Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy keeps focus on beating NFC East rivals

FRISCO, Texas -- Winning division games is always important. It's even more important when the four teams have combined for five wins through six weeks like the NFC East.

The Dallas Cowboys are atop the division with a 2-4 mark. Their next two games are against 1-5 Washington on Sunday and then the 1-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

"Win the division games, you win the division," Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "Clearly that's the way our division is set up, where everybody is as far as their season and the number of wins and losses. This is probably going to come down to the division games like it normally is. On a yearly basis, the production of wins, how it leads to a playoff berth, you need to really be north of four division wins. If you look at the fourth division win, it kicks you into a lot higher percentage as far as your probability of making the playoffs. Obviously if you win five or six of your division games, your probability is even higher.

"So I think from a focus standpoint it's obvious, and this year as far as where all the teams are, all four teams after six games, it's right in front of us."

The Cowboys are 1-0 in the NFC East, having beaten the 1-5 New York Giants in Week 5. Since 2016, the Cowboys have an 18-6 mark in the division, and since 2017, they have finished 5-1 in the division each year, making the playoffs in 2018 but missing the postseason in 2017 and 2019.

The division's .229 combined winning percentage is the second worst for any division through Week 6 since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, and ESPN's Football Power Index predicts there is a 28% chance the NFC East winner will have six or fewer wins.

The NFC East is the only division with three new head coaches: McCarthy, Joe Judge (Giants) and Ron Rivera (Washington).

"Honestly, nothing surprises me in this league anymore, and this is an unusual year," McCarthy said. "I think it just really is a confirmation that you just need to focus on your own football team, continue to clean your own house, which we obviously had some cleaning to do this week, and just keep things in perspective. As long as the goal is in front of you, it's a good situation to be in. When you're playing from behind or you're playing uphill, obviously it's more of a challenge.

"Those aren't statistics I spend a lot of time on. I think it's about winning one game each week, and frankly this is a big game for us."