NFC East Report, Week 7: Washington let Wentz escape, Cowboys back on track

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NFC East Report, Week 7: Washington let Wentz escape, Cowboys back on track

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: THE EAGLES GOT THIS THING ON LOCK-DOWN) and what they have upcoming. This week the Giants finally got their GM of eleven years on the hot seat, the Cowboys gave their fans false confidence, and the team from D.C. got humiliated on national television.

Here’s what happened in Week 7 in the NFC East:

Washington (3-3)

What Happened: Well, yeah, we gotta start here, don’t we? Despite playing a rusty Iggles team in what was essentially a must-win if they wanted a shot at the division, Washington blew a 10-3 lead, falling to the best football team on the planet by a score of 34-24. Dan Snyder’s property had a chance to stake their claim to the NFC East throne last night, and instead they were soundly murdered in the North in front of a major audience. They’re sorta like Peter Baelish, if the nickname “Little Finger” was actually a racial slur.

Sure, Birds fans are giggling this week like they’re Barry and Dubya in retirement, but let’s not forget Jay Gruden’s squad was at one point out-gaining Doug Pederson’s team, 178-32. Deep into the second quarter, the Washington D had held Carson Wentz to 24 total yards. Early on, this game felt like a statement from Kirk Cousins and Co., similar to what they delivered against Oakland back in September. At 9 pm Monday night, the newspapers were already plotting puns for headlines based around the phrase “TRAP GAME,” if, y’know, newspapers were still a thing.

Then they blew it.

Washington didn’t do anything particularly egregious … they simply didn’t look like the better team. Some would say ‘outclassed,’ which is a recurring theme for anything owned by Snyder. Carson Wentz led a touchdown drive at the end of the 2nd quarter, giving the Birds a lead they would never relinquish. Gruden oddly opted to run out the clock with like 30 seconds to go in the half, and the Birds opened up the 3rd quarter with another touchdown drive. The Washington D, featuring domestic abuser Junior Galette and down a number of big names like Josh Norman and Jonathan Allen, just never had an answer.

The closest Washington came to coming back Monday Night was right before “The Escape.” Had Wentz actually gone down, the Birds would have been forced to punt and protect a one-score lead. Instead, well … Carson Wentz happened, and residents of the Greater D.C. Area will be having hot flashes about that play in the same way that Mike Vick’s 6-touchdown Monday Night still gives them the sweats. 

FLASHBACK: In 1999, an entire generation of Washington Football Fans learned they’d be subject to misery for years at the hands (and feet) of Donovan McNabb when he led a woeful Eagles squad to victory in his very first career start. Monday Night’s contest had to feel eerily similar for this long-suffering fanbase.

Positive Spin: In 1978, the NFL adopted the Wild Card, meaning you don’t need to win the division to make the playoffs. So hey, there’s that!

Sure, Washington still has a shot at the Wild Card, the NFL's version of ‘Last Chance Kitchen,’ though being resigned to that this early in the season is never a good look. As the conference currently stands, they’ll be competing with Green Bay (sans Rodgers), Detroit (coached by Jim Caldwell), Carolina (Cam Newton hates women), Atlanta (wicked hangover), Seattle (tissue-paper O-line) and Dallas (straight garbage). If Washington can recapture the formula they used against Oakland a few weeks back (or the first drive on Monday night), a postseason berth isn’t completely out of the question.

Negative Spin: Seriously, this team isn’t winning the division. Just ask their coach. Looking at the numbers for the sabermetrics nerds out there; if the Birds go 4-5 the rest of the way (which they won’t), Washington needs to go 8-2 in order to take the crown. That would likely require sweeping Dallas, sweeping New York, and beating the Seahawks at home. If you believe that, you’re probably the type that mentions their Trump University diploma when applying for jobs.

Making matter worse, Trent Williams is banged up, and it showed. He joins the likes of Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff, who seemed to spend most of Monday night being looked at by trainers. 

What’s Next: A home game against the hated Dallas Cowboys. Washington needed a win against Philly to stay afloat in the division this week, and they blew it. They now need a win against Dallas to stay a foot ahead in the Wild Card, so one can only hope they learn to wrap up their tackles.

Dallas Cowboys (3-3)

What Happened: There was reason for hope here for Iggles fans (and fans of anyone who believes in truth, justice, and joy). Despite being winless, San Fran had played every opponent tough so far this season. The game was in Santa Clara. Dallas’ locker room seemed in disarray, and the Niners were due. Could an upset be brewing?

Not at all. This game was what every delirious Big D fan had been imagining all summer; Zeke had three scores and over 200 all-purpose yards, Dak threw for three himself, and Dez had nine catches overall to ruin your fantasy day. Even Jason Witten had a touchdown, which always feels completely outdated, like every time I see a commercial for the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (which went to DVD awfully fast).

The closest this one came was when the score was 20-3 (seriously) and the Niners appeared to be driving towards the end of the second half, getting as far as the five-yard line. A touchdown there, and suddenly we have ourselves a game.

But this one wasn’t a game; DeMarcus Lawrence sacked Niners quarterback C.J. Beathard (NOT DJ Beat-Hard, as I’d originally hoped), forcing a fumble, and essentially ending this one at halftime. Dallas walked out with a 40-10 victory and good vibes all around, and the rest of us who had to watch Beathard ‘perform’ were left wondering how Colin Kaepernick still doesn’t have a job.

Oh, and for those keeping score at home, Jerry Jones said that social injustice protests during the national anthem are hurting the NFLs bottom line. The NFL revenue projections for 2016 were around $13 BILLION, and Jones never made such a comment when he opted to pay domestic abuser Greg Hardy $11.3 MILLION for one season (nearly the same amount Dez Bryant is receiving THIS season, just to put that in perspective). #RealNews. 

Positive Spin: At 3-3 and with two games against Philly still remaining, the Cowboys feel like the only legitimate threat to stealing the divisional crown off the Wentz Wagon. It’s hard not to feel good after a 40-10 shellacking, even if it is against Kyle Shanahan and the only team in the NFL not from Cleveland that’s probably worse than the Giants. Good teams beat bad teams soundly, and on Sunday, the Cowboys sure sounded like a good team.

In other news, the difference Sean Lee makes to this defense has been well-documented but is still tremendously underrated. Like the seasons of SVU with Chris Meloni. 

Negative Spin: Sadly, it’s hard to throw garbage on a team after winning 40-10, even if it was against the Niners. Like Washington, the Cowboys will have to go on a bit of a run in the second half to catch the Birds, though they have the advantage of getting to play Philly twice. And the Zeke suspension still hangs over this team like the Sword of Damocles, if a Greek literary illusion was comparable to pulling a girl's top down in public.

Oh, and their kicker got hurt, which means I get to boot in (haha) another kicker analogy;  kickers are like health insurance, in that it really shouldn’t be so complicated, but apparently is, and please please please just let it work when I need it. Here’s hoping the Cowboys miss enrollment following the injury to Dan Bailey.

What’s Next: The Cowboys have to go out to D.C. for a rivalry game, then come home to face Andy’s Chiefs, followed by a trip to Atlanta against a Falcons squad that may be pretty desperate. That means this Sunday is a pretty big game for Big D. While the easy-bits of the Iggles schedule have been well documented, the Cowboys schedule is a bit bumpier. It’s like comparing a shot of Fireball to a snifter of lighter fluid (though most doctors agree, the latter is probably better for you in the long run).

New York Giants (1-6)

What Happened: Seriously, you want a recap of the Giants/Seahawks game? Why not read something more consequential, like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” translated into Klingon? Aight sure, here it goes…

Thanks to some effective defense (especially in the trenches) and a touchdown pass to rookie tight end Evan Engram (who will likely be a thorn in the Eagles' side for years, assuming he still has a quarterback to throw him the ball come 2019), the Giants actually led at home against the one-time NFC juggernaut Seattle Seahawks going into the second half. It all unraveled shortly thereafter, however, when formerly-great tight end Jimmy Graham stopped dropping passes and Russell Wilson (who’s just a smaller, older version of Carson Wentz) threw three second-half TD’s, including one on a nifty trick play that had all the creativity of “Mr. Peanutbutter’s House.”

The Giants just couldn’t muster enough offense despite playing a beat up Seattle D. That’s what’ll happen when your GM only prioritizes the passing game (as opposed to the running backs or the offensive line) and they all go down to injury faster than a 76ers first-round draft pick.

Speaking of the GM, Jerry Reese said this week the Giants may have bought into their own hype too much. YOU DON’T SAY!? In other news, water remains wet, the Earth is still round, and 71-year old Donald Trump uses a spray tan. Wake me when you hear something surprising. 

Positive Spin: The Giants held in there tough, and blahblahblah. If you’re looking for some hope that this team can bounce back next season with a healthy wide receiving corps and a rebuilt offensive line … and you also believe that the 2017 Seahawks are as legit as the versions from the past few seasons …  then this is the kind of game an optimist can cling to, like a pair of pocket eights. The rest of us know this squad is in deep kaka, including the General Manager, who may be looking for a new place of employment come 2018, leaving the next guy to figure out what to do with a veteran squad built around a $75 million defensive line.

Negative Spin: Watching this team brings the same level of enjoyment as chewing on a slug. They’re an older team with far too many glaring holes to fix in a single offseason, especially when you consider they’re paying Eli $22 mil for 2018. 

The best thing the Giants can do for themselves, and for America, would be to beat the Dallas Cowboys on December 10. Make it so.

What’s Next: “With the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the New York Giants select … an offensive linemen you’ve never heard of!” But before that, games against the Rams, 49ers, and Chiefs, which has the same amount of excitement as a reality show about Ben McAdoo’s hairline. 

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Mask-wearing pioneer Rip Hamilton has advice for Joel Embiid

Detroit Pistons star Richard Hamilton wasn't the first player to wear a mask in the NBA but sometimes it feels like he was.

Newsweek caught up with Rip this week to talk about his mask-wearing days and to see if he had any words of wisdom for Joel Embiid. Hamilton first wore a mask for breaking his nose, but he continued to wear it for the remainder of his career.

Embiid made his first playoff appearance of his career last night in Miami while rocking a new mask complete with a custom visor to protect his eyes. It was clearly bothering him but he didn't let it dictate his play.

“It was difficult,” Embiid said of the mask. “But to me it wasn’t really about getting used to it because at the end of the day, no matter how much it bothers me, I’ve still got to be a basketball player."

Hamilton has famously said that he embraced the mask to the point of it becoming his "Batman cape" which allowed him to be more aggresive.

"Over a period of time I started to get used to it. As basketball players, a lot of times you go to the basket and it’s a lot of elbows being thrown, guys are getting poked in the eye," he told Newsweek this week. "You tend to clench up because you don’t want to get hit in the face. Once I started wearing that mask I wasn’t clenching up no more. I was willing to take contact more. I was able to get to the free throw line more because now I’m not scared of getting hit in the face. It kind of made me into a more aggressive and better basketball player."

Hamilton's message to Embiid prior to the series?

"Embrace it. Make it cool. Make it fun. Make it like a prop. Don’t get caught up in saying like, 'I got a piece of plastic on my face. I’m worrying about how I look, I’m worrying about my perception when I shoot.' When you’re out there in, like, shooting drills, don’t be so caught up in putting the mask on and trying to worry about how you shoot with it on. Put it on in the game and just wear it because our game is a non-thinking sport. React. You gotta read and react as quick as possible. The less thinking you do, the better you’ll be."

Rip also took notice of Embiid's frustration with the mask following the game. He encouraged Jo that it only gets easier.

I’ve thrown my mask off numerous times lil bro @joelembiid ...It will get more comfortable game by game ..Trust The Process. #MaskOnMaskOff#YouGotTheJuiceNow #Holdat #Yessir#Mask #TnT #nba #nbaplayoffs #sixers#sixersvsheat #LoveThisGame

Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

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Eagles players with the most to gain at OTAs — S Tre Sullivan

The Eagles don’t hit the practice field as a team for another five weeks, yet each year coaches point to players who distinguish themselves during the months of April and May. These are the players with the most to gain in phases one and two of OTAs.

There isn’t an unheralded prospect in better position to climb the Eagles’ depth chart this spring than Tre Sullivan.

Never mind the fact that vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas just got done lauding Sullivan’s performance in a pre-draft interview on Thursday. The 24-year-old also happens to be one of only four safeties on the Eagles roster for the time being, creating a huge opportunity for an undrafted free agent from Shepherd College.

Competition will come soon enough, as safety is an obvious target for the Eagles in the upcoming draft. Even then, Sullivan could find himself in the mix for a big role with a good spring.

Last season, Corey Graham was the Eagles’ third safety behind Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod. Graham, a free agent departure, wound up playing nearly 40 percent of the team’s snaps.

This isn’t merely a backup job. There’s serious playing time at stake – and Sullivan can get a jump on the competition.

Sullivan made a name for himself in last year’s preseason opener against the Packers with a vicious hit on wide receiver Malachi Dupre. It was a scary moment, as Dupre was knocked out by the collision, but also a clean play and an example of the defensive back’s physicality.

Sullivan forced a fumble on the hit and finished with four tackles. He would go on to acquit himself well in three other preseason games, eventually landing on the Eagles’ practice squad.

Listed at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds, Sullivan is a relatively average size for a safety, but plays downhill and hits like a truck.

The Eagles liked the instincts and aggressiveness they saw on the field. Now, Sullivan has a chance to work out and learn from coaches in an environment where there really aren’t any other young players right now and he can be the focus of a lot of attention. Phases one and two of OTAs and the two weeks before the draft in particular could be a pivotal period.

If Sullivan impresses during these early stages, it could go a long way toward solidifying his place with the team.

Even if Sullivan is bested for the third safety spot, he could still wind up on the 53-man roster. The Eagles may opt to carry five since Chris Maragos primarily plays on special teams.

Sullivan will likely enter training camp as a player who’s considered to be on the bubble, and what he does when the pads go on will be most important. However, if he showed up and really nailed these workouts, that could go a long way toward how the team views him heading into this summer.