In the AFC, the chase for the seven playoff spots — including all three wild-card berths — remains wide open. In the NFC, three playoff berths (including two wild-card positions) seem to be locked up.
By three teams in the same division.
In the NFC East, the 7-0 Eagles, the 6-2 Cowboys, and the 6-2 Giants have separated from the pack. Other than the 6-1 Vikings, no other team in the entire conference has two or fewer losses.
It likely will continue, for one very important reason. The scheduling formula.
It consists of a pair of rotations, in each conference. This year, all teams from the NFC East play all teams from the NFC North and the AFC South. That’s eight games, nearly half the schedule, devoted to a predetermined turning of the dial from one division to the next, year after year.
Look at the schedules of the four teams of the NFC East. The teams they’ve faced, the opponents to come. Beyond a Week 13 visit from the 5-2 Titans, the toughest games for the Eagles will be two against the Giants and one more against the Cowboys. Dallas has more games it should win than games it shouldn’t. The Giants emerge from a Week Nine bye with the Texans and Lions at home. The Giants also have two games against the Commanders, and a New Year’s Day visit from the Colts.
Despite the NFL’s preference for parity, each team plays only three of 17 games based on performance in the prior season. Fourteen of the games are predetermined. More specifically, eight of them come from the rotation through divisions, a rotation that has worked out very well for the teams of the NFC East in 2022.
Every year, it changes for every team. It has a huge influence on the outcome of a given season, even if it has nothing to do with balancing out the competition and everything to do with clicking to the next stop on the predetermined tour of one division to the next and the next and the next.