The Philadelphia Eagles have been dismissed for leading a weak NFC East. In fact, if the NFC East was stronger -- or at least if the Dallas Cowboys were -- the Eagles would have been out of the running before they had time to get hot. But for all the jokes about the East being the weak sister of the NFL, the NFC North has now proven to be much worse, as Philadelphia further exposed on Dec. 22.
The Chicago Bears had a chance to clinch the NFC North, against an Eagles team with nothing to play for -- yet Philadelphia still won by 54-11. It was the final embarrassment for a division that is among the tightest in the NFL, but is undoubtedly the weakest. It is now so bad that a 7-7-1 Green Bay Packers team which still doesn't have Aaron Rodgers can win it, by beating the now 8-7 Bears in Chicago on Dec. 29.
This is the same Packers team that was upset by the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, right before the Bears played the Eagles. At the same time, the Detroit Lions were being eliminated by the lowly New York Giants in overtime, completing a total collapse out of first place. Although both the Bears and Packers lost their starting quarterbacks in the second half, the Lions were still too poor to take advantage, falling out of contention at 7-8.
The Eagles themselves have played their part in weakening the NFC North "leaders." First they beat the Packers on Nov. 10 in their first full game without Rodgers, then triggered the Lions' collapse by beating them in the snow on Dec. 8. After destroying the Bears, the Eagles are now assured of finishing ahead of the NFC North champion, whoever it may be.
This will give Philadelphia the No. 3 seed in the NFC if it wins the East. It would make the Eagles 10-6 and show that for all of the East's weaknesses, it at least had a division champion that won more than eight or nine games.
Ironically, if the Eagles had beaten the NFC North's worst team in the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 15, they would have won their division by now. Yet because Philadelphia feasted on the North's so-called best, it is still alive in the first place and has salvaged the NFC East's reputation, at least by comparison.