Will the 2020 NFC East Go down as the Worst Ever Division in Football?

The Philadelphia Eagles host the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football and for once the storied NFL rivalry may grab the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

On the face of it, the matchup has all the ingredients to be a succulent appetizer to Week 7 of the NFL season—a primetime slot with a national TV audience and two divisional rivals looking to consolidate their playoff credentials.

Except that in the hot mess that is the 2020 iteration of the NFC East, none of that particularly matters. While it is true that the winner of Thursday night's game will move into a prime position to secure a playoff spot, it will also only have two wins through the first seven weeks of the campaign.

If the beginning of the season has not been kind to the Giants and the Eagles, the same can be said of their fellow NFC East rivals in Washington and Dallas. Following a surprisingly win in Week 1, the former has reverted to type and lost the next five consecutive games, while the optimism that accompanied the beginning of the Mike McCarthy era has already evaporated.

With their 38-10 defeat at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football the Cowboys dropped to 2-4 for the season and became the first team since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to lead its division after six weeks despite having a losing record.

Through Week 6 of the season, the cumulative record for the NFC East stands at an abysmal 5-18-1.

To put the grim figure into context, none of the other five NFL divisions has accumulated fewer than nine combined wins at this stage of the season. As a whole, the NFC East, which remains the only division whose members have all won at least one Super Bowl title, has won as many games as the Seattle Seahawks, the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers have individually.

New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles
Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants in action against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Eagles host the Giants on Thursday Night Football in Week 7 of the NFL season. Jim McIsaac/Getty

The NFC East has played a combined 24 games, while the Seahawks, Titans and Steelers have played five games each and all three teams have already had their byes. To make things even worse, three of the NFC East wins have come against divisional rivals—Washington defeated the Eagles in Week 1, while the Cowboys beat the Giants in Week 5, with the latter defeating Washington last week.

Outside of divisional matchups, the NFC East record reads 2-15-1 and one of those wins came as the Cowboys overcame a 15-point fourth quarter deficit against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2.

There are mitigating circumstances. The Cowboys have been decimated by injuries and lost quarterback Dak Prescott for the season to a gruesome injury in Week 5.

In the loss against the Cardinals, Dallas offensive line featured a rookie center, two undrafted rookies at tackle and a second-year player with two offensive snaps up until Monday night at guard.

Similarly, the Eagles have seen their receiving corps depleted and the Giants lost star running quarterback Saquon Barkley for the season to an ACL injury.

But injuries only go so far in explaining the division's calamitous ineptitude this season.

The NFC East has a cumulative point differential of -184, making it the only division in the NFL in which every team has a negative point differential. The Cowboys have allowed at least 30 points in the last four straight games and have conceded a total of 218 through the first six weeks of the season, an NFL-worst at this stage of the season in the Super Bowl era. Only the still winless New York Jets, meanwhile, have been less prolific than the Giants, who average 16.8 points per game.

No team has ever won the NFC East with a record worse than 9-7, which was good enough for the Eagles to clinch the title last year and for the Giants and Washington to finish top of the pile in 2011 and 2015 respectively.

The NFC West holds the dubious honor of putting together the worst combined divisional record since the 2002 realignment, with a grand total of 22 wins and 42 losses. At 9-7, the Arizona Cardinals were the only team to finish above .500, followed by the San Francisco 49ers at 7-9, the Seattle Seahawks at 4-12 and the then-St. Louis Rams at 2-14.

Two years later, the NFC West became the first division in history to have a champion with a losing record as the Seahawks snuck into the playoffs after finishing 7-9 and upset the New Orleans Saints in the wild card round, before losing to the Chicago Bears in the Divisional Round.

Additionally, in the 12 seasons since 2008, the NFC West has sent eight representatives to the Conference Championship Game and six to the Super Bowl, albeit with only winner.

The present may be grim for the NFC East, but there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys and Andy Dalton #14 look on during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at AT&T Stadium on October 19 in Arlington, Texas. Ronald Martinez/Getty