Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: pre-order your NFC East Champions hats HERE) and what they have upcoming. This week, Washington won (but was officially eliminated from winning the division), Dak Prescott continues his magnificent impression of Bobby Hoying, and the Giants maybe, sorta, kinda, just pulled the plug on the Eli Manning Era after 210 consecutive starts.
More importantly, the Birds can clinch the division this Thursday without even playing a game. If Washington wins in Dallas tomorrow night, Doug Pederson’s squad will officially be your 2017 NFC East Champions. Not that you really care about that anymore; your eyes are on the bye. But like every time Chris Christie is spotted in the Cowboys owner's box, it’s worth pointing out even if it feels irrelevant.
Here’s what happened this week in the NFC East:
New York Giants (2-9)
What Happened: THE GIANTS BENCHED ELI MANNING! Ben McAdoo announced on Tuesday that he’d be going with former Jets savior-to-be Geno Smith at quarterback this Sunday, ending Eli’s ridiculous 210-consecutive-start streak in the most unlikely scenario possible. Seriously, who would have predicted The Eli Era would come to a screeching halt because a lame-duck head coach under a lame-duck general manager wanted to see what the GMen had in Geno? The season finale of LOST was more predictable than this. Even Donovan’s gotta be thinking “Wow, Management did him dirty.”
Just a year after the Tony Romo Era ended in Dallas, the NFC East may have just seen the last of Eli Manning. This team, full of expensive veterans and expendable coaches, is in need of a deep-clean rebuild, and the idea of Archie’s son sticking around through some sort of "Process" is about as likely as Donald Trump donating his salary to the International Center for Journalists. Remember, Peyton pushed for free agency rather than sitting chaperone for Andrew Luck one season. Expect Manning the Younger to do the same shortly after this years Super Bowl (which, officially, he will not be playing in).
To put Eli’s longevity in perspective, the last time the Giants started anyone else at QB, Brent Celek (Philadelphia’s current longest-tenured athlete, unless you count Giroux’s AHL time) was three years away from being drafted. Oh, and Carson Wentz was eleven. We’re talking a pre-pubescent Wentz, which was still probably better at football than 2017 Eli.
As far as football is concerned, the Giants got back on track Thanksgiving night, dropping a snore-fest to Washington to keep themselves in line for a draft pick high enough to get Eli’s successor.
Positive Spin: While Geno gets the start this Sunday, it’s only a matter of time before Davis Webb gets in the game. Logically, it makes sense for the Giants to see what they have in the rook before the 2018 NFL Draft. They are, after all, terrible.
Meanwhile, losing last Thursday puts them just a little bit closer to the third overall pick, and the last time the Giants had a pick that high, they found a way to snag Eli. Of course, by “snag” I actually mean “let the Manning family force a trade to get what they want at the expense of San Diego,” but you already knew that.
Negative Spin: The Giants are so messed up right now. Keep in mind, Geno was so bad, the Jets didn’t want him. THE JETS! Now they’ve unceremoniously ostracized the face of the franchise to give playing time to a guy who famously had his face broken-in by a teammate. If there’s light at the end of this tunnel, it certainly isn’t showing.
It’s going to be a highly entertaining offseason for the Giants, dominated with a number of big name departures; the QB, the coach, and the GM could all find themselves on the unemployment line come February. New York hasn’t required this much make-up since Herm Edwards brought us the first Miracle at the Meadowlands. The Mara’s find themselves in unfamiliar territory, and it’ll be interesting to see how well they handle it.
What’s Next: The Geno Smith Show flys to Oakland this week to face a surprisingly-mediocre Raiders squad. More importantly, Eli Manning 2018 Destination Watch is officially on, with the current leaders being Jacksonville (to reunite with former curfew-enforcer Tom Coughlin), Denver (to follow in the footsteps of brother Peyton by letting John Elway live vicariously through him) or Arizona (where Bruce Arians collects old QBs like Pokemon cards). The bottom-line is, it almost certainly won’t be anywhere near Philly, which means the days of bi-annual meetings with Eli Face may have finally come to an end.
What Happened: This one put more people to sleep than tryptophan and bourbon combined. In Eli Manning’s last start for the Giants ever, the Washington Football Team kept their own playoff hopes alive with a 20-10 victory over their division rivals. While this game sorta-kinda went down to the wire (Washington took the lead with under four minutes to play thanks to a Kirk Cousins pass to Josh Doctson), there wasn’t much quality football to speak of. The first half had nine punts (that’s more than Donnie Jones had in all of November), Cousins was sacked a half-dozen times (or as they call it in Dallas, “one Adrian Clayborn”), and Jay Gruden’s offense had a 4th-and-one where they sent out the punt team, called time-out, opted to go for it, and then got a delay-of-game penalty. If you were looking for an exciting game to show your Great Aunt Debbie to finally get her into football, hopefully you didn’t show her this one.
For those who will miss Eli and his ability to look truly elite just as easily as he can throw three nausea-inducing interceptions, have no fear; we still have Kirk Cousins.
In other news, Trent Williams intends to play on his busted knee even if Washington is eliminated (we’ll see if he’s still saying that once Washington is inevitably eliminated), FedEx Field is being examined for unsafe conditions (which is almost certainly some Dan Snyder Scam into getting taxpayers to buy him a new stadium), and D.C.’s most famous resident is still taking to Twitter to blast the NFL for low game attendance (in reality, attendance across the NFL is up). So all-in-all, this season has actually been pretty light on the dysfunction, by Washington standards.
Positive Spin: Like the guy with the plague in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, Washington’s not dead yet. Where some NFC East teams have seemingly given up (coughcough everyone-on-the-Giants-D coughcough), this Washington squad has (sorta) stuck together despite a long list of injuries. A 5-6 record is nothing to stick your chest out about, but there’s something to be said about a team with twenty-two guys on the injury report still trying their best. Like United Airlines saying they care about their customers; it doesn’t change the fact that they’re terrible, but hey, at least they’re trying.
Negative Spin: Washington was officially eliminated from winning the NFC East on Sunday. Even if they win out and the Iggles drop their remaining games (which seems about as likely as Snyder selling the team to fully pursue his first passion of clay sculpting endangered wildlife), they’d be tied atop the division, with the breaker going to the Birds on account of the sweep.
Meanwhile, their Wild Card chances are currently on life-support. The suddenly-hot Falcons hold the last spot heading into Week 13, and they’re two games ahead. A lot of things will need to break right for Washington to make the playoffs for just the sixth time in Snyder’s two decades owning this team.
What’s Next: Like being asked to contribute a steamed vegetable to the Thanksgiving feast, Washington’s remaining schedule is pretty simple compared to the task of others. They have the big game Thursday against Dallas, followed by some very winnable contests against the Chargers, Cardinals, Broncos, and Giants. There’s no reason this team can’t go on a bit of a run to end the season, though they’re likely in too deep a hole for it to matter.
Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
What Happened: Just four days after being brutally humiliated by their division rivals (and just eleven days after being equally humiliated by the Atlanta Falcons), the Dallas Cowboys were hilariously humiliated a third time, this go-round by the Los Angeles Charges at home.
How bad was this game for Big D? The Chargers didn’t have to punt once (which was huge, as their punter was forced into place-kicker duties, a la Kamu Gruiger-Hill). The Cowboys D allowed 60-year-old Philip Rivers to throw for 400+ yards on 27-of-33 passing, while Dak Prescott piled up just 176 yards through the air with a pair of interceptions.
The Cowboys have now been outscored 92-22 in the past three games. To put that in perspective, over that same time Alshon Jeffrey has scored 24 points by himself. The Cowboys are being outscored by the BROWNS. The depth of this ineptitude is beyond compare. Guys named Eli have been benched for less.
It’s gotten so bad that Jerry Jones is now being asked about whether Jason Garrett will be around next season (he probably shouldn’t be) and some “fans” are already whispering about benching Prescott. Benedict Arnold showed a stronger streak of loyalty. So did Terrell Owens.
In other news, Zack Martin went down with a concussion, though he’s expected to return. Sean Lee (or as he’s better known, “Dallas’ Defense”) is still out with a hamstring injury. And Tyron Smith (whose absence has had just as big an effect on this dumpster fire as Ezekiel Elliott's) has been limited all week in practice. In short, expect little to improve anytime soon for ‘dem Boys!
Positive Spin: They scored a touchdown! It was the Cowboys first TD in 26-consecutive drives, and was properly celebrated by the Dallas offense by promptly missing a two-point conversion.
Negative Spin: Dak Prescott is garbage. A year after taking the league by storm powered by an explosive running game, consistent offensive-line play and a stout defense, the former fourth round pick can’t seem to get anything going on his own. He’s like a car that can only go downhill (which in most countries, is just considered garbage). Ever since the loss of his running back and left tackle, the guy who was compared unfavorably to Tim Tebow in his Pre-Draft Scouting Report has looked a lot like, well… Tim Tebow.
And if you really can’t believe that a quarterback could potentially go from being OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD-GOOD one year to Tebow-esque the next, look no further than Iggles back-up Nick Foles. Or Washington’s cautionary tale, Robert Griffin the 3rd. Or every-other-season during Eli Manning’s long and perplexing career. Somewhere out there, a guy in a Bobby Hoying jersey is muttering to himself “I’ve seen this one before.”
In all seriousness, Prescott has provided signs of being more than just a game manager. But what the past few weeks has shown is something a lot of experts predicted before the 2016 draft. Prescott’s game is a lot like your kitchen cabinets right after you spotted a mouse running around; there’s definitely a few holes, and it’s causing problems.
We’ll see where Dak goes from here, but his recent plummet has been extraordinarily enjoyable for Birds fans who had to suffer through unsubstantiated claims all last year that this kid was somehow better than Wentz. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have only made the playoffs in back-to-back years once this millennium, and the odds are currently stacked against them getting a repeat chance this season. That’ll make for a very Merry Christmas.
What’s Next: This Thursday the Cowboys play at home against Washington with the NFC East on the line. If Dallas loses their third consecutive game at home (which would be hilarious) and fourth overall, the reigning NFC East Champs will have officially passed the torch to Wentz & Co., guaranteeing we’ll have at least one home playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field.
If Dallas wins against Washington, we’ll just have to go out and clinch the division in Seattle come Sunday instead.