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Are the Cowboys a product of a weak NFC East or a team succeeding despite the division’s struggles?

Is it the chicken or the egg for the Cowboys?

The Dallas Cowboys are 8-0 in the NFC East since acquiring Amari Cooper. All eight of those wins have come over the last calendar year and they include three against the Eagles and Giants apiece, plus two from the Washington Redskins. While the most efficient way into the playoffs is to win your division such a note like this makes one wonder... are the Cowboys this good or is the division that bad?

These days Cowboys detractors are leaning on how weak the NFC East is to prove how Dallas isn’t a real contender. It’s true that Washington and New York are struggling teams, but the Eagles have a winning record (the only team the Cowboys have beat that do) and were also a playoff team last season. Still though, it’s fair to say the division is not great.

Do the Cowboys play in the worst division, though? Are they the current division leader benefiting the most from that? I was curious and wanted to see how each division leader looks next to one another with the rest of their division’s (the non-leading three teams) record.

Division Leaders

Division Leader Leader's Record Within Division Rest of Division Record
Division Leader Leader's Record Within Division Rest of Division Record
AFC East New England Patriots 4-0 8-16
AFC North Baltimore Ravens 2-1 6-18
AFC South Houston Texans 2-1 13-13
AFC West Kansas City Chiefs 2-0 12-16
NFC East Dallas Cowboys 4-0 8-19
NFC North Green Bay Packers 3-0 12-12
NFC South New Orleans Saints 1-0 8-16
NFC West San Francisco 49ers 2-0 15-10

The AFC North holds the closet level of ineptitude to the NFC East and that’s courtesy of the NFL’s lone winless team, the Cincinnati Bengals. In a sense they are to the Ravens as the Redskins are to the Cowboys with the Browns mirroring the Giants.

That being said, is anybody questioning the legitimacy of the Baltimore Ravens? They’ve even got a loss to Cleveland which is a little strange in hindsight, but nobody seems to be doubting them the way that people are the Cowboys. Of course, Baltimore just beat the New England Patriots and a win of that quality goes a long way in terms of how you are perceived by the masses.

NFC East wins have been a huge part of what the Cowboys have done well over the last year

Consider that the Cowboys are 12-5 since acquiring Amari Cooper. As we know that they are 8-0 in division that means that they are 4-5 in non-NFC East games since he joined the team.

That’s... startling? Right? Two of the losses came last season and one of them was a game that I personally felt was massively overblown in the Indianapolis Colts, but still, that says a lot. Here are those nine games.

So the only non-NFC East teams that the Cowboys have beaten over the last calendar year are the Falcons, Saints (who they also lost to), Buccaneers, and tanking Dolphins. They have a chance to add to that list this week against the Minnesota Vikings for what it’s worth.

It’s not like the Cowboys have won four of 50 games against non-NFC East teams over the last year, but this information does tell us something. The Cowboys clearly benefit from playing in a bad division, but when you look at the rest of the division leaders to this point on the season, don’t a lot of teams?

The only divisions that feature at least three contenders at this point are the NFC West and AFC South. Great teams have always benefited from crummy divisions, the Cowboys seem to be on that list (with a contending Eagles team for what it’s worth) along with a few others.

Dallas has two division games left this season and if we assume that they’ll keep up their streak then that would put them at seven wins on the season (on top of their current five). They’ll have to find at least three more wins from opponents like the Vikings, Bears, Lions, Patriots, Bills, and Rams.

Can they do it?