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Giants Retake Their Place as NFC East Frontrunners: A Fan’s Analysis

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The Philadelphia Eagles looked like the NFC East's best team after beating the New York Giants on Sept. 30. But as Eagles fans like myself know, this is a very volatile division where a first place team can look like a last place one on a given week. And while Philadelphia appeared to be in the best shape after Week 4, New York is now looking much prettier after Week 5.

The Giants didn't have a real good day themselves against the Cleveland Browns on Oct. 7 - at least for the first five minutes. But after falling into an early 14-0 hole to 0-4 Cleveland, New York stormed back and remembered who it was. The Giants' 41-27 win may not have been as easy as it should have been, but it made them look like the best 3-2 team in the NFC East.

The Eagles still hold the first place tiebreaker, despite losing 16-14 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the last second. All it would have taken is one missed last-second Steelers field goal - or one less Michael Vick goal-line fumble - to keep Philadelphia on top of the NFC East by itself, despite its flaws. But by the skin of their teeth, the Birds took a tumble and look like a less stable divisional leader.

This is life in the NFC East, as a team can play like a clear cut champion one week and go downhill the next. The Dallas Cowboys set the tone by beating the Giants on Sept. 6, then fell from favor and are still falling. The Eagles took the top spot by going 2-0, then got destroyed by the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 23. Then it was the Giants' turn to take the mantle, but the Eagles tripped them up a week later - and now it's New York's turn to look like the beasts of the East again.

Given that the Giants visit the revenge-starved, red-hot San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 14 , they may not be the flag bearers of the NFC East for too long this time either. Then all it would take for the Eagles to rise back up is to beat the Detroit Lions and head into their bye-week at 4-2 - before facing the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons the next week. But the Cowboys could make an even bigger statement by rallying back and upsetting the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 14.

Yet if the Giants can keep playing like they did in the second half against the Browns, this whole back-and-forth mess will be sorted out soon enough. Then again, Victor Cruz can't catch three touchdowns every week - and Ahmad Bradshaw can't keep rushing for 200 yards either.

The next time New York stumbles, it's just a question of whether Philadelphia or Dallas can look like divisional frontrunners for a week. Even the Washington Redskins still have hopes to sneak up on them, depending on whether Robert Griffin III can recover from his first concussion.

As of right now, the tide in the NFC East is in favor of the Giants, while the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins are in less ideal shape. But by this time next week, the divisional picture should look quite different, as it does after pretty much every Sunday.

Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.

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