One reason the NFC East has looked so bad this year is that there was a strong chance a team with a losing record would win the division and make the playoffs. In anticipation of that, Denver head coach Vic Fangio has even proposed scrapping divisions all together.
With Philadelphia and Dallas both winning to go to 7-7 ahead of their match-up this week, that is no longer an issue. The division winner will at least be .500.
Moreover, another mark happened this weekend, in that with Dallas beating Los Angeles and New York beating Miami, those were two more out-of-division wins notched by the NC East.
As discussed here previously, out-of-division wins are not as easy to recall or look up as the winning record of the division champ, but it is also a strong indicator of just how weak a division may have been.
And on that mark the NFC East got a notch or two better this year. Figuring in aggregate point differential for the division, the NFC East definitely does not look as bad as some other historically poor divisions since the divisional realignment in 2002.
See the table:
|Fewest Wins Outside Division by NFL Division (Since 2002)|
|Division||Total Outside Wins||Aggregate Point Differential||Division Winner|
|2014 NFC South||10||-227†||Carolina 7-8-1|
|2008 AFC West||11||-260||San Diego 8-8|
|2019 NFC East||12||-135||Dallas 7-7*|
|2015 AFC South||12||-240||Houston 9-7|
|2009 NFC West||12||-272||Arizona 10-6|
|2010 NFC West||13||-322†||Seattle 7-9|
|2004 NFC West||13||-306†||Seattle 9-7|
|2015 NFC East||14||-165||Washington 9-7|
|* – still active
† – all four teams with negative point differential
One footnote on that table related to the aggregate point differential: the 2019 NFC East currently has two teams – Philly and Dallas, with positive point differentials. That could change in the next two weeks as Philly is only +6. But that aggregate cannot change as all remaining games are in the division.
One more thought on Fangio’s proposal – two conferences of 16, teams play round robin within conference and one cross over game with other conference – would make it nearly impossible for a team with a losing record to make the playoffs. But it would also mean plenty of fans would never get to see their team face Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and other stars. As is, you face every team in the league at least once every four years.
The current system has a lot of balance. Division winners making the playoffs with a possible losing record is a consequence.
There may be a better system out there. But Fangio’s idea should be dismissed.