The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
In the off-season this year, I thought it was pretty clear that the division would be won by the Cowboys. Every other roster was far too flawed. Of course, I never thought that the talk of Dallas being able to compete for a super bowl title was anything but laughable. The AFC was loaded with better teams — KC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh just to name three — that would destroy the ‘Boys in a title game, but there were likely two and possibly three better teams in the NFC North and at least one better in the NFC West, with Drew Brees and Tom Brady in the NFC South, meaning that the Cowboys, under their first-year coach, didn’t stand a chance of getting past the NFC Championship game, and were more likely to be one & done in the Wildcard Round.
I never got why anyone thought the Eagles would be good this year. They were coming into the season with a deteriorating roster. Before the injuries started to bite, I figured them to be an 8-8 team. Ahead of the opening game I revised that to 7-9, predicting the opening week loss to the Washington Football Team. Having now tied the Bengals, I’ve got them at 6-9-1 with the possibility if sliding into oblivion if Carson Wentz can’t get his head right. By the way, with the salary cap situation they face, Philly will need to go though a complete roster tear down after the 2020 season ends, regardless of how they finish.
I thought the Giants did well in the 2020 draft, but that they were at least a year away from respectability.
It was clear that even Ron Rivera didn’t expect many wins out of his team.
Well, the burgundy & gold are right on schedule, currently sitting at 1-4. The Giants are winless, but have looked surprisingly good in their two most recent losses — to the Rams and Cowboys. At 0-5, they aren’t likely to finish with a winning record, but I could see them going winning 6 or 7 of their remaining 11 games if they continue to play like they did in Weeks 4 & 5.
The big story, though, is Dallas and what injury has done to their roster. Of course, the gruesome injury to Dak’s ankle — you could see his foot go sideways on TV as the bone broke — is the headline injury that could end any real hope that they had of post-season success, but Andy Dalton was possibly the best backup quarterback in the league, so they aren’t dead in the water.
The fact is, though, while the Prescott injury is the most jarring, the Cowboys roster has been bleeding out for a while now. It started with the unanticipated retirement of Travis Frederick earlier this year, but the current IR list has a lot of Cowboys on it: starting OL Joe Looney, LB Sean Lee, starting DB Chidobe Awuzie, starting OT La’el Collins, starting LB Leighton Vander Esch, starting TE Blake Jarwin, DL Mitch Hyatt, starting OT Tyron Smith, and OL Cameron Erving. Two of Dallas’ strongest units — the OL and LB groups — have been especially hard-hit. When you toss Dak Prescott’s name in with that group, the roster advantages that the Cowboys enjoyed a couple of months ago have basically disappeared, along with any semblance of a defense.
What’s left is a division led by three new head coaches and four under-powered rosters. Interestingly, after accounting for the injuries in Philly and Dallas and the hot mess at the QB position in Washington, the winless New York Giants, even without Saquon Barkley, may be the best team in the division as we enter Week 6. I wouldn’t discount the possibility of them — or any other team — winning the division. Even Washington, if it can get its shit together and win 4 or 5 games in the next six weeks — a stretch that includes two games against the Giants, two against the Cowboys plus the Bengals and Lions — remains in contention.
In short, a division that, throughout July and August, looked like it should belong to the Cowboys, is now wide open. Literally, any one of the four teams could win it, and I don’t think it’s beyond comprehension that two NFCE teams could be picking among the top five in April’s draft — with as many as three division teams picking in the top twelve. There is the very real possibility that the NFC East division winner will have 7 (or fewer) wins, with only one or two of those wins coming outside the division.
There’s a good chance that the NFC East champ will be playing as underdogs on wildcard weekend against a wild card team with a 10-6 record.
Somebody will win the NFC East division title this year, but whoever does is almost certainly destined for post-season failure.
No other division in football has more than two teams with losing records. The NFC East has four of them. Collectively, the division has gone 2-13-1 against the rest of the NFL in this young season, and every NFCE team has lost to the Rams.
In Week 6, Dallas has the late game on Monday Night Football at home against the Cardinals. Arizona is currently favored by 2.5 on the road. The Ravens are 7 point road favorites against the Eagles, and in the only intra-divisional game of the week, the Giants are favored by 3 points over Washington.
I guess there’s a possibility that one or more of the teams in the division could catch fire, but, to me at least, that seems truly unlikely. Five weeks into the season, the NFC East looks like a dead man walking.
Who will lead the division at the end of Week 6?
This poll is closed
Predict the result of the Giants-WFT game:
This poll is closed
Giants beat the spread and win by more than three points
Giants win by less than three points
Washington wins outright