November usually provides clarity in the NFL, with many of the eventual division champions distancing themselves from their competitors. However, after another round of defeats, the NFC East appears unlikely to reveal an eventual winner until the final weeks of the season.
While this has been treated as an eventuality for weeks, it's easy to forget the gushing praise that accompanied multiple teams in this division entering the year. Chip Kelly's hard-fought victory for full control over his team's football operations and his vast overhaul of the roster made the Eagles a trendy pick for best team in the conference. Meanwhile, Dallas came off an impressive 12-win season that saw it come within a hotly debated non-catch of a trip to the NFC title game. If the Eagles didn't take the NFC East, conventional wisdom had the Cowboys taking their place. Instead, both teams find themselves staring up at a .500 Giants team and a surprisingly competent Washington.
Still, because of how tight the NFC East remains, each of the four teams has a plausible shot at the division crown.
New York Giants
State of the team: The Giants don't even own a winning record, but they hold the top position in the division thanks to their relatively good health and forgiving schedule. To date, New York has played only three above-.500 teams, winning one and losing the other two by a combined five points. The offense has taken a step forward in its second year under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, with Eli Manning taking fewer unnecessary risks while still moving the ball down the field. The defense has largely generated little pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but the return of Jason Pierre-Paul could aid those efforts later in the year. Regardless, the Giants have the soundest team in the NFC East.
Case for division title: Given that the Giants hold a one-game lead in the standings, the better question is whether they will hold on. They banked a win over their closest competitor, Washington, during the third week of the season, and have the second tilt coming in two weeks following a bye. If Washington loses that matchup, it's difficult to see them coming back to beat out New York.
Still, the Giants could have a tough time during the backstretch of their schedule. Their non-NFC East slate includes games against two division leaders (Carolina and Minnesota) as well as a frisky Jets team that always gets up for their crosstown rival. Should the Giants drop all three of those games, the door is open for someone else to take their spot at the top.
State of the team: Kirk Cousins has given both the fans and media plenty of reason to like Washington's chances of finishing atop the NFC East. In his most recent outing, the fourth-year signal caller completed 80 percent of his passes for 324 yards and four touchdowns, good for a perfect 158.3 passer rating. His recent play has made Washington winners of two of its last three contests and brought the team within a game of the division-leading Giants. Nothing about the team stands out -- its offense and defense entered the week ranked 20th and 23rd in DVOA, respectively -- but in a division with no true power, mere competency could prove enough for a No. 1 finish.
Case for division title: Washington cannot afford to lose to the Giants in two weeks. A Washington defeat would not only give New York the head-to-head tiebreaker, but it would likely come after a probable road loss to the undefeated Panthers. If Washington drops both games, it would find itself in a 4-7 hole with no easy way out.
Still, even if Washington does notch a win over New York, the rest of the schedule offers little assistance. The team has two games against the division-rival Cowboys as well as a road tilt with Philly that could get ugly. Even the remaining games against the Bears and Bills could prove troublesome. For a team that has yet to string together back-to-back wins in 2015, a division title may be farther out of reach than it appears.
State of the team: Following a 20-19 loss to the Dolphins, Philadelphia finds itself with a losing record and down a starting quarterback. Sam Bradford exited Sunday's game with a shoulder injury and a concussion, either of which could keep him out of action for the foreseeable future. His backup, Mark Sanchez, provided little in the way of relief, tossing a critical end-zone interception late in the fourth quarter. For an offense averaging only 23.6 points per game, the loss of its top passer could reduce its productively even further.
Case for division title: For the Eagles to rebound and take the NFC East, they may need to win three huge games as underdogs. Road trips to New England and New York remain on the schedule, as well as a difficult home matchup against the powerhouse Cardinals. If they can't take the Giants game and at least one other, it could be curtain time in Philly.
Still, if the Eagles manage to secure those wins, they have a shot at charging to the top of the division. They still have a key Week 16 showdown with Washington to slip ahead in the standings, as well as a game against the woeful Lions to boost their record. The path is rocky, but it can be traversed.
State of the team: The Cowboys' slide reached a possible nadir Sunday. The one-time NFC favorites managed only six points against a middling Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad as even the newly healthy Dez Bryant couldn't generate many scoring opportunities. Quarterback Matt Cassel failed to connect with his receivers down the field, and the offense stalled out as a result. Dallas converted just four of its 13 third-down attempts and averaged just 4 yards per play.
Case for division title: Any hope the Cowboys still have of capturing the NFC East crown involves a healthy return for Tony Romo. The team placed the quarterback on short-term injured reserve following his broken collarbone in Week 2 and hasn't won a game since. However, Romo becomes eligible to return this week against the Dolphins, and by all indications he expects to suit up come Sunday. Even so, Dallas needs some additional help to stamp its ticket to the postseason.
Because the Cowboys already exhausted their matchups against the Giants, they need New York to drop at least two of its remaining games. With the Giants set to play the Jets, Panthers and Vikings, Dallas may get its wish. Still, Romo would likely need to lead his team to a flawless finish, including wins over Carolina, Green Bay and two tilts with Washington. While Romo has performed some miracles in the past, that doesn't seem particularly likely to happen.