The700Level

NFC East Week 13 Recap: The Birds can still clinch the division ridiculously early

usa-ben-mcadoo.jpg
USA Today Images

NFC East Week 13 Recap: The Birds can still clinch the division ridiculously early

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: you can still pre-order your NFC East Champions hats by clicking HERE) and what they have upcoming. While the Birds took a shot across the bow Sunday night, Dallas kept the division title in question for one more week by smacking down Washington last Thursday. Oh, and the Giants fired everybody.



But lets not bury the lede here; if the Eagles defeat the Philly-West Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, or if the Cowboys fall to the new-look GMen, then your Birds will have officially clinched the division and guaranteed their first home playoff game since the 2013 season. And considering we’re still in the early parts of December, THAT’S SOME REALLY IMPRESSIVE STUFF! Even the Patriots haven’t clinched their division yet, and they’re closest rival is quarterbacked by Jay Cutler. It’s still okay to be impressed by these Birds.

Here’s what happened, and what’s happening, this week in the NFC East:

New York Giants (2-10)



What Happened: The Geno Smith Era came and went for the Giants Sunday, as New York lost their 10th game, this one to the shorthanded Oakland Raiders 24-17. Smith, who was starting in place of some guy named Eli Manning for absolutely no real justifiable reason, fumbled twice in the first half, one of which was in the Raiders redzone. The Giants D, meanwhile, allowed Marshawn Lynch to have his first 100-yard rushing game since before he retired, most of which came on a 51-yard touchdown. All in all, it was more of the same for the 2017 Giants, who have been about as inspiring as Sean Spicer trying to sell you on a timeshare in Aleppo.

After the game, head coach Ben McAdoo was quoted as saying “I’m going to coach this team as long as my key card works.” He was promptly fired on Monday, along with General Manager Jerry Reese, and less than 24-hours later it leaked that Eli would be back in his starting role come Sunday. In just a dozen weeks, the Giants went from SUPER BOWL CONTENDERS to cleaning house. Sure seems like a well-run operation the Mara family has going, doesn’t it?

The rapid demise of the New York Giants has been one of the most fascinating NFC East dumpster fires to watch burn in recent memory. This is a level of dysfunction usually reserved for Washington, Cleveland, and perhaps Oakland towards the end of Al Davis. Even Jets fans can stick out their chests at this point. The Silverdome Implosion had less hitches.

At 2-10, the Giants are going through their worst start since 1976 which, coincidentally, is the last time they fired a coach midseason. So here’s your friendly reminder that just 10 months ago, Brandon Marshall called joining this franchise the “the best opportunity to be in a championship organization.” He’s also recommending you invest in The Weinstein Company.



Positive Spin: In the words of Magic Johnson, happy days are here again. The axing of both McAdoo and Reese likely comes as a huge relief for fans of this putrid franchise who wanted change and wanted it quickly. The team now gets a clean slate heading into 2018 and, thanks to a Niners victory, could even have the #2 draft pick after the season.



Negative Spin: Be careful what you wish for. McAdoo clearly failed, but now this team is back to square one; they have no general manager, no head coach, and have alienated their only legitimate quarterback. While the changing-of-the-guard may increase the chances Eli is back come 2018, should he be? And whoever inherits this Big Apple Circus is going to have to deal with an aging-and-overpaid defense, a phenom wide receiver coming off a major injury, and an offensive line with a level of toughness comparable to rice noodles.

Oh, and the guy picking the new GM? That’ll be 76-year-old Ernie Accorsi, the former Giants head who definitely-doesn’t-use-hair-dye and was responsible for picking the disgraced Reese in the first place. Good luck with that one, Giants fans. Even Howie Roseman thinks the owner needs to branch outside his comfort zone on this one. Who would have thought that John Mara, who inherited his football team from his father, would surround himself with a bunch of yes-men? Color me shocked.



What’s Next: The Giants get to play host to the Cowboys on Sunday, so here’s hoping Eli performs the way Donovan did on Thanksgiving after Andy Reid benched him.




Washington (5-7)



What Happened: THE ALFRED MORRIS REVENGE GAME! In Dallas with their playoff hopes on life support, Washington fell flat to their hated rivals by a demoralizing score of 38-14. The game was a total (insert fart noise here) for Washington, more so for wideout Jamison Crowder, who let a pass slip through his fingers (that was later intercepted) and then promptly fumbled a punt (which was recovered by the Cowboys). The franchise-tagged Kirk Cousins didn’t fare much better, accounting for a hat tricks worth of turnovers (two picks and a fumble). Dan Snyder’s club has now lost four straight to the Cowboys, which, even as someone who hates Snyder’s guts, is a hard thing to stomach. 


Adding to the demoralization was the season-high 127-yards for Cowboy backup Alfred Morris, who was a part of the 2012 Washington Draft that brought in Robert Griffin III AND Kirk Cousins. You’ll be forgiven if you forgot the tandem of “Bob & Al” was suppose to usher in an Era of Numerous Super Bowl Victories for Dan Snyder and Co, though I’m sure a few Washingtonian’s had flashbacks when Morris essentially clinched this one with a touchdown deep in the 4th quarter. Washington, meanwhile, started 4th-round rookie Samaje Perine at running back this week, essentially the fifth guy they’ve had in that role this year since training camp.



Positive Spin: I got nothing for you here. Washington needs to run the table and pray that about a half-dozen NFC teams collapse to have any shot of getting to the postseason. That’s about as likely as Dan Snyder being elected ‘Maryland’s Most Popular Man.” 

I guess fans of Jay Gruden can be happy his team has played well enough to keep his job (presumably). At the very least, they’ve got that going over the Giants.


Negative Spin: For the second consecutive season, they appear to be taking a step backwards, and yet they will likely enter the offseason with some of the same major questions they had while exiting the last one. Mainly, what does this team do about Kirk Cousins? Unless Snyder grows a pair and signs Colin Kaepernick (ha!), there probably aren’t many better options out there for a team that’s currently 5-7 and not destined for a super-high draft pick.



Making it all worse, what was essentially the final blow -- losing on Thursday -- came against their most hated rivals who found themselves in the exact same position. It’s like your boss made you watch as he gave the other guy your promotion. It be cruel, if it wasn’t so hilarious.



This Washington season has been a lot like a GEICO commercial: some good bits for sure, but overall pretty uninspiring, slightly strange, and damn repetitive overall. And like a GEICO commercial, they’ll be obvious joy from the audience once it’s mercifully over.



What’s Next: Washington tries to keep their slim playoff hopes alive against the Chargers, who are suddenly fighting for a division title. With the Cardinals, Broncos, & Giants on the dockett to finish out the schedule, the chances of a late-season collapse that costs Jay Gruden his job seems unlikely.

 

Dallas Cowboys (6-6)



What Happened: Yeah yeah yeah, the Cowboys won and looked good doing it. Whoop-de-freakin-do. Lets all get super excited because Dak Prescott, who some idiot Cowboy fans already wanted to bench for the crime of playing worse without Ezekiel Elliott or Tyron Smith (imagine that), had his best game of the season. They beat Washington at home. It’s not like they found a cure for lupus.

Dez Bryant, meanwhile, is now the Cowboys leader in touchdown receptions with 71, which is really kind of fascinating. He’s the best wide receiver in Cowboys history? THE BEST!? He’s like a Reuben sandwich at the diner; I know it’s good, but if you’re telling me this is the BEST, that says something about the overall quality of the place, doesn’t it?



In other news, Jerry Jones is still trying to sabotage the Roger Goodell extension, which is like watching Darth Maul get into an argument with Voldemort. The 31-year-old Sean Lee is practicing this week, which means their defense may actually be competent come Sunday. And Zeke’s suspension is officially ⅔’s of the way complete, meaning they’ll get him back at the exact time they’ll be eliminated from the playoffs.



Anyway, the Cowboys got back to .500 with the win, getting themselves off the canvas, keeping the Iggles divisional champs merchandise off the shelf for at least a few more days. 



Positive Spin: What a bunch of fighters! By clobbering the desperate Washington Football Team and clawing their way back to .500, Jason Garrett proved he’s a true inspirer of men as he leads his crew onwards and upwards into the seasons final stretch!

More importantly, Prescott looked like a serviceable NFL quarterback, and that’s the first time he’s done that without an all-pro running back and all-pro left tackle on the field with him. Well, the left tackle was back, but let’s give Dak props where props are due. The former fourth rounder looked solid on Thursday and definitely put the Bobby Hoying comparisons away for good. For sure.



Negative Spin: Obviously all of those things are nonsense. Garrett has never had back-to-back winning seasons as a full time head coach, Prescott still has a lot to prove, and this team is almost certainly not going to make it into the playoffs. In fact, the Eagles losing on Sunday actually hurt their playoff chances, as Dallas is now two games behind the Seahawks (and the Panthers) for a Wild Card spot. Hey, maybe Doug lost the game on purpose to screw over the Cowboys! Now, that’s some three-dimensional chess stuff right there.



Seriously though, the Falcons, Lions, and Packers are all ahead of the Cowboys in the playoff race, which means at the end of the day, Dallas’ chances of making the postseason are about as likely as Sarah Huckabee Sanders getting to replace Alex Trebek on JEOPARDY! Anything can happen and blahblahblah, especially with ‘dem Boys getting a little healthier, but the odd are stacked pretty heavily against them.



What’s Next: The Cowboys go up against the Steve Spagnuolo-led Giants on Sunday, and that’s gonna be the only freebie they get the rest of the way. Their next three opponents are all currently fighting for playoff spots, culminating in a New Years Eve battle in South Philly for a game the Eagles ideally won’t need at all.

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

ap-nick-foles-eagles-giants.jpg
AP Images

Eagles wise to reject Nick Foles trade offer ... for now

Nick Foles for the 35th overall pick in the draft? A lot of Eagles fans would’ve probably pulled the trigger on that trade.

We know now the Eagles, wisely, did not.

Technically, it was Foles who shunned the Cleveland Browns’ overtures. According to an NFL.com report, the Eagles approached the Super Bowl MVP in March about the Browns’ offer of a second-round choice in the 2018 draft. He would rather remain a backup quarterback in Philadelphia than start for the league’s most pitiful franchise.

The Eagles respected his wishes. It wasn’t what was best for Foles. He earned that deference.

But it wasn’t what was best for the Eagles, either.

Never mind the organization owed it to Foles to ask his feelings about a possible trade, or that dumping him off in Cleveland against his wishes would’ve been unpopular with fans and around the league. Those were good reasons to turn down the offer. Just not necessarily the only reasons.

There was no need for the Eagles to settle for a second-round pick at that point in time, and all the rationale in the world says to wait and see what transpires.

Carson Wentz’s ongoing recovery from a torn ACL is the obvious. As confident as Wentz is he’ll be under center for the Eagles in Week 1, that remains to be seen. His progress was an even greater unknown when the offer was made over two months ago.

Was No. 35 enough to gamble on Wentz’s getting healthy in time for the 2018 season, amid the Eagles’ bid to repeat?

Maybe, maybe not – fortunately, the Eagles didn’t have to decide to trade Foles right then and there.

If recent history has told us anything, it’s not only do the Eagles have the option to trade Foles at a later date, but his value could increase based on demand.

The Eagles would know. Fans couldn’t believe the front office didn’t ship a disgruntled Sam Bradford to the Broncos for a second-round pick after making the move to draft Wentz in 2016. A few months later, almost everybody was amazed when Bradford was dealt to the Vikings for a first and a fourth.

Circumstances changed. The Vikings were a viable contender that, due to an injury, suddenly became desperate for an established quarterback just as the regular season was about to begin.

There’s no telling which teams might have interest in Foles between now and the mid-season trade deadline, or what price they might be willing to pay. And the Eagles were never going to find out had they shipped him out for the first semi-decent package that was floated their way.

The absolute worst-case scenario now is Foles sticks with the Eagles all this season, is never called upon to play a meaningful snap, then opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent next year.

Yet, even in that scenario, the reigning Super Bowl champions had the best insurance policy in the NFL, for a relatively modest price at $8 million against the salary cap, and the league eventually awards the team a compensatory draft pick after his departure. Along the way, the Eagles simultaneously get to do right by Foles and engender positive vibes among fans and around the league.

The Eagles could’ve used the cap space and another second-round pick this year, but they were better off keeping Foles.

For now, at least.

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

Eagles releasing Mychal Kendricks the right thing to do

For the past two years, the Eagles kept Mychal Kendricks in a state of limbo. It was about time the team set him free.

The Eagles didn’t release Kendricks on Tuesday simply because it was “the right thing to do” — if there was such a thing in this instance. They did it because the move will save $6 million against the salary cap in 2018. They did it because Corey Nelson is a cheaper alternative. They did it because Kendricks isn’t an ideal fit for Jim Schwartz’s scheme. They did it because, evidently, they couldn’t find a trade partner.

In short, the Eagles released Kendricks because the 27-year-old linebacker wasn’t worth $16-plus million over the next two seasons. That really should be enough.

It was also about time the Eagles put Kendricks out of his misery. He made no secret about being unhappy with his reduced role since Schwartz became defensive coordinator, asking the team to either cut him or move him last offseason. The subject of trade rumors annually since 2015, Kendricks probably hadn’t felt comfortable about his standing with the organization for quite awhile.

At what point are the Eagles holding him hostage?

Good thing the club didn’t oblige Kendricks’ request last year, as he wound up filling in for the injured Jordan Hicks and playing a pivotal part in the Eagles’ Super Bowl run. Some see that as evidence the team made a mistake in letting a six-year veteran with 78 career NFL starts to walk away for nothing.

While it’s true Kendricks came up big in 2017, he wasn’t exactly an impact player for the Eagles, finishing the season with four tackles for loss and two sacks in 18 games, including playoffs. He hasn’t forced a fumble since 2015. He hasn’t recorded an interception since 2013. And rushing the passer, arguably his greatest strength, goes almost completely unutilized in Schwartz’s scheme, which sent Kendricks after opposing quarterbacks just eight times all year, according to Pro Football Focus.

Numbers may not do Kendricks’ campaign justice, but typically more would be expected of somebody who was set to carry a $7.6 million cap figure into ’18.

The Eagles also feel they are in better shape now in terms of depth at the position (see story).

Kendricks’ days appeared to be numbered the moment the club signed Nelson and the free-agent addition declared he would compete for the starting weakside linebacker job. It’s unclear whether the Eagles are putting too much faith in the former Denver Broncos reserve and the host of linebacker prospects already on the roster. Regardless, the team likes its options.

So why force Kendricks to stick around? From the team’s standpoint, it was a lot of money for the level of production, for not being a great scheme fit and given his impending return to the bench. The Eagles were wise to keep him around for one more year, but with other arrangements since made, moving on now doesn’t sting as much.

The fact Kendricks was anything less than thrilled to be back only makes it easier. After handling his displeasure like a pro last season, then helping the Eagles win their first Super Bowl championship, granting his release seems like the least the team could do.