PHILADELPHIA -- Ah, the good old NFC East, where up is down, black is white and you can trade your starting quarterback a week before the season and still find yourself in first place when October dawns.
Yeah, those are the Philadelphia Eagles undefeated and leading the division through three weeks. Yes, that's defending champion Washington, 1-2 by the skin of its teeth and the generosity of Eli Manning, sitting in last place. And in the middle we find the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, each of whom entered the year with major questions but have managed to start 2-1. The Giants hold the tiebreaker right now for second place because they won by a point in Dallas in Week 1, but Dallas beat Washington, Washington beat the Giants and the Eagles haven't played anyone in the division yet.
In other words, as always seems to be the case in the NFC East, nobody knows anything.
The Eagles look fantastic right now, coming off a 34-3 throttling of popular preseason favorite Pittsburgh on Sunday. They have yet to lose a game or turn the ball over. At some point (likely on the same day), they will do both. It won't be this week, since they're on bye, but tougher times do loom for rookie quarterback Carson Wentz and this squad. Four of their next five games are on the road, the one home game in that stretch is against fellow unbeaten Minnesota and the second half of the Eagles' season features road games in Seattle, Cincinnati and Baltimore. Add in the looming 10-game suspension of right tackle Lane Johnson, and it's fair to assume the Eagles will struggle at some point.
Which is fine. Philadelphia was prepared for a bit of a rebuilding year, given the state of the roster post-Chip Kelly. The Eagles are pleasantly stunned to be 3-0, and they're head over heels for Wentz, who looks like the real deal. You'd much rather go into an offseason believing you have your quarterback and needing to fill in around him with surer-handed wide receivers and younger offensive linemen than wondering who your quarterback is. So even if the Eagles' hot start fades, things look sunny there long term, and the early season success is a huge part of that.
But the rules clearly state that the NFC East must have a champion and field a playoff team this season. And if the Eagles turn out not to be as good as they look right now, the question of which team that will be is wide open.
The Cowboys already have won more games without Tony Romo this season than they did in 12 tries last year. Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott are keeping the offense afloat. In the whole NFL, they trail only the Eagles in time of possession, which means the plan to grind out clock and keep the undermanned defense off the field is holding up so far. Pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence returns from suspension in Week 5. They're still expecting Romo back around midseason. And while out-of-division trips to Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Minnesota don't look fun, it doesn't appear as if Romo's absence will crush this season the way it did the last. That's some reason for hope in Big D.
The Giants just had their best September in four years, but my goodness are they sloppy. They've turned the ball over seven times, only taken it away once and just committed 11 penalties for 128 yards in Sunday's loss to Washington. That was a game that could have stamped them as division favorites and sunk Washington into an 0-3 hole. Instead, they face October road trips to Minnesota, Green Bay and London -- and legitimate questions about the sustainability of their hot start. The Giants were 3-8 last year in games decided by a touchdown or less, so being 2-1 in such games so far is encouraging in the grand scheme. And at least until Romo returns (and possibly after), they still have the division's best quarterback. But things are about to get tougher, and Ben McAdoo's bunch needs to tighten up in a hurry.
In our nation's capital, the division's defending champ wonders whether Kirk Cousins can be the sharp decision-maker he was last year and in Sunday's second half or the scatter-armed mess he was for the season's first two and a half games. Cousins is going to have to carry Washington's offense, which can't run at all and doesn't look like it really wants to try. The only two teams in the league averaging more passing yards per game than Washington are the two that hook up in the Superdome on Monday night, Atlanta and New Orleans. If Cousins' team turns it around, he's going to have the stats to warrant that big contract extension the Redskins didn't want to give him this offseason.
There's a long way to go in this and every other division, but the only thing we ever know about the NFC East is that we have no idea what will happen. The division hasn't had a repeat winner since 2003-04, and only once in the past six years has one of its teams won more than 10 games in a season. You can make the case that the Eagles already are a third of the way home if you want to. And even if they win it with the North Dakota State rookie, it couldn't be viewed as a major surprise. But there are sure to be more surprises between now and then in the always wild and wacky NFC East.