The divisional race in the NFC East is almost always one that’s not decided until the final Sunday of the NFL regular season. Seemingly every Sunday Night Football finale over the years has featured at least one NFC East team fighting for either the division title or a Wildcard berth. Most of those matchups created some must see TV as the season ended and the playoffs were set to begin. This season looks to have more of the same. One game separates all four teams going into Week 14 action. However, while the division will likely be on the line, it’s doubtful a Wildcard spot will be in question and it’s a lot more likely you won’t care and that you’ll find more viewing pleasure elsewhere on TV or Netflix. That is, unless you’re a fan of one these teams and are willing to admit it right now.
Mediocrity may be too weak a word in describing this division over the last several years. But, the division’s mediocrity has soared to new heights this season. This season the four teams combine for 17 total wins. Eleven of those wins are within the division. In comparison, the AFC South which was predicted to be the NFL’s worst division this season, has 19. That’s with the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and the injury-riddled Colts and Texans in the mix. Ironically, the Cowboys lead the division with three wins within the division, but they’re in last place with a 4-8 record
At least, the Cowboys have an excuse. They’ve been without Tony Romo for much of the season, and he won’t be returning until next season. They were also without they’re All-pro wide receiver Dez Bryant, for the better part of the first half of the season. They’ve also seen injuries on the defensive side of the ball. Monday night’s crazy win over Washington marked the Cowboys’ first win of the season without Romo, and puts Dallas right in the thick of the race. It’s just so hard to imagine this team winning this division or being a playoff team when you see how limited their offense is without Romo. The Greg Hardy situation hasn’t helped in the least and the effects of losing DeMarco Murray to Philadelphia have set in as well. Then again, when you look at the rest of the division it’s clear to see that the Cowboys organization is still probably the most stable. Which isn’t saying very much.
The Redskins seemed to maybe be the team to beat with the emergence of Kirk Cousins as a starter at QB and a few other pieces that have started to fit well into Jay Gruden’s system. The Skins however took steps back, or should I say they stepped back 22 yards in that awful loss at home last night to Dallas. In essence, they also took two steps backwards in the standings.
What was DeSean Jackson thinking? Ok, ok….. I know what you’re thinking. What about the way Jackson redeemed himself only several minutes later with the TD reception to tie the game again? Sure, it was a great pass and catch by Cousins and Jackson. But, if you’re Dallas, how do you allow anyone to get behind you in that situation, knowing a field goal wouldn’t help? But, back to the punt return….. It’s understandable that Jackson wanted to make a play for his team. But the better play, especially by a veteran like Jackson would have been to advance the ball as far as possible to set up your offense for a potential game-winning drive. At that point, the Skins only needed a field goal. Jackson, was beating himself up after the game for fumbling the ball. But, even if he held on to the ball, valuable yards were still wasted. This is nothing new for Jackson or the Skins. Jackson, has always been apt to try and make the flashy play to make himself look good, and the Redskins are used to fumbling away (pun intended) the seemingly rare golden opportunities that have been afforded them.
Question is, can anyone capitalize? Does anyone want to? Better yet, should we care? I mean, it’s not like either of these teams are going to the Super Bowl. Right?
The Philadelphia Eagles seemed to want to stake claim on this division with their stunning victory over the New England Patriots. But, it’s hard to get excited about that victory when you factor in all of the Patriots’ injuries and the way the Eagles scored the majority of their points. It’s not like they dominated the game offensively. They only gained 248 total yards in Sunday’s victory. In fact, the Eagles offense has been a mess all season. Part of that is due to injuries sustained by Sam Bradford and others. Part of that is due to not having the right personnel to run Chip Kelly’s offense. Nonetheless, the Eagles are somehow, someway right there with a shot to win the division.
The Eagles defense and special teams were great Sunday. But, trusting this team to finish the season strong with their inconsistent offense probably isn’t a good idea. That brings us to the New York Giants. The Giants were well on their way to a huge victory over their Metlife Stadium roommates the New York Jets, until they found ways to blow a 10-point fourth quarter lead and eventually lose in overtime. It’s been the story of their season and it begs the question, how can a team with a veteran two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback crumble up so many times with the game on the line?
Eli Manning, may be a hall of famer just by winning those two Super Bowl rings, but if he’s left out it will be due to his inconsistencies in the seasons the Giants didn’t win it all. Those inconsistencies spread to his favorite receiver, O’Dell Beckham jr. Overall, Beckham Jr. had a fabulous game (6 receptions, 149 yards 1 TD) . But, late in regulation and in overtime Beckham Jr. had key drops that stopped drives. The usually sure-handed receiver has clearly been the Giants most consistent player offensively. But, Sunday was a different story.
The Giants inconsistencies on Sunday cost them a chance to be 6-6 and in control of the division. But, Tom Coughlin’s team never likes to do things the easy way.
So, while the NFC East, namely the Cowboys and Redskins have given us thrilling finishes like Monday night’s unbelievable 17 points and two lead changes in a minute and a half to end the game. It’s impossible to forget the same two teams provided those who actually stayed up to watch it, 18 points and and some pretty ugly offensive football for the other 58 and a half minutes. It’s not just the NFC East. There’s mediocrity all across the NFL. But, the NFC East is just doing it so much better these days. Arguably, even better than the NFC South last season where the Carolina Panthers won the division with a 7-8-1 record. Of course, the Panthers are 12-0 so far this season and Cam Newton is probably your MVP right now. Can the eventual winner of this division pull off that feat next season? Who knows. One things for sure, unless things change drastically over the next few weeks next season is all these teams have to look forward to.