Good news for NFC East: Teams from bad divisions often fare well in postseason

Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett seems perplexed during his team’s 31-24 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night at AT&T Stadium.
(Richard Rodriguez / Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys lost their third straight game Thursday night to drop below .500 for the season. Coach Jason Garrett’s seat is hotter than ever.

And yet the Cowboys still sit atop their division and will remain there no matter what any of their rivals do this week.

That’s because the NFC East is bad — possibly historically bad.

Here’s how the standings look: Cowboys 6-7, Philadelphia Eagles 5-7, Washington Redskins 3-9, New York Giants 2-10.


That adds up to 16 wins cumulatively with just three games remaining for the Cowboys and four for everyone else, putting the NFC East on pace to finish with 21 wins. No division has compiled a win total that low since the NFL adopted its current eight-division format in 2002.

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Two have come close, though. The teams of the NFC West accumulated just 22 wins in 2008, with the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals the only one with a winning record. The NFC South finished with the same number of victories in 2014, with the Carolina Panthers winning the division with a 7-8-1 record.

The 2010 Seattle Seahawks (7-9) are the only other team since 2002 to win its division with a losing record. During the same period, two teams with 8-8 records were division champions — the 2008 San Diego Chargers and the 2011 Denver Broncos.

Interestingly enough, the Cardinals, Panthers, Seahawks, Broncos and Chargers all went on to win at least one playoff game during the above-mentioned seasons. Arizona actually won three and fell just shy of defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.

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Dec. 4, 2019

So there’s still hope for some team out of the NFC East to make something of its 2019 season. The Cowboys currently hold the tiebreaker over Philadelphia based on their 37-10 win in October, but the two teams play again in Week 16. That game should play a huge role in determining the division champion.

After that, as we’ve seen in the past, anything can happen.