Cowboys take first place as rest of NFC East flounders originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Three weeks down, 15 to go, and the NFC East is starting to look like the Cowboys' division to lose.
Week 3 of the 2021 NFL season was not a kind one to anyone in the division outside of Dallas, as three out of the four teams suffered tough losses that sent each of them into losing records.
With the Cowboys on top and looking as good as they have in roughly three years, Washington, Philadelphia and New York all have work to do if they want to keep up. The good news is there's still plenty of time to make up ground in the standings.
Washington Football Team (1-2, T-2nd)
Starting with the hometown team, Washington's inauspicious start to the year continued in Buffalo as they were blown out by Josh Allen and the Bulls 43-21. The defense is still having trouble getting off the field on third down, Chase Young has yet to record a sack through three games and Taylor Heinicke had his first truly bad game as a Washington quarterback.
This team was supposed to be built on an elite defense with an offense that had big-play ability and a balanced attack through the air with Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas and on the ground with Antonio Gibson. So far, nothing has gone right for this team, and they could easily be 0-3 if not for an offside penalty by Dexter Lawrence in Week 2.
The schedule doesn't get a whole lot easier in the future either. In the next six weeks, Washington will see three-fourths of last year's conference championship teams. They have the Chiefs in Week 6, the Packers in Week 7 and then the defending champion Buccaneers in Week 10.
Dallas Cowboys (2-1, 1st)
After a close loss to the Buccaneers on opening night, the Cowboys have turned around two impressive wins to take control of first place in the division. And not only did they blow out the Eagles in prime time this week, but they did it by moving the ball with a balanced attack and flustering Jalen Hurts all night with varied looks defensively.
The offense looks as advertised with weapons all over the place and a quarterback in Dak Prescott who takes care of the ball and gets it out of his hands quickly. The defense, however, has looked far better than anyone expected. They're still giving up a lot of yards (30th in yards/per play, 27th in yards allowed) but they're only allowing 23 points per game.
The defense is giving off bend-but-don't-break vibes, and it's always easier to keep teams off the scoreboard when the offense isn't turning it over every other possession like last year. Aside from a troubling trend of terrible clock management from head coach Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys look like the best team in this division.
Philadelphia Eagles (1-2, T-2nd)
The Eagles' fall from grace after a dominant Week 1 showing continued with a defeat at the hands of the Cowboys on national television. The defense struggled to stop Dallas all night long while the offense completely sputtered in one of Hurts' worst games as a pro.
Nick Sirianni appears to like throwing the ball, and as he should since it's the most efficient way to move the ball on offense. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it's probably a bad idea to have Hurts drop back to throw 40 times when one of his greatest strengths as a quarterback is his running ability.
If the Eagles are going to formulate any sort of potent offense, they'll have to lean on the ground game. Put the ball in Hurts or Miles Sanders' hands and give them a chance to attack the defense behind a solid -- albeit injured -- offensive line. The head coach's job is to put his players in positions to succeed, and it's fair to wonder if Sirianni has done that with Hurts early on.
New York Giants (0-3, 4th)
Washington and Philadelphia fans are likely grateful for the Giants after their teams were blown out in Week 3. Looking for their first win against a notably bad Falcons team, New York came up short yet again.
They managed just 14 points against a bad defense, lost yet another fourth-quarter lead and fell to a game-winning field goal for the second straight week. Jason Garrett continues to be an unmitigated disaster calling the plays on offense (who could've seen that coming?) but head coach Joe Judge isn't committing to sweeping changes just yet for his team.
Meanwhile, the Giants are 18-49 since 2017 and owner John Mara got booed during Eli Manning's jersey retirement ceremony. It's all going great for the G-Men.