Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: everybody lost!) and what they have upcoming. This week the Giants channeled their inner-Hinkie, Washington seemed to be short on talent, and the Cowboys had literally every single thing go terrible, horribly wrong.
Here’s what happened this week in the NFC East:
New York Giants (1-8)
What Happened: Oh my goodness, for the love of all that is football-holy, I hope you didn’t watch this game. Facing the then-winless San Francisco 49ers, the Giants were thoroughly outplayed (and I use those words generously) by the previously-worst-team-in-the-NFC, losing 31-21 in a game that didn’t even feel that close.
For the second week in a row, the Giants defense appeared to quit, displaying the sort of tackling effort that even Asante Samuel would be critical of. Last week it was former first-round pick Eli Apple, this week it was big-money free agent Janoris Jenkins. Sure, safety Landon Collins spoke out in defense of soon-to-be-unemployed head coach Ben McAdoo after the game, but the actions (or lack thereof) on the field tell a different story entirely.
This game was so humiliating for New York that, if you squinted really hard, you could actually see their helmets turning a Cleveland Brown orange. There are saunas on fire with less heat on them than the Giants head coach, and the only question remaining is whether the flames will be enough to engulf Jerry Reese and the New York front office as well.
Positive Spin: DRAFT PICK STATUS! With a loss to the winless Niners, the Giants now hold the #2 overall pick in next years NFL draft. If all the planets align, maybe Cleveland will even win a game or two, giving the Giants spot numero uno. And that’s how far this year has fallen for Big Blue; they’re best hope at success is rooting for the Browns. That’s like watching Tom & Jerry and rooting for the cat.
Negative Spin: While I’ll try to avoid a philosophical debate over the merits of ‘Trusting the Process,’ there’s simply no denying that tanking isn’t fun. This isn’t fun for Giants fans. This is garbage. And Eli Manning, for all his poorly-timed interceptions and poorly-designed facial expressions, deserves better. It’s possible this is the final year Peyton’s little bro plays in New York, and to see him have to go out on this trash heap is a shame, no matter who you root for.
(Editor's note: is it???)
Perhaps more concerning is the complete lack of effort and heart by the defense, run by Jim Johnson disciple Steve Spagnuolo. Watching McAdoo fail is one thing. Watching guys quit on Spags is another. The DC had an opportunity here to prove himself worthy of another head coaching stint (possibly even with New York), but watching the Giants defense hand out arm tackles like free samples in a mall food court puts that potential straight to bed.
What’s Next: Cramped hands for John Mara, who’s apparently been sending hand-written letters to disgruntled fans, which may be the only thing more unenjoyable than watching McAdoo’s offense. Oh, and a game against Andy Reid’s Chiefs coming off a bye, so that loss is a lock.
What Happened: A week after putting their season back on track with an (arguably) impressive win over the Seahawks, Washington went right off the rails again with a 38-30 loss at home against one of the NFC’s better teams, the Minnesota Vikings. The Washington D was the culprit in this one, allowing Minnesota to score five touchdowns with five different dudes, and letting Adam Thielen haul in eight catches, including a TD. Josh Norman, who’s being paid more than every Eagles cornerback combined, was quoted after the game saying “we didn’t have crap today.” He’s not wrong.
Washington’s O-line continues to be beat up, and now running back Rob Kelley is out for the year. Big free agent signing Terrelle Pryor, who was suppose to replace the production of Pierre Garcon AND DeSean Jackson, has been benched, and fellow wide receiver Ryan Grant was ‘accidentally’ let back into a game after suffering a concussion. Top-notch organization they’ve got down there, though I’d argue they’re still only the second most dysfunctional administration in the District.
Oh, and if you’re worried about Minnesota come playoff-time… and don’t sleep on them, by any means… please note that after running out to a huge first-half lead, they let Washington back into this one with back-to-back interceptions to the awesomeley named D.J. Swearinger. The Vikings defense is legit, but in a head-to-head Wentz-v-Keenum battle royale, the Iggles starter comes out on top every time.
Positive Spin: OH MY GAWD LOOK AT THIS CATCH. I don’t know anything about Maurice Harris, but I know plays like that still make my stomach turn over the years we wasted rooting for James Thrash, Billy McMullen & Reggie Brown.
Unlike the gang in New York, Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden’s squad continued to fight throughout, nearly coming back until the inevitable failure of an onside kick. Like a cockroach that’s fallen into the toilet bowl, this team continues to kick its legs and scramble to escape.
Sure, inevitably the metaphorical flush that is Dan Snyder will sweep them down below, never to be heard from again. But for the moment, we can admire the tenacity.
Negative Spin: They’re just not good enough. In the past month this team has fallen short against the Birds, the Boys, and now the Vikes. At least two of those teams will be heading to the postseason, and at this current pace the Washington Football Team will not be joining them.
It’s a combination of injuries and just simply a lack of talent. The O-line is completely decimated, so much so that it’s a modern football miracle this squad was able to put up anything on this Vikings D. The QB, meanwhile, is not the problem: Cousins is like the food at a rest stop; he can get the job done in the right circumstances, he just needs to be put into a position to succeed.
If Washington does indeed miss the playoffs (and there’s six different teams they’d have to leapfrog currently to do so), the blame should fall squarely on the front office. This franchise had back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since before the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the front office did literally nothing productive to help take them to the next level. In Philly, we call that ‘The Joe Banner Method.” Everywhere else they just call it dumb.
What’s Next: A trip down to New Orleans to play the red-hot Saints, who have won six straight powered by a running game, of all things. Here’s hoping Gruden’s boys pull an upset, as I have no interest in watching another playoff game in the Superdome.
Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
What Happened: Oh man, it has been a crazy week for the Dallas Cowboys. And by crazy, I of course mean a massive ridiculous disaster. Seriously, if you could put a dumpster fire inside of a dumpster fire, even that dumpster fire, with a disgusting, smelly, dumpster fire burning inside of it, would be able to say “at least I’m not the Dallas Cowboys.” Assuming dumpster fires could talk, of course.
First there was the Ezekiel Elliott suspension, which was more drawn out than the entrance of Thanos in the Marvel movies. Zeke has since dropped his appeal, and will miss an additional five games for domestic abuse allegations that occurred over a year and a half ago. There’s Mossad agents hunting WW2 Nazi’s with a faster turn-around time, but hey, at least Goodell is satisfied (and more on that, later).
Then, left tackle Tyron Smith injured his back, which resulted in Chaz Green’s first career start on the Cowboys historically-incredible offensive line. It did not go well. Green would have probably been better off staying home, as he gave up six sacks to Adrian Clayborn. That is not a typo; the Cowboys left tackle gave up six sacks to one dude, and not even a very good dude. At least Winston Justice could tell himself that Osi Umenyiora was a pro-bowler. Clayborn is just a guy.
And finally, there’s the Roger Goodell contract extension. In short; Jerry Jones has apparently gotten so angry at Goodell over the Zeke suspension that he has tried to sabotage the Commissioner's nearly-finalized contract extension. He’s fought with other owners, including some pretty big names like Arthur Blank, John Mara, and Robert Kraft, and he’s even hired a lawyer with the sole purpose of curtailing Goodell’s future as head of the league. There’s even rumors it was Jones who asked Pape John to complain about the players protesting civil injustice, and some experts have even suggested that the other owners are plotting legal moves in case they have to REMOVE Jones as a team owner.
Oh, and then Sean Lee pulled his hamstring, the type of injury that tends to linger like a fart in the elevator. All in all, a pretty bad week.
So, summing up; the Cowboys lost, three of their best players got either injured or suspended, and the owner has turned himself into the league’s pariah. All in all, there’s been a lot of popcorn eaten at the Marmon house.
Positive Spin: Oy, this is tricky. Trying to find something positive from the Cowboys past week is like looking for something edible on the Papa Johns menu. I guess you can be excited about the opportunity for Dak Prescott to evolve and mature without his best offensive player? There could be some growth there, right?
The Cowboys are technically only one game out of the Wild Card. Win on Sunday night, and a lot of the other stuff kind of falls by the wayside. Pull an upset against your division rivals in primetime (at home, no less), and everything is forgiven.
Negative Spin: THE SKY IS LITERALLY FALLING! In a worse-case scenario, Zeke is missing the next five games, Green is going to have to start against the Birds high-level defensive line, Lee is out for the season, and Jones is going to be forced to sell his team like he’s a self-sabotaging Donald Sterling. Likely? Probably not all of them, but enough that this team will miss the playoffs and therefore lose another year in what will presumably be the limited five-year window of having Elliott as a star.
What’s Next: Oh, you know. You always knew.
Sunday night the Cowboys have a chance to stake their claim on the NFC East. Win, and they’ve sent a message to the entire Conference that despite all the extracurricular nonsense, they can still go toe-to-toe with the NFL’s best.
Lose, and they’re likely two games behind the wild card with six to play. This is a must-win for the Cowboys, which’ll make it all the more enjoyable when they don’t.