With a loss to Washington this past week, the Eagles have guaranteed a losing record within the NFC East for 2016. Which is definitely a bummer, no matter how you slice it. Sure, the division is tougher than it was a year ago (which is like saying televisions are better now than they were in the 60’s). And sure, the Birds went into the year with a rookie coach and a rookie quarterback (which, in an instantaneous world where we can literally have pizza delivered with the click of a button, is a worthy excuse that’s grown tiring fast).
But 0-4 is inexcusable. Considering the Cowboys are likely to be resting guys come Week 17, the Birds have one final chance to get something positive from their 2016 NFC East schedule.
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As always, despite how much internal bleeding it may cause, here’s your NFC East recap for Week 14:
What Happened: Despite falling behind early to a divisional rival on the road, Kirk Cousins and Company showed true grit and determination and blahblahblah, bouncing back for a hard-fought victory and sweeping the season series against the Eagles with a 27-22 win.
And while Washington didn’t do a whole bunch to instill confidence to a fanbase still shaken by consecutive losses, they did get the win. Most impressive was consecutive drives in the third quarter that gave Jay Gruden’s squad some breathing room (oxygen Cousins promptly threw away with a pick-6, but that’s not the point).
DeSean Jackson had one of his classic 80-yard all-too-easy touchdowns, which some governments would argue is cruel and unusual punishment. After all, it was Chip Kelly who cut Jaccpot (unless it wasn’t), and he’s long gone, so why does the fanbase still have to pay for it? The emergence of Jamison Crowder has likely ended Jackson’s time in D.C., so don’t expect the DeSean-Comes-Home rumors to end anytime soon.
Which would be cool, I guess, in the same way that seeing a Michael Bay “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie is cool; more nostalgic than anything, and not as explosive as you’d probably expect. Again, this is a 30-year-old wide out who’s only real weapon is his speed, with a history of complaining when things go poorly. That’s not some “back when I was younger” thing, either. He was doing it earlier this year about the quarterback who has now beaten the Eagles five consecutive times. Buyer beware.
Back to Washington: they won a game on the road that they were technically the underdog for, keeping their playoff hopes alive. That’s the mark of a good team. Not a great one, mind you… not with that phlegm-inducing defense. But certainly a good one.
What It Means: Washington remains a half-game out of the playoffs behind Tampa Bay, and rooting for Jameis Winston to be successful over Cousins is like choosing to dry your face with sandpaper over a cheese grater. Green Bay is still in it, though! They’re safe to root for, right?
More historically notable, Washington is one win away from having their first consecutive winning seasons since Dan Snyder bought the team. Which is, coincidentally or not, the last time the Eagles had back-to-back losing seasons. So before you go writing an angry letter demanding Jeffrey Lurie sell the team, keep in mind; this team isn’t one to tank.
Bottom line for Eagles fans: Washington is quite simply a better team right now. As they should be: they won the NFC East last year and brought everyone back, while the Iggles fired their coaching staff, jettisoned a number of veterans and handed the reins to a rookie quarterback. Washington SHOULD be better than the Eagles right now. None of this is surprising; it just stinks.
What’s Next: The final NFC Wild Card spot will likely go to either Tampa, Washington, Minnesota, or Green Bay. With Carolina, Chicago, and a potentially-resting New York Giants team on the docket, Washington has as good a shot at any of playing extra football.
What Happened: Well well well… Ivan Drago’s not a machine, after all. For the second time this year, the Cowboys were defeated, and again it was at the hands of Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Football Giants. Despite an impressive touchdown drive by ‘dem Boys to start the game, Dallas and New York found themselves in a punters duel Sunday night, which the GMen eventually won by the yawn-inducing score of 10-7.
The game featured three Eli Manning turnovers and two from Dak Prescott. Though in Prescott’s defense, one was the as-good-as-a-punt variety we’ve seen Caron Wentz deliver on more than one occasion this year. As you can imagine just by looking at the score, neither quarterback looked particularly fantastic, as they both were held to under 200 yards in the air. Seriously, this game was like taking a handful of melatonin. Or a liter of Malbec.
Dez Bryant, meanwhile, had just one catch in this game. It was late in the 4th quarter. He fumbled it away almost immediately. It was GREAT! And those were the last yards the Dallas offense gained on the day. You may remember back in September when Terrence Williams failed to go out of bounds and let the clock run out. Somehow, Bryant was able to one-up him.
What It Means: For the Cowboys, very little. Dallas still has a two-game lead over Detroit (who has somehow won five in a row, go figure) for homefield throughout the playoffs, so this likely doesn’t change their season in the slightest.
Unless, of course, the Cowboys end up facing the Giants again in the playoffs.
What’s Next: The next two weeks are against potential playoff opponents, Tampa Bay and Detroit. Then there’s the regular season finale against the Birds, which I’ve been assuming Dallas will lose because, quite frankly, my soul requires it. IF -- and it’s a big if -- but if either of those teams pull off an upset against Dallas, and the Eagles do in fact close out the season with a victory, the Cowboys will go into a playoff bye week having lost three of their last four. That’s not a hot team, a narrative the national media will undoubtedly highlight (and I’ll undoubtedly root for).
Or, y’know, they could just steamroll through their next three games, because good is dumb.
New York Giants
What Happened: And now, we arrive at the Curious Case of the New York Giants. Big Blue has been the NFC East’s other team this season; while Dallas has been the star, the Giants have been (at least standings wise) just a step behind them most of the year. However they’ve never seemed as dominant as Dallas, or even as good as they’re 9-4 record suggests. They’re the type of team that seems to play to the level of their opponent, winning closer-than-necessary games against the Bengals, Rams, and Browns earlier this season
Except, of course, when they’re on the same field as Dallas, as the Giants have now swept the season series against the Cowboys.
And while there wasn’t much pretty about Sunday night, the play of the game was undoubtedly the 61-yard catch-and-run by Odell Beckham Jr. that gave New York the lead at the end of the third quarter. OBJ is so easy to dislike, but there's no denying his talent --- the game-winning score was a basic slant route that Jordan Matthews would have only been able to get six yards out of (and Nelson Agholor would have dropped). While I was throwing shade at the idea of bringing back DeSean Jackson earlier, there’s no denying the impact a true playmaker can have on an offense.
That being said, Beckham did squib a punt earlier in this one. Lets not forget. He nearly ruined everything.
What It Means: At 9-4, the Giants are all but locked into one of the NFC Wild Card spots. Their will be no Mets-like collapse
The question is now; will the Giants become the monkey Dallas pulls off their back this postseason on their way to glory? Or, like 2007, can the Giants put a hard stop on what felt like a special Cowboys season?
OR, more likely, are these two teams not going to see each other until Week 1 of 2017? ONLY TIME WILL TELL!
What’s Next: Another potential playoff preview against the Detroit Lions, followed by a trip to Philly.