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NFC East Notebook: Cowboys surge, Philly flops and Washington underperforms

Let’s take a look at the headlines from around the division from this past week

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Philadelphia Eagles v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

It is only Week 4 of the NFL season but Dallas Cowboys fans can, and should, take a breath.

We might be only three weeks into the regular season but the Cowboys are poised to take control of the division in the coming weeks. Taking a closer look at Dallas’ upcoming schedule suggests that the Cowboys have the potential to keep winning moving forward.

The toughest part of the Cowboys’ schedule is arguably behind them as they opened the season with back-to-back road games against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Chargers, who look like the best team in football right now. Dallas managed to win one of those games and the schedule going forward looks manageable by comparison.

The Cowboys face the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City in Week 11 and then will play the Las Vegas Raiders at home - a team that has quickly become the most fun 3-0 club to watch.

But the only other team that Dallas is slated to play the rest of this season that finished about .500 last season is the New Orleans Saints, who no longer have Drew Brees and are a much different team this season. Entering the season, the Cowboys were slated to play 12 contests against teams that had seven wins or less last season.

It will only further help the Cowboys that four out of their final five games of the season are against division opponents, including facing Washington two times in a three-week span.

Anything can happen but the state of the NFC East makes it so that eight or nine wins could result in a division championship. And Dallas looks like a clearer favorite with each passing week.

Here are the headlines from around the division.

Philadelphia Eagles

Entering this season, it was well-known that second-year QB Jalen Hurts was essentially given a tryout year to prove whether or not he was capable of being a franchise quarterback.

A secondary, but just as important, storyline also centers around new head coach Nick Sirianni. Philly entered Week 3 with a 1-1 record after a routing of the Atlanta Falcons and a close loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Eagles faced their first division-rival test last week in the Cowboys and Sirianni did not rise to the occasion.

After the game, Sirianni spoke about being able to win a shootout in Dallas and he is not wrong. But this Eagles team is not capable of scoring those kinds of points. In four of Dak Prescott’s six losses, the opposing team scored over 30 points. But the Eagles did not score 30 points at all in 2020 and surrendered 30 points six separate times.

The Eagles’ best chance to win last week was to shorten the game on the ground and Sirianni failed to do so. The play calling was uninspired and the decision to punt not once, but twice, from Cowboys territory was too conservative.

This week, the Eagles are set to play the Kansas City Chiefs and face Andy Reid, who coached in Philly for 14 seasons from 1999-2012. With a 130-93-1 record, Reid is the second-most successful head coach in Eagles history.

It’s a difficult, if not impossible, standard for Sirianni to match.

Washington Football Team

In 2020, the Washington Football Team finished second in the league in yards allowed per game and fourth in points allowed. The defensive line was being led by four first-round picks - Young, Jonathan Allen, Montez Sweat and Daron Payne - who were all set to return the following season.

But through three weeks of regular-season play, the Washington Football Team’s defense has fallen short. The Football Team ranks 28th in the league in points allowed per game with 92 and they have surrendered 432 yards per game this season for 31st in the league. Opponents are 27 of 46 on third downs for a percentage of 58.7 and the defense has recorded just six sacks, tied for fourth-fewest in the league. Only three teams have allowed more points in the air than Washington.

Upon closer inspection of the 2020 season, there was cause for concern in the Football Team’s defense though. While Washington led the league last season in major defensive categories, it was also 13th in rushing yards allowed. The Football Team faced a cluster of backup quarterbacks and played only five games against teams that ended the 2020 season with a winning record.

The weaknesses of Washington’s defense already existed, but went largely ignored this offseason. The expectations were too high.

Dallas Cowboys

In Dallas, it’s time to talk about Dalton Schultz.

The Cowboys’ tight end is currently ranked second in the league right now behind Travis Kelce, according to PFF. Through three games, Schultz has emerged as a valuable weapon for the Cowboys on offense - an offense that already had elite playmakers in Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. Schultz has added another layer to the Cowboys offense that will make this team harder to beat.

On the other side of the ball, talk is centered around first-round draft pick Micah Parsons.

In Week 3, the linebacker-turned-defensive end played 37 snaps and finished the game with four pressures, three hurries, three stops, one sack and one pass deflection. Through three games at the NFL level, Parsons has proved that he can be equally valuable playing linebacker against the run or in coverage, or rushing the passer as a defensive end. His versatility is making him stand out more with each passing week.

Along with fellow rookie Owamagbe Odighizuwa, there is notable upside on Dallas’ young defense. For a team who’s biggest weakness entering the season centered on the defensive side of the ball, there appears to less and less cause for concern.