Who would've thought four weeks into the 2016 NFL season that the Eagles would be one of only three unbeaten teams remaining? Carson Wentz's sudden ascension and a defense that's playing like a top five unit have given us all a different perspective about how this season might turn out, and although it's risky getting too excited too soon, now seems like a good time to take stock of the rest of the division at least.
1. The NFC East isn't bad this season
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
For what it's worth, this doesn't look like a year where eight or nine wins will be enough to win the division. The Cowboys have three wins already. The Giants and Washington are 2-2, and of the four, the latter might be the closest thing to a bad team. After years of the NFC East being labeled a bad division, that doesn't appear to be the case this season, so get that idea out of your head right now.
2. Dak Prescott is legit
The Eagles aren't the only team in the East that appears to have identified its quarterback of the future. Dak Prescott is playing lights out as well, and that's not by accident either. He's accurate and makes sound decisions with the football, completing 67.9 percent of his passes for 7.7 yards per attempt with three touchdowns and no interceptions. The rookie signal-caller can take off as well, running for 58 yards and two scores, but he is reminiscent of Russell Wilson in that he always has his eyes downfield and is looking to throw the ball first. Much like the Eagles with Wentz, it doesn't seem too early to say the kid is for real. Suddenly, it doesn't matter much when Tony Romo returns from injury, because the job probably isn't his anymore anyway.
3. Kirk Cousins is still Kirk Cousins
Remember when we were all wondering whether Sam Bradford's impressive seven-game run to close out last season was for real? Well the same question probably should've been raised about Kirk Cousin's finish. In his last 11 games, including playoffs, Cousins threw 24 touchdown passes to only three interceptions, guiding Washington to a 7-4 record and shedding his turnover-prone label in the process. Now four games into 2016, he's already thrown four interceptions to only six touchdowns, three of those coming in losses. Cousins could certainly get on a hot streak again with weapons like Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Vernon Davis and Josh Doctson at his disposal. He still has the potential to throw that backbreaking pick though, like it's hardwired into his DNA or something.
4. And Washington is not a threat
Fun fact about Washington. En route to last season's 9-7 record and division championship, they didn't beat a single team that finished with a winning record. So far in 2016, they've defeated the Giants and Browns, and barely at that. Watching this team hang on for dear life against Cleveland, which bless their hearts, the NFL's only winless team is playing hard every week, but Washington needed two Browns fumbles just to keep from falling behind by two possessions in the second half. With the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants all improved this season, it's difficult to see a scenario where Washington competes for the NFC East title again, let alone is a contender if they somehow did make the playoffs.
5. Although Washington has come a long way
Heard a very interesting fact during the game against Cleveland. Over 30 Washington players from the 2014 team photo are not only off of the roster, but are out of football altogether. Washington may be a long way from being a contender, although they're a competitive team. We already mentioned the weapons on offense, but the defense has some pieces too. Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland form a good cornerback tandem, third-year linebacker Trent Murphy already has 4.0 sacks and Ryan Kerrigan, with at least 7.5 sacks in each of his first five seasons and 18 career forced fumbles, might be the most underrated player in the NFL. As long as their wagon is hitched to Cousins, it's going to be hard to take the next step, but Washington has plenty of quality players on both sides of the ball now.
6. The Cowboys defense is good
The Cowboys defense is one of the most unfairly criticized units in the NFL. Take last season for example. Did you realize Dallas held opponents to 16 points or fewer in six games in 2015? That's hard to do, period, let alone with little to no offensive output — they lost three of those contests by the way. So far this year, the Cowboys have held three of four opponents to 20 or fewer and the last two to 17. Are they a top five unit with a ton of name recognition? No, but it's a solid group that gets the job done, and with any semblance of an offense, that defense is more than good enough to win with.
7. The Giants defense is improved, but still nothing to write home about
New York went on a huge spending spree during the offseason in an effort to rebuild one of the worst defenses in NFL history, and it has worked to some extent. The unit ranks 15th in points allowed and 11th in yards through four weeks, not to mention held the Cowboys and Saints offenses under 20 points the first two weeks. Yet the Giants defense has begun to show some cracks the last two weeks, surrendering 29 and 24 points to Washington and Minnesota, and in the meantime, the group just doesn't make many plays. As a team, they are tied for last in the NFL with just four sacks and one takeaway. So while offenses may not be going up and down the field with ease against the Giants any longer, they still don't have much to be concerned about.
8. But the Giants will continue to compete because of Eli
Yet you can't write off the Giants because of their offense. As long as Eli Manning is under center, they're in the game, especially with the trio of Odell Beckham Jr., Victory Cruz and Sterling Shepard at wide receiver. The three have combined to record 58 catches for 811 yards through four games, although only three touchdowns as Beckham has been kept out of the end zone. Still, you just know with all those weapons at Manning's disposal that any tilt with the Giants has the potential to become a shootout, and they've won their fair share. The Giants may be nothing more than a .500 team, but that can be pesky.
9. The Cowboys are only going to get better as the year goes along
When you look at the injuries the Cowboys have survived to make it to 3-1, you start to get a sense for how good they really are with any kind of legitimate quarterback. Tony Romo and Dez Bryant are both out for the foreseeable future, yet the Cowboys managed to win without both on Sunday for the first time in forever. All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith missed the last two games with a stiff pack, and impressive left guard La'el Collins is out until at least Week 12, yet their offensive line still looks strong. Darren McFadden will soon rejoin the backfield. The defense returns pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence off of suspension this week, Rolando McClain will follow suit in Week 12, while Orlando Scandrick will be back in the secondary just as soon as he gets over a couple of hamstring injuries. With all these reinforcements on the way, not only do you get a sense for just how deep this Cowboys roster is, but you realize how much more of a threat they can be later on in the year as well.
10. The Eagles and Cowboys are the two most complete teams
January 1, 2017. Circle that date on your calendar, because it's not just New Year's Day. When the Eagles and Cowboys meet at Lincoln Financial Field, it could very well be for the NFC East championship. Looking up and down at the four rosters, these two appear to have the fewest holes and best depth, and while both have rookie quarterbacks at the helm, they're already playing like grizzled vets. In other words, buckle your seatbelts, because this season could be about to get a lot more fun.