In the fall of 2020, most of us were still hunkered down in our homes, social distancing ourselves from our neighbors, and a lot of us binged too many shows as the pandemic was in full swing.  

Sports that year was heartbreaking, mysterious and mystical.  

Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and more were killed in a helicopter crash. March Madness was cancelled before it ever tipped offRudy Gobert mocked COVID-19 in his infamous press conference.The NBA bubble brought some of the purest basketball performances.  

The NHL saw a delay in their postseason but also witnessed the Tampa Bay Lightning go back-to-back since the 2016-2017 Pittsburgh Penguins, the only two teams to accomplish the feat in the 21st century. 

The Atlanta Braves suffered a heart-breaking defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers, blowing a 3-1 lead, in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers would go on to win their seventh World Series over the low-payroll Tampa Bay Rays.  

The NFL saw games played in hollowed stadiums without the presence of thousands of fans. Tom Brady was in his first year with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and showed no signs of father time catching him. And the NFC East was a complete train wreck, a laughing stock, of the National Football League.  

At a combined record of 23-40, the historic football division was at the height of criticism from the media. The Washington Commanders won the division with a hodgepodge of quarterbacks at the helm: Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, and Taylor Heinicke. 

Now, 2020 is in the rearview mirror. The start of a new decade brought us COVID-19, a new president, and the rejuvenation of the NFL’s most successful division. 

From NFC Least to NFC Beast.  

The NFC East sent three of its four teams to the playoffs this season: the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, and the Giants of New York. The Washington Commanders fell out of playoff contention in the final weeks of the regular season despite still living in quarterback purgatory.  

Already a New York legend, Brian Daboll has breathed new life into the Giants’ organization. With no weapons for receivers, Saquon Barkley trying to avoid another injury-riddled season, and a struggling quarterback, Daboll has accomplished more in one year (9-7-1) than Joe Judge and Pat Shurmur combined. With a playoff win against the Minnesota Vikings, SKOL, Daniel Jones has breathed new life into an NFL career. The Giants have found their coach of the future, and maybe the dark age for New York is finally over.  

The Dallas Cowboys managed to do what they do best this year—be a letdown in the playoffs. But don’t let that fool anyone, America’s team is talented, defensively. With offseason questions looming for offensive pieces, the defense, coached by Dan Quinn, is one of the best and most feared in the league. They have their superstar in other-worldly talent Micah Parsons, and if Trevon Diggs continues to grow, then the Cowboys may have a blueprint to become what San Francisco is currently. If the right moves are made by Jerry Jones, which I doubt will happen, then Dallas will be gifted more primetime slots than they possess now.  

Then there is Nick Sirianni and the Philadelphia Eagles. What a turnaround by the organization that most recently won the Super Bowl in this division. A fall from grace from the 2017 Nick Foles run, a 4-11-1 record in 2020 was rock bottom for Philadelphia. But with great draft picks, coaching hires, and contract agreements, the Eagles sit a 14-3 and as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They thumped the Giants in the divisional round and are on their way to the conference title game. Jalen Hurts has proved doubters wrong, the defense is filled with absolute dogs and nightmare fuel, and the offensive line is the best in the league. Whoever made the decision to trade for AJ Brown from the Titans must be credited with the success of this team. Brown’s addition has made the Philly offense nearly unstoppable.  

An unstoppable force meets the immovable object this weekend, though, as the 49ers travel to the City of Brotherly Love. DeMeco Ryans and Kyle Shanahan have a chance to become the standard, if they are not already, against Sirianni’s Eagles. But, with a coach that embodies the city’s grit, Philadelphia will be a tough place to play. The Eagles are the standard this season for a reason. The only other team to be on the same pace as Philadelphia is the AFC’s Cincinnati Bengals led by heartthrob Joe Burrow. From a disappointing season in 2020, playoffs in 2021 (Super Bowl run by the Bengals), and now contenders for the conference crowns, these two teams may be the staple for each conference for years to come.  

Then there is the Washington Commanders. The team is in no manland. Yet still, the Commanders deserve respect as a physical, grind-you-out football team. If underestimated they will ruin your perfect season, looking at you, Philadelphia, and somehow, they are in playoff contention in January. The Commanders deserve a tip of the cap, at least. Who knows, maybe they are one quarterback away from taking the NFC East crown.  

Life is moving fast. 2020 does not seem so far away, to me it feels like it was yesterday still, but now we are in 2023. If there is anything that has moved as fast as time has, it is the NFC East. Maybe the NFC South will be inspired, as this year’s terrible division (29-39 combined), maybe draft picks and free agency will be put to good use and see the rise of least historic division in football. 

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