The700Level

NFC East, Week 4: Eagles take commanding 1-game lead over losers

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: the NFC East barely exceeded Brett Brown's .229 winning percentage) and what they have upcoming. This week, Jay Gruden did a great Andy Reid impression, Dallas let Greg the Leg dominate your fantasy league, and the Giants experienced a glitch in the Matrix.

New York Giants (0-4)

What Happened: Deja vu! The New York Giants, who many predicted would win the NFC East solely because they added 33-year-old Brandon Marshall, dropped to a dismal Oh-and-Four for the year, and for the second consecutive week, it was on a game-ending field goal. This week, it was Nick Folk's 34-yarder that ended it; not as impressive as Señor Elliott's 61-yarder, but still pretty amazing. It's like comparing Star Wars: A New Hope to The Force Awakens — the first is inarguably a classic, but that doesn't make the latter any less enjoyable.

Despite coming back from a 13-0 first-quarter deficit, getting seven receptions from Odell Beckham Jr., and witnessing a Wentz-esque touchdown run by Eli Manning, the Giants fell in Tampa, 25-23. On the plus side, Eli is now the Giants' rushing leader on the year, which I'm sure is exactly what the Maras were hoping for when they pushed out two-time Super Bowl Champion Tom Coughlin to promote Ben McAdoo and his innovative offense. 

The game was announced by Ronde and Tiki Barber, which had about as much charm as a bucket of snakes. Remember that time Tiki retired suddenly, then slammed the Giants' coaches and locker room on his way out, so Michael Strahan decided to go ahead and steal his dream life? HAHAHA ... good times.

Positive Spin: So if you think back all the way to 2013, you'll remember that this same Giants squad actually started 0-6, yet they never gave up, they never quit, they kept fighting, and they ended up winning seven out of their final 10. It can happen!

Not that it would matter. The G-Men missed the playoffs in 2013 and the season was a waste.

The Giants should win some games this year (no promises), and will likely spoil someone's season down the road. For some Giants fans not ready to watch the Post-Melo/Post-Phil Knickerbockers, that should bring some joy. When you lose your first four games on the year, that's about as positive as things get.

Negative Spin: What's the future here? At least in 2013, they were just a couple years removed from a Super Bowl. Eli is old, the genius coach doesn't seem so genius, the running game hasn't been relevant since Brandon Jacobs retired, and the team's most interesting young player, while only in his fourth year, has been healthy for all 16 games only once and doesn't feel like a safe bet to have a Jerry Rice-like 20-year career. The characters on The Walking Dead have a better five-year plan than these guys. The outlook's about as bleak as Donald Trump's chances of being elected as Puerto Rico's Man of the Year.

The Giants are like a new Tim Burton movie — fans tend to get a little over-excited based off of some fantastic release from childhood. At a certain point, the busts start to outweigh the booms, and we're all gonna be left wondering if there was ever anything special there to begin with.

What's Next: A home game against the Los Angeles Chargers, who after last week, are already pretty familiar with having to play on the road. 

• • •

Dallas Cowboys (2-2)

What Happened: Despite leading 17-6 and 24-13, Dem Boys fell to Greg "The Leg" Zuerlein's seven field goals and the Los Angeles Rams by a score of 35-30. Let's call this one "The Wade Phillips Revenge Game." Jason Garrett, who once sabotaged his own offense in order to get Phillips fired and steal his job, watched Todd Gurley rack up over 200 all-purpose yards on the way to the NFC East's biggest upset of the season.

Dallas looked in control early, scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter, but the game flipped and reversed faster than Zeke's legal playing status. Garrett's squad fell behind when Gurley snuck through on a 53-yard slant pass from Jared "Still Not Carson" Goff, which was part of a 19-point L.A. run that the Cowboys couldn't overcome. 

Oh, and Jerry Jones, who gave $1 million to Donald Trump during the campaign, is getting cold-called by the guy about kneeling during the anthem. Take that however you want it.

Positive Spin: Zeke looked fine, Dak looked fine, and Dez made some highlight-reel catches for a change. The offensive playmakers are still there and being effective, even if they weren't effective enough to get the W this week. Like having a CD player in your car, this offense still works.

Besides, it's still hard to say just how good the Los Angeles Rams actually are. Goff has certainly resembled a competent quarterback these first four weeks, and Gurley's having a bounce-back season shouldn't shock anyone. It's possible this upset doesn't look quite so upsetting a few months from now. If Dak & Zeke steamroll over Green Bay next Sunday, this fart-in-the-bathtub will quickly be forgotten.

Plus, the fact that Zuerlein had seven field goals (not a typo) could be a testament to a defense that will bend but not break, but I dunno. SEVEN field goals? If your backbone had that much bend, you'd be a human right angle.

Negative Spin: THE SKY IS FALLING IN JERRY WORLD! The Cowboys are just one defeat away from tying their total from all of last season, while Dak is just one interception away from tying his total from all of last season. Oh, and did we mention Zeke hasn't had 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games!? The regression is real. How does Garrett still have a job?!

In all seriousness, the Cowboys just lost a game at home to a conference opponent they were favored to beat. That's not good. The defense clearly missed the oft-injured Sean Lee in this one, and the offense appears to be missing the under-appreciated Doug Free overall. The Cowboys, who weren't good enough to win a playoff game last season, so far appear to be a less-competent team this season. At least their fans have Lavar Ball to look forward to.

What's Next: The Green Bay Packers travel to Dallas a lot healthier than they were when they knocked the Cowboys out of the playoffs seven months ago. At 3-1 and with a Canton-bound quarterback, the Packers are probably the toughest challenge Jones' squad has faced all season. In the immortal words of whats-his-face, "Get yo' popcorn ready!" 

• • •

Washington (2-2)

What Happened: Despite going up 10-0 early, the Washington football team fell to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs by a final score of 29-20, and it was a lot more dramatic than that score leads on. Wide receiver Josh Doctson, who's getting serious snaps only because Dan Snyder refused to pay Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson, 2016-Agholor'd a Kirk Cousins pass in the end zone with 50 seconds remaining that would have given DC a four-point lead. 

Andy Reid watching another head coach mismanage the clock is like Donald Trump calling someone else out for poor leadership, or me complaining that someone's sports blog is too political. But that's exactly what happened. Jay Gruden took a timeout on third down with a minute remaining, single-handedly ensuring Kansas City would get the ball back with time to make a move, no matter what the Washington offense did.

Turns out, Washington would end up tying it with a field goal. But with 47 seconds still on the clock, Alex Smith was able to put his team into field-goal range for the game-winner. Presumably, that's why Reid always burns his timeouts in the third quarter; to ensure he can't use them to self-sabotage deep in the fourth. It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer before you get on your motorcycle.

In the end, a broken lateral play resulted in a defensive touchdown for the Chiefs, because somebody somewhere needed to learn that gambling was bad. Josh Norman busted his ribs and could be out a while. Oh, and we learned Jason's brother Travis is a champion dancer. Here's hoping the Eagles' center finds a way to score next week, just so we can see if he can answer.

Positive Spin: This was about as "good" a loss as teams get in the NFL. Washington went up against the only undefeated team remaining and nearly stole one on the road. Cousins' stats don't blow you away, but he looked pretty darn good on that final drive (sans the Doctson drop), and he and Pryor seem to be getting on the same page. A week after crushing the Oakland Raiders on national TV, Gruden's squad was one dropped pass or one boneheaded timeout away from being 3-1. For a franchise that makes Equifax look competent, that's a pretty good streak.

Again, let's keep in mind what franchise we're talking about here. Dan Snyder's squad going 2-2, and nearly beating two top AFC teams in the process, is like BoJack Horseman being nominated for the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.
 
Negative Spin: Brian Dawkins used to say "there's no such thing as a good loss." Washington is 2-2 and couldn't carry its momentum over from last week. Gruden, meanwhile, who has been coaching this team for three years now, should know better than to pull an Andy Reid with the game on the line. So while plenty of people will want to "like that" they almost got the dubya, it's important to remember that "almosts" still count as losses.

There's been a lot of talk this week about how the Eagles have been learning to win the close ones. Well on Monday night, Washington lost a close one. So for anyone out there who believes one or two plays actually confirms whether a team has learned how to be a winner vs. just got lucky on a handful of crucial plays, Washington technically lost a close game for the second time when a handful of better plays would have made the difference. I guess they just don't know how to be winners yet. Maybe they should bring in Tebow.

What's Next: A bye week?! That feels lame. And that's how this article ends? Even David Chase thinks that's a cruddy way to wrap something up.