It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (even if we have to look through the tears) and what they have upcoming. Firstly, a big congratulations to the 2017 NFC East Champion Eagles, who won the division in the most Philly-way possible. Thirteen years ago, Chad Lewis broke his foot catching the game-clinching touchdown to send the Iggles to Super Bowl XXXIX, a game he would never be able to dress for. And that was the most quintessential Philly-sports bittersweet moment, until last Sunday, when the Birds clinched a division title on the same day their MVP candidate was lost for the season.
So while we all check the back of the fridge for any leftover Nick Foles smoothie we may still have from 2014 (here's a video of him throwing seven touchdowns against Oakland), let's keep in perspective what this season was really about; making sure Washington, Dallas, and New York didn't win jack. As of Sunday, two out of three have already been eliminated from contention, and while that may be good enough for Meatloaf, there's still paradise to be found by the NFC East standings.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Here's what happened, and what's happening, this week in the NFC East:
New York Giants (2-11)
What Happened: The Giants lost their eleventh game of the season against Dallas on Sunday by a score of 30-10, and at this point calling them a mess would be a compliment. Eli Manning was back at the helm for the GMen, which is sorta like watching old episodes of "The Honeymooners" -- out of date, out of touch, and certainly not funny at all. I, for one, wonder how anyone ever found it any good.
The Giants fans were kind enough to give their embattled quarterback a standing ovation when he entered the game, which was nice, in the same way a Viking funeral is nice. Instead of letting the homecoming hero make a play, of course, the Giants instead handed it off their first play, which running back Orleans Darkwa promptly fumbled. They recovered, but my goodness did that play not perfectly sum up their entire season; equal parts out of touch and completely incompetent.
Anyway, the Giants actually held tight for most of this one, going into halftime tied, only to let Dak and Co. drop 20 on them in the fourth quarter. They even led when Manning threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Rhett Ellison, who to me is sorta like what George Soros is to an Alabama voter; I couldn't recognize him on the street, but I've decided I hate his guts.
Quick Eli note worth remembering; the younger Manning led the league in interceptions in 2007, the first time he won a Super Bowl. A few years later, he threw 27 picks in a single season. In short, Manning has had some truly terrible statistical seasons, and yet delivered a pair of Super Bowls. I guess that's why New Yorkers suddenly feel he's deserving of the red-carpet-Derek-Jeter-farewell-tour treatment. However from my point of view, if this human muscle spasm can end his career with two Super Bowl rings, Foles surely can sneak by with one.
Positive Spin: Nice moment for Eli, who got to come home and get appreciated by the fans who talked smack after every single one of his career 224 interceptions. Like how Nixon was allowed to retire in California. During his 210-game start streak, Eli Manning lost just nine less games then he won (a 52% winning percentage), and it's poetic that the Giants faithful got to watch him lose one more time before he rides off to Jacksonville this offseason.
In unrelated news, if you take out Nick Foles rookie season, he has a 77% winning percentage as a starter, 25-points higher than the highly-regarded Eli. #Math.
Negative Spin: In a handful of months, the Giants will have a new head coach and a new general manager who will need to decide whether to make Davis Webb the new face of the franchise. Instead of getting some valuable game tape on the guy against an actual, competent (and I only say that ‘cause Sean Lee played) defense, the future leaders of an organization that once kept a domestic-abusing kicker around just got more film from the least talented quarterback to ever be mentioned in Hall of Fame conversation.
Eli's moment on Sunday may have been nice for fans, but it provides little-to-no value for this team going forward… unless the plan is to convince the 37-year-old to stick around for one more season, which seems about as advantageous as keeping that expired milk in your fridge, hoping it can somehow turn the corner.
What's Next: The Giants play host to the NFC East Champs on Sunday, and one can only presume it won't come down to a 61-yard field goal from Si Senior Jake Elliott this time around. For the Giants, winning would only hurt their draft position, while a victory for the Birds would clinch a first-round bye. So perhaps we can all come to some sort of mutually-beneficial agreement? :::wink-wink:::
Seriously though, if the Giants do beat the Birds come Sunday, it'll officially make their season the stupidest.
What Happened: Washington was officially eliminated from the playoffs, and that's a win for everybody, since every time Dan Snyder gets upset, somewhere an old lady wins a court case. The wheels appear to be coming off for Jay Gruden's squad, as they got smacked in Los Angeles by the Chargers 30-13. Philip Rivers crew, whom the Eagles beat handedly earlier this year, flew into halftime with a 23-6 lead that Washington never seriously threatened.
Kirk Cousins, who was drafted 14-spots after Nick Foles and has a losing record as a starter, threw for just 151 yards, which obviously wasn't enough to prevent Washington from losing their sixth out of their last eight games. Quite frankly, having that little productivity through the air when your team was playing from behind the majority of the game can generously be described as atrocious.
And like my stomach after too many barbacoa burritos, the Washington locker room is starting to get a little grumbly. Guys like D.J. Swearinger and Josh Norman both had eyebrow-raising comments this week, and even former player Brian Mitchell declared he's quitting on this team, which seems odd, since they actually quit on him over seventeen years ago. In Mitchell's defense, he was cut at a time before SMS, so it's not his fault he didn't get the memo.
Adding injury to insult, Washington put three more dudes on IR this week, including tight end Jordan Reed, who ends his season with less on the stat sheet than Trey Burton.
All-in-all, it spells trouble for Jay Gruden and his staff, who saw their faint playoff hopes get crushed via two blow-out losses in a ten-day span, one of which came against their biggest division rival. For the past few weeks I've been suggesting that Washington, while struggling, ahd been a victim of too-many-injuries and would surely play hard enough to save Gruden's job. Alas, when players are telling reports the team didn't practice hard enough (as Swearinger did), or that they're unhappy in their roles (as Norman did), it's typically a recipe for a coaching-change come January. After all, it doesn't matter how good the appetizer and main course might have been, if the dessert is atrocious, you're gonna leave the restaurant with a bad taste in your mouth.
And Dan Snyder isn't the kind of guy who goes back to a restaurant that left him with a bad taste in his mouth.
Positive Spin: I dunno, draft position? Anyone in D.C. hoping to move on after four years of this Administration will be happy to hear the end may be near for Gruden.
The only really positive thing I can find when looking at the Washington Football team is that they won three Super Bowls with three separate quarterbacks: Mark Rypien, Doug Williams, and Joe Theisman. All of them have a career passer rating lower than Nick Foles, and that's something positive I can wrap my head around.
Negative Spin: So what happens here? A new head coach, maybe a new GM, and a whole new gameplan? Is Washington about to start from scratch, two years after winning this division and less-than-a-year from barely missing the playoffs? How did all that positive energy disappear so quickly, as it always seems to with Snyder at the helm. The man is like a vacuum, if vacuum's had a setting where they only suck up the good things and leave out all the garbage and filth.
This Washington squad is trending downwards for the second consecutive year. Gruden may not be the captain capable of turning this ship around, but most fans likely have more faith in him doing so than in Snyder and team president Bruce Allen (who has now been with the team since 2009) finding someone who can.
What's Next: Washington finishes up the season with games against the Cardinals, Broncos, and Giants. None of those teams can impact the Eagles spot in the playoffs, so just like B-Mitch when he ditched the Birds for the GMen, this team is not completely irrelevant. Sayonara, Snyder!
Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
What Happened: In what could generously be described as Eli Manning Bobblehead Day (because Eli Manning returned, and doesn't he always look like his head would bobble if you tapped it?), Dak Prescott stole the show with three touchdown passes as the Dallas Cowboys won again, 30-10. Prescott has now thrown for 44 career touchdown passes, or 12 less than Nick Foles, for anyone keeping score at home. Yet be prepared for more national pundits to treat Prescott the second coming, even though his stats at this point in his career are eerily similar to where Foles' were at the same time.
Despite what you may hear, the Cowboys were actually in danger of losing this one, and looked pretty mediocre throughout the day. Unfortunately for all of us who root for good in this world, Dallas exploded for three touchdowns in about a five-minute span, so now we have to hear about what GREAT FINISHERS Jason Garrett's squad is. Color me unimpressed; when the Birds needed a last-second play to beat the Giants, they still had Odell Beckham Jr. The Giants best ball-catcher this week was tight end Evan Engram.
In the end, though, you can only play the teams that are on your schedule, and the Cowboys got a much-needed, feel-good victory that keeps them in FOX Sports' "IN THE HUNT" playoff graphic for at least another week.
Oh, and ICYMI, Roger Goodell got his contract extension after all, which stands as proof that Jerry Jones may not be the Shadow Commissioner he's made himself out to be. I for one enjoy any Cowboys loss, be in on or off the gridiron. Watching Goodell and Jones do battle this season has been like watching the Borg fight Species 8572, and if you get that reference, then you deserve a medal.
Positive Spin: For the second game in a row, Prescott looked impressive, which is a big step forward from the guy who looked Hoying-esque without his star running back. It's worth noting his improvement has correlated with the return of left tackle Tyron Smith, but I'm admittedly being nit-picky here. The Cowboys have won more games than they've lost so far in 2017, and have done just enough to keep their postseason chances alive (even if they may be in ICU). With Zeke set to come back in two weeks, and the old adage about anything-can-happen-in-the-playoffs still holding true, Dallas isn't in the worst spot.
No, the worst spot is still reserved for the Giants.
Negative Spin: Despite all the happy shine Cowboys fans could potentially try to spin, the playoffs are still a LONG shot. They currently sit a game behind the Atlanta Falcons for the final Wild Card spot, but would need to leapfrog them, the Seahawks, the Lions, and the Packers (who just got Aaron Rodgers back). Anyone who remembers the 2008 Eagles knows that crazier playoff scenarios have played out, however keeping in mind that ‘dem Boys have won just one game vs. a team over .500 (a victory over the reeling Chiefs in Week 9), it seems safe to bet against them. Or at the very least, pray to the football gods against them.
To reiterate: their past two victories have come against Washington and the Giants. One team has already fired their coach, and the other may soon follow suit. It's not like beating, say, the Los Angeles Rams at home with a back-up quarterback and the division title up for grabs. A win is a win to be sure, but when it comes to measuring awesomeness, not all wins are created equal. Like how Ruth's Chris and McDonalds both, by definition, serve pieces of cow; the comparisons pretty much die out after that.
All in all, while the Cowboys may be playing better of late (and you can still argue they aren't), the season is still likely to end at the conclusion of Week 17.
What's Next: A trip to Oakland against the awful Raiders (who are still fighting for a division spot), followed by a home game against the Seattle Seahawks (who are currently ahead of them in the standings). Win both of those games, and maybe, just maybe, the Cowboys will have a chance to get knocked out by the NFC East Champs in Philly on New Years Eve.