The regular season has finally come to a close, and the NFC East will mercifully not feature three teams in the postseason. Sure, the Cowboys had the NFC's best record, and the Giants are feeling great about themselves--- but hey, at least Washington fans are as miserable as we are!
Pitchers and catchers report in forty-one days. Here's a look at what happened this final week in the NFC East.
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
What Happened: In a game that meant literally nothing for either team (unless you were overly concerned about where the Iggles were picking in the 2nd round), the Cowboys got soundly beat by the 2018 NFC East Champion Philadelphia Eagles, 27-13.
By the end, the game had an odd preseason feel to it; the team with higher goals was resting everyone important, while the other was still going full-throttle with an eye-out for progress. Tony Romo did come in and lead a touchdown drive, which, if all goes accordingly to plan, will be the last time he's seen on a football field with a star on his helmet. Romo will end his NFC East career vs. The Eagles 9-6 as a starter; like the creepy clown thing, he was fun to enjoy from afar, but not so much in-person. Good riddance.
Preseason or not, the Eagles got the win, which ends Dallas' season at 13-3 … the same mark they had in 2007 when they also had the best record in the NFC. The Cowboys didn't win a playoff game that season… and nine months later, the Phillies were World Series Champions. WILL HISTORY REPEAT ITSELF!? All eyes on you, Clay Buchholz.
What It Means: Romo playing well means two things; one is good news for dem ‘Boys, and the other is a fantastic hypothetical we can all spend the next few weeks rooting for.
One is that by orchestrating one touchdown drive without crumbling like a piece of 36-year-old bleu cheese, Romo improved his own stock. So maybe someone trades for him, like Denver or Houston or Jacksonville? And before you laugh, remember, the Miami Dolphins once made a move for a 36-year-old Trent Green -- the same age Romo is now. It's an QB-dependent league, and someone is bound to take a flier.
The fun hypothetical is IF the Cowboys end up exiting the postseason without a victory, and IF the loss is directly linked (rightfully or not) to the play of Dak Prescott. Think about it this way; if Dallas finds themselves down 10-0 at halftime and Prescott has two picks, will the Skip Bayless' of the world not be questioning why Garrett isn't making the switch to his crafty veteran gunslinger?
Sure, it's a lot of IF's… but never forget, the most popular guy in town is always the back-up quarterback. The history of this particular back-up quarterback, along with his glimmer of competence on Sunday, puts extra pressure on the rookie QB to deliver in his first postseason game ever.
What's Next: With the best record in the NFC, the Cowboys get to face the worst team that makes it out of the Wild Card round. If Detroit wins in Seattle, it'll be them (and that game is on Saturday night). If the Lions fall, Dallas will face the winner of Green Bay and New York -- a preferable option for anyone rooting for this team's immediate exit.
New York Giants
What Happened: Despite having nothing to play for, the Giants played a high majority of their starters (including Eli Manning) throughout Week 17 and ended with a 19-10 victory over Washington that was even closer than that score suggests.
The hero of this one was --- not a typo -- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, former Eagle who was laughed out of town in a similar form to Byron Maxwell. DRC had a pair of interceptions; one that killed Washington's momentum early, and another that essentially sealed the victory.
The Giants starters were playing, presumably, because they looked like garbage last week against your Philadelphia Eagles, and needed a bit of momentum going into the playoffs. While the offense didn't look anything fantastic (only putting up 13 points when it mattered against a Washington defense leakier than the DNC's computer system), the defense did look sharp, shutting down Washington throughout and sacking Kirk Cousins four separate times.
What It Means: For the Giants -- NOTHING!! New York was locked into the 5th spot in the playoffs shortly after losing to the Birds last week. Talk about momentum all you want, but on paper, playing starters on Sunday could have done nothing but hurt the Giants Super Bowl chances.
Big Blue appears to have gotten away without any serious scarring, though Pro Bowl cornerback Janoris Jenkins will be hobbled. If Jordy Nelson burns him six times this Sunday, there will be plenty of Monday Morning Quarterbacks ready to roast Ben McAdoo.
What's Next: A road game in Lambeau Field, which, Giants fans will be quick to remind everyone, was the same spot the 2007 NFC Championship game was held. Of course, it's also the same spot where Eli and Co. lost 23-16 back in Week 5, but who can really remember that far back, right?
What Happened: Washington CHOKED!! Needing nothing more than a win at home against a divisional rival with nothing to play for, Kirk Cousins literally threw away his team's postseason chance with a two-interception game.
Despite looking like sewer water most of the game offensively, Washington had a chance to win this one late. With the score 13-10 and 1:10 left to play, D.C. had the ball about six yards away from what FOX deemed field goal range. Alas, even with two time-outs and a 1st-and-10, Cousins couldn't resist throwing an off-balanced pass downfield that was promptly picked off by Rodgers-Cromartie, and that's all she wrote.
What It Means: While there's plenty for D.C. radio to discuss about this one --- like the defense having its best outing of the year, or the running games complete incompetence, or the series of hissy-fits Washington receivers threw all day -- the conversation will start and end with the quarterback.
A year ago, with the postseason on the line, Cousins outdueled Franchise Savior Sam Bradford in Week 16 to help his team clinch the NFC East. As a result, he was rewarded with the franchise tag and a full season as the team's starter.
This year, in the biggest of spots, Cousins came up small -- and looked like a guy in his own head in the process. Washington is still likely to extend (or at least re-tag) him, and in an NFL where Matt Barkley is starting, there's no shame in locking up a quarterback that set a number of franchise records.
That doesn't change the fact that the narrative for Cousins, perhaps unfairly, will be that he is the reason Washington isn't in the playoffs.
What's Next: The 17th pick in the NFL draft. While the offseason will likely be dominated by debate over Cousins' value, the Washington front office also has tough decisions to make on free agents Pierre Garcon, Chris Baker, and future Eagle DeSean Jackson.