The NFC East has appeared to be a two-horse race for a while, but last week’s results crystallized that reality. With the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles finally facing off in Week 9, the Week 8 games helped throw fuel on the fire and make this game even more significant than it already was.
With the Eagles on the horizon, there was legitimate concern about the Cowboys looking past last Sunday’s opponent, the Los Angeles Rams. But Dallas came out of its bye week looking sharp in all three phases and handled the Rams with relative ease. It was a statement win against a quality opponent; Los Angeles may be 3-5 but has faced a brutal early-season schedule with losses to the 49ers and Eagles as well. Dallas actually posted the most impressive win over them of the three with a 23-point margin versus just seven for San Francisco and nine for Philly.
The Eagles preserved the best record in football with their win over the Commanders, going to 7-1 on the year. For whatever struggles Washington has had in other games, they once again pushed Philadelphia to the end in a dramatic 38-31 loss. With the Eagles’ victory being of little surprise, the bigger development from this one was a reported knee injury for QB Jalen Hurts. He played through it and should still be on the field this Sunday, but it could be a factor for a guy who depends so heavily on his mobility.
Elsewhere, in the Toilet Bowl, the Giants lost in overtime to the Jets. The Battle for New York looked more like two drunks fighting in Central Park, but the G-Men came out on the bottom and continued their 2023 misery. We’ll come back to them in a minute.
Here are the NFC East standings going into Week 9:
- Philadelphia Eagles 7-1 (2-0 in division)
- Dallas Cowboys 5-2 (1-0 in division)
- Washington Commanders 3-5 (0-3 in division)
- New York Giants 2-6 (1-1 in division)
While this Sunday’s showdown between the Cowboys and Eagles is huge for many reasons, Philly would still be the NFC East leader even in a loss. That’s thanks to circumstances of scheduling and their not having had their bye week yet, which does come immediately after this game.
So no, Dallas can’t wrest control of the division away from Philadelphia with this win. But the following Sunday, while the Eagles are resting, the Cowboys host the Giants. And yes, “any given Sunday” and all other rhetoric is valid. But if Dallas doesn’t beat New York next week then it will be an even bigger flop than their Week 3 loss to Arizona.
If the Cowboys do handle their business over these next two games, they’ll come out of Week 10 as the division leaders and possibly more. They’ll have matched the Eagles with a 7-2 overall record, remained undefeated within the NFC East, and picked up one-half of the potential head-to-head tiebreaker.
There’s a fair chance that the Cowboys would, at that point, also be the top team in the NFC. The Lions and Seahawks could be a problem, both also only having two losses right now, but Dallas would be at 4-2 in conference play and competitive for any tie-breaking scenarios.
Sure, it’s still just Week 9 and a lot can happen to either build on or invalidate whatever happens between the Cowboys and Eagles. But there’s no denying the current stakes for both teams in this first meeting of the year. It was always circled in red on the calendar, but both have done their part to live up to the hype.