As the sun slowly sets on another Eagles season, and gut instinct is to focus exclusively on an offseason of secondary upgrades and potential wide receiver free agents, there is still great pleasure to be found here in 2016.
After all, the NFC East might not be as great as we thought.
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Sure, Dallas seems on their way to home field advantage throughout the playoffs, which feels like getting your earlobe stuck in a car door. And sure, currently the Giants and Washington are in the Wild Card spots, which is a lot like someone trying to pierce your belly-button while you’re trying to remove said earlobe from said car door. But none of that matters this week! Because this week, two out of three of the Eagles division rivals provided concrete evidence that neither may be as good as their playoff-worthy records dictate.
And when you can’t find joy in your own accomplishments, well, it’s always recommended one finds a little silver lining in the demise of those closest to you. That’s just life.
Here’s a look at what happened this week in the NFC East:
What Happened: It was one of Dallas’ tougher victories on the year, which is like saying the Chicken Mini Quesadilla is the healthiest item on the Taco Bell value menu. Minnesota played the Cowboys extremely tough, forcing two turnovers, winning the time of possession, and holding Canton-bound Dak Prescott to a measly 139 yards in the air.
Alas, none of that ended up mattering because with 25 seconds remaining, Sam Bradford’s two-point conversion pass sailed out the back of the endzone, and the Cowboys were able to hold on for their 11th consecutive victory, 17-15.
Sure, there was a lot more to it than that. Prescott fumbled on a 3rd-and-1 that could have allowed Dallas to run out the clock. A Vikings punt returner fumbled in the 4th quarter that gave Dallas a key redzone opportunity. And Bradford did lead an impressive 65-yard touchdown drive to give his team the chance to send the game into overtime.
But none of that really matters, as Dallas walked away with another win. And before you get too down about it, just thank the higher powers that you’re not a Minnesota Vikings fan this season.
What It Means: The Vikings have dropped to 6-6, which is a good thing for the Eagles first round pick, and a completely irrelevant thing for the Dallas Cowboys. Jason Garrett’s squad has now clinched a playoff spot (thanks to a Washington lost) and can turn their focus onto clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, before inevitably resting their starters before facing the Birds in Week 17. They’re now at the point of a successful season where the most important debate is how best to avoid rust heading into the playoffs. Earlobe, meet car door.
The Cowboys are an interesting study. Last year, they lost their quarterback, then lost seven games in a row. This year they have the quarterback, and have won eleven in a row. Sure, Ezekiel Elliott has been tremendous, but it’s not as if the Cowboys running game was so atrocious in 2015. And yet, when you watch Prescott, he’s not doing SO much to warrant an 8-game (and counting) improvement.
The full reasoning behind ‘How Dallas Went From Garbage Eaters To The NFCs Top Team’ can’t be attributed to just one move. But it does stand as a nice reminder that in the NFL, things can turn around very quickly.
Unfortunately, it just seems like forever since they turned around for us.
What’s Next: Dallas faces the Giants in New Jersey, the last (and only) team to beat them this season. They then face Tampa Bay and Detroit, both teams fighting for a playoff spot, so no gimme-games between now and Week 17.
What Happened: Like last week against Dallas, Washington found themselves in an early hole and couldn’t fight back. Kirk Cousins was good-not-great, throwing for 271 yards but putting up a costly interception. And Washington’s defense had no answer for the Cardinal’s David Johnson, who had 175-total yards (thanks in large part to nine receptions) and a pair of touchdowns.
Also, their was a weird rumor on Sunday morning about DeSean Jackson being an Eagles target in the offseason. It’s unlike the Eagles to leak rumors about offseason targets, especially during the regular season, so the most likely scenario is this is information provided by Jaccpot’s agent. While I’ll always have a soft-spot in my football heart for the guy who did this, the idea that an aging wide receiver whose game is built on speed will cure the Iggles woes seems about as likely as Sam Hinkie replacing Howie Roseman.
Not like that’s a excuse for the woeful Washington defense, however. They’ve now given up 31 points in consecutive games, which sets a nice bar for Carson Wentz and Co. on Sunday.
What It Means: For the second week in a row, Washington failed the test, and while I don’t remember too much from High School, I imagine there's only so many times you can retake an exam.
The Cardinals are a good and desperate team playing at home; there's no shame in going down swinging. However this is the second week in a row Washington fans have to build themselves up over the positives to take from defeat. To make something happen from a wild card spot, Dan Snyder’s squad will need to win games on the road against tough opponents. The past two weeks, they didn’t, and it’s fair to wonder if we’ve seen this team’s ceiling.
What’s Next: A trip to Philly where the Eagles have been hard to beat this year. Let’s not forget; the Birds playoff chances were denied the past two seasons by this very Washington squad. In a season suddenly lacking in joyous victories, a W on Sunday would feel phenomenal.
New York Giants
What Happened: Like Washington, the Giants faced a real test on Sunday, and like Washington, the Giants failed miserably. New York was never really in this one, falling behind 14-0 to Pittsburgh in the first half and never bringing it within a score again. Eli Manning threw a pair of interceptions, both in the redzone, though in his defense one of them was on a fourth-and-13 and the Giants were already way behind because of how terrible Eli had been earlier in the afternoon. So, in theory, not fully his fault there.
Oh, and did Odell Beckham say something silly? But of course! The Giants headline-creating wide receiver had a number of complaints against the officiating on Sunday, saying it felt like it was “us against the world.”
The Giants were called for four penalties on the day, while the Steelers were called for twelve. Beckham’s claims that the refs made it “the Giants against the world” has as much base in reality as the theory climate change is caused by bullfrogs spending too much time in the rain. This man is like a living, breathing, fake-news site. But no, LETS BLAME THE REFS.
What It Means: At 8-4, the Giants would need a lot of things to go wrong to miss out on a Wild Card spot. Tampa, Minnesota, Green Bay --- all three are two games behind Big Blue. With just four games remaining, that’s a lead even Willie Randolph feels safe with.
That being said, the Giants final four games are all against playoff teams (oh, and also the regressing Eagles), so in order to cement their spot in the postseason, New York will have to do something they haven’t done since Week 6: beat a team over .500.
What’s Next: It’s Dallas Week for the Giants, so what else could matter? Sweeping the season series against the team with the best record in the NFL would go a long way towards preparing this team mentally for the playoffs.