This week's Hot Button debate zeroes right in on our humble little division, as Ashley Fox and John Clayton duke it out in answer to the simple question: Who will win the NFC East? Ashley is sticking with the Philadelphia Eagles in spite of their 1-3 start and sudden rash of key injuries. John is picking the Redskins, based mainly on ease of schedule. John first:
If the Redskins can go at least 3-3 in overall divisional play, they can have a huge edge in the divisional race if they beat the Panthers and the Vikings. Look at what the other NFC East teams face. The Eagles already have lost to the Atlanta Falcons and have to play the Chicago Bears at home. The Cowboys lost a home game to Detroit and have to travel to Tampa Bay.
The Giants drew an impossible second-place schedule and have to face Green Bay and New Orleans. If the Redskins can go 2-0 in their non-common games, they already will have a game in hand over the Eagles and Cowboys and two over the Giants if New York loses to the Packers and the Saints.
Fair point, and the schedule was one of the main reasons all along that I didn't think the Redskins would be as rock-bottom bad as a lot of people thought. Having the home win against the Giants in hand already is huge, as John points out. And as long as they can limit Rex Grossman's chances to get them hurt with a big mistake, they have the defense and the running game they need to remain steady throughout the year. As long as no one in the division appears to be all that great (as no one currently does), the Redskins will have as good a chance as anyone.
However, if there's one team that has the personnel to play like a really great team, it's the Eagles. No, they have not done so to this point, but Ashley points out that the exciting players who led everyone to make the Eagles their preseason pick are all still there, and that despite the problems, they've had a shot to win each of their four games:
But it is not as if the Eagles are getting blown out. They are beating themselves. A fumble here, a horrid play call there. The issues are fixable. It starts with turning around the trend of the past three weeks, when Philadelphia scored zero fourth-quarter points and allowed 36.
Since 2000, [Andy] Reid has a .680 winning percentage in regular-season games played from November on. If he can guide this team to a .500 record heading into the bye in Week 7, it can make a run at the NFC East.
Incidentally, the Giants are leading the fan poll that's attached to the Hot Button piece, and I think as the Cowboys get healthy coming off their bye, they will have as strong a case as anyone. This could easily have been a four-way Hot Button, with convincing cases for all four teams. This division is far from decided, and any one of the four could still emerge as the cream of the crop. I guess I'll stick with the Eagles because they were my preseason pick and they're technically not out of it yet, but it would have been tough for me to write Ashley's side of this and feel very confident about it. This looks like a street fight to me, and the Eagles don't look like street fighters.