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NFC East update: Cowboys hope to continue 18-year streak

If Dallas win the NFC East, it will keep one of the NFL’s oddest streaks going for another year

Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

To the surprise of many, the Cowboys are just one win away from clinching the NFC East. No help is needed; they already got that with the Eagles’ 1-4 record in December. Not only would beating the Washington Commanders this Sunday give Dallas the division, but it would also perpetuate the 18-year streak of there being no repeat champions in the NFC East.

Since the Eagles claimed four-straight division titles from 2001-2004, no team has been able to win the NFC East in back-to-back seasons. The Cowboys and Eagles are tied at six division wins apiece during this period, while the Commanders and Giants each have three.

It’s not hard, especially with Dallas, to see the causes of this anomaly. The Cowboys followed up a division-winning season with a Tony Romo injury year a few times. There was Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension in 2017 which altered things. Or with the Eagles, they had to deal with the fallout from Carson Wentz’s return in 2018 after winning the Super Bowl with Nick Foles.

No other NFL division even comes close to this kind of parity. The NFC South has belonged to Tampa Bay the last two years, and New Orleans for four-straight seasons before that. The Seahawks won the NFC West three years straight from 2015-2018. And the Packers have mostly dominated the NFC North for years, including three-straight wins from 2019-2021.

It’s no different in the AFC. Buffalo has won the East the last three seasons and New England for 11 years before them. Kansas City has dominated the AFC West since 2016, winning the division every year. The AFC North has had multiple repeat champions between the Bengals, Ravens, and Steelers over the last decade. Similarly, the Colts, Texans, and Titans have all had back-to-back division titles since 2013.

Sure, this is more of a trivia fact than anything. But it does add to the NFC East’s enduring reputation as one of the best and most entertaining divisions in football.

Here are the standings going into the regular-season finales:

When the Eagles fell to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, it flipped control of the division to the Cowboys. That loss evened things back out between Dallas and Philadelphia in terms of overall record and common games, plus they’d already split their head-to-head series and are tied in division games. The next tiebreaker to decide a division is conference record, and the Eagles’ fourth loss within the NFC gave the Cowboys the advantage.

Dallas now wins the division with either a win or a Philadelphia loss. Both are playing on the road this Sunday against their NFC East pals; the Cowboys go to Washington and the Eagles to New York. Both games are within the division and the conference, so even if both Dallas and Philly get upset the Cowboys would still win the East as it wouldn’t change any of the tiebreakers.

Unfortunately, but to nobody’s surprise, the NFL scheduled these games for the same kickoff time in the late afternoon. Dallas won’t have the luxury of knowing what’s happened in the Eagles-Giants game ahead of time, which might have allowed them to approach the game conservatively with older players or ones with nagging medical issues.

But with the ability to lock up the division and the NFC’s second seed in front of them this Sunday, the Cowboys don’t need to worry about what anyone else is doing. Just go into Washington and handle business, and there’s nothing the Eagles or Lions can do about it.

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