 2017. It works out well that we both visit the Raiders as Dallas won’t have too far of a trip and New York will have just crossed the country. Additionally the Rams and Chargers will be tired from the same trip when they travel to New York, but they’re weaker teams that would’ve probably been wins anyway (don’t sleep on the Chargers though).
If you’re not sleeping on the Chargers then take solace in the fact that both Washington and Philadelphia will have to cross the country in order to play them. However you consider advantages to exist in this situation bear in mind - since there’s a bear on the California state flag - that California will single-handedly influence 33% of how the NFC East shakes up in 2017.