Through eight weeks of the NFL season, the NFC East race is not mathematically between just the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles, but it's starting to feel like it is.
With a win over the Cowboys on Sunday night, the Eagles now sit in first place at 3-4-1 with Washington right behind at 2-5.
While the Cowboys also have two wins, they seem to be free falling due to injuries and holes all over the field. At 1-7, the New York Giants are technically "alive" as well, but they look to be more involved in the race for the No. 1 pick than the division.
That leaves Washington and Philadelphia to battle it out in the remaining nine weeks of the season. Neither can truly be labeled as the "better" team given that both really aren't that good this year. Still, someone has to win the division.
Numerous variables will determine the outcome, but one of the easiest determinants of how things may play out is evaluating each team's remaining schedule. At this point in 2020, most teams have a large enough sample size to know what their floor, ceiling, and average performance will look like.
When comparing the two's upcoming games, Washington may have the advantage. Here's a breakdown:
Eagles Remaining Schedule
- Week 9: BYE
- Week 10: at Giants
- Week 11: at Browns
- Week 12: vs. Seahawks
- Week 13: at Packers
- Week 14: vs. Saints
- Week 15: at Cardinals
- Week 16: at Cowboys
- Week 17: vs. Washington Football Team
Analysis: Wow, that remaining schedule is as close to a "gauntlet" as they come for a major stretch. Coming off the bye the Eagles have a winnable game against the Giants but that term doesn't exist for the following five games.
Cleveland didn't look great in Week 8, but it's a talented team that can put up points. Nothing will come easy for Philadelphia in Week 11. Then, Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans and Arizona acts as matchups with some of the top contenders in the conference. Even though late-season Eagles magic has been a thing, none of those games will favor the Birds.
Sure, Week 16 against Dallas is different, but Week 17 against Washington could be a toss-up given how Week 1 went and what's transpired since. That gives the Eagles two games that look like wins. That's five total wins in 2020. That is *most likely* not a division winner even in the NFC East.
Philadelphia's remaining schedule looks great for Washington, and it gets better when looking at what the Burgundy and Gold are going up against...
Washington Remaining Schedule
- Week 9: vs. Giants
- Week 10: at Lions
- Week 11: vs. Bengals
- Week 12: at Cowboys
- Week 13: at Steelers
- Week 14: at 49ers
- Week 15: vs. Seahawks
- Week 16: vs. Panthers
- Week 17: at Eagles
Analysis: Let's rule out the Seahawks and Steelers now. Those games are most likely both losses. Everything else, however, is manageable for Washington.
Week 9 through Week 12 is the team's best opportunity to change the tide in the division. Coming off a bye they should be able to beat the Giants, a team they were a failed two-point conversion and some bad turnovers away from taking down in Week 6. While the Lions are 3-4, consistent is not the word to describe them. If Washington's defensive front can pressure Matt Stafford, the flow of the game could work in their favor.
Cincinnati is a team that shouldn't be overlooked as Joe Burrow and the offense are really coming into form. Yet they're still just 2-5-1 and have a tendency to play down to their competition. Washington wants to be a playoff team, so this is a game they need to and should win. Then comes Thanksgiving against a Dallas team they just dismantled. While the makeup of the Cowboys could look different, and the holiday is a different feel, Washington has the formula to once again come out victorious.
The 49ers don't seem like a team Washington can compete with, but if Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle are still out, that's a very different team Washington gets to play. Carolina has remained competitive and there are enough weapons on offense to create problems. Still, in Week 16 with the division potentially on the line and Ron Rivera facing his former team, the momentum will be there. That leaves the season finale against the Eagles, a game Washington can win.
So while Philadelphia has only two games that seem to be likely wins, Washington only has two that stand out as likely losses.
What does this all mean? Well, on paper, the schedules are not that different in terms of numbers. Both teams are facing opponents with a combined win total of 31. The combined winning percentage for Washington is better (.463 to .525) but that is largely due to Washington having one more game in the remaining nine weeks while the Eagles have their bye.
Still, those numbers don't tell the full story. Washington only plays three teams that are currently at or above .500 and the win total is swayed by the undefeated Steelers and 6-1 Seahawks. Philadelphia, on the other hand, has five teams at or above .500 and five teams that are 5-3 or better. So, Washington can be awarded the "easier schedule."
If all goes right, there are four games that Washington has a very good chance of winning and three more that they should at least put up a fight -- if not more -- in.
That is great news for Washington, but it also should be taken with a grain of salt. The schedule is just paper and all going right doesn't truly seem like the Washington mantra. Things can change on a weekly basis, and nothing is guaranteed.
The schedule does favor Washington in terms of remaining opponents. The path is there, now they just have to follow it.