The sample size is large enough now to understand that what is happening in the NFC East is for real and that, barring something significant happening, is here to stay. The division is legit, and the margin for error for the Eagles is very slim because Dallas and the New York Giants are a step behind and very much in the mix for the long haul of this season.
It has been a long, long time since the NFC East had this much bottom-to-top punch – you probably have to go back to the 1990s for a fair comparison – and the turnaround has been fast: Washington won the NFC East with a 7-9 record and all four teams finished below .500 as recently as the 2020 season.
This is a proud division and a historically physical and winning one: The NFC East is the only division in football in which every team has won at least one Super Bowl – and a league-high 13 overall – and the rivalries are among the fiercest in the NFL.
"These games are just different," defensive end Brandon Graham said.
The game this week for the Eagles is against a Pittsburgh Steelers team that is playing good, hard, physical football and that brings great energy to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday after its razor-thin loss to Miami on Sunday night. The Steelers have it going on with rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett at the helm and the defense will be its usual aggressive, attacking self. Coming off its bye week, Philadelphia must be sharp and ready to play. Every game means everything. The Eagles built momentum in a 6-0 start and has to generate that forward motion all over again on Sunday.
In the bigger picture, the State of the NFC East is robust. That the Giants are 6-1 is the biggest surprise in Head Coach Brian Daboll's first season. A stout defense has largely been a constant for the Giants even in recent struggling years – New York has lost 10 or more games in each of the last five seasons prior to 2022 – and now the Giants' offense has gained some traction. Much of the success New York has had on offense is due to the play of running back Saquon Barkley, who is finally healthy and playing great football. Barkley missed 21 games the last three seasons with injuries – an ankle injury in 2019, a torn ACL in 2020, and another ankle injury last year – but now he's been a beast, leading the NFL with 906 yards from scrimmage. His 726 rushing yards rank second to Cleveland's Nick Chubb, and Barkley has combined tough inside running with big-play runs – he has six gains on the ground of 20-plus yards, including a par of 40-plus gains.
Quarterback Daniel Jones has played solid football with six touchdown passes and just two interceptions, and on Sunday in the win at Jacksonville, he showed his mobility with 107 yards on the ground. We know all about Jones and his ability to win with his legs – he has done it against the Eagles – but what is separating Jones this season is his efficiency in the pocket and his late-game excellence. Counting Sunday's win over the Jaguars, Jones has engineered five late-game drives to win in 2022. Four times, the Giants have had fourth-quarter comeback victories.
They are winning close games, building confidence, and playing hard for Daboll. The Eagles don't see New York until December 11 and then again in Week 18, but trust that the Giants aren't going away and that the Eagles need to keep winning.
Dallas won its first game with quarterback Dak Prescott returning to the starting position and continued to play the kind of football that has marked its 5-2 start: Dallas is outstanding on defense with a dynamic front seven and the Cowboys have a potent 1-2 combination running the football in Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Washington visits Lincoln Financial Field on Monday, November 14 with Taylor Heinicke at the quarterback position now that Carson Wentz is on Injured Reserve after having surgery on a broken finger, and all Heinicke did in his 2022 starting debut on Sunday was throw two touchdown passes in a win over Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay. The Commanders are leaning heavily on the running back combination of Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson and a defense that held the Packers to zero conversions on six third downs in Sunday's win. Washington plays at Indianapolis and then hosts Minnesota before making the trip up I-95 for the prime-time game.
So, hey, the bottom line here is that the Eagles are back from their bye week refreshed and ready to go for Sunday's game against Pittsburgh, understanding that there is a long, long way to go in this 2022 regular season. There is no breathing room in the NFC East, the beast of the NFL this season and a division that offers no easy outs. Every week of these 11 will be a battle. That's the mentality the Eagles must have knowing each week matters so very much.