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NFC East Week 15 Report: Oh good, the Cowboys' season may be over this weekend

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USA Today Images

NFC East Week 15 Report: Oh good, the Cowboys' season may be over this weekend

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles’ division rivals fared the previous weekend (no matter how deep in the dumpster they fall) and what they have upcoming. This week, the Giants got swept by the Birds, Washington failed to Trust the Process, and the Cowboys organization may be shaking like a Shake-Weight as a result of the Jerry Richardson news.

With just two weeks to go in the regular season, here’s what happened, and what’s happening, in the NFC East:

New York Giants (2-12)

What Happened: You may not have heard, but the Giants fell to the NFC East Champs on Sunday by a score of 34-29. Perhaps you couldn’t hear the news over the sound of Birds fans taking over MetLife Stadium. I couldn’t really tell you, I’m not an otolaryngologist.

Anyway, the Giants have now lost their 12th game of the season, which is roughly the same number of Diet Cokes Donald Trump drinks on a daily basis. And just like the 12th soda of the day, this one caused some serious stomach issues. Eli Manning and Co. actually scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions, leading by a score of 20-7 deep into the second quarter. They even had the ball, with a chance to go up by even more, as Big Blue seemed on their way to an early Christmas Miracle. 

Silly Giants. Miracles at the Meadowlands only come up for Philly, not New York. This one turned (as it so often has for the past decade) on a Manning interception during the second quarter. Not-Peyton threw a pick to Iggles cornerback Ronald Darby, which looked eerily similar to the one Asante Samuel had back in the 2008 playoffs (and like Samuel, Darby spent most of the afternoon missing tackles and driving fans bananas). The Giants' D made Nick Foles look like the 2013 version and the Birds' D held tough when they needed to, dropping the Giants to 2-12 on the year.

Despite a fantastic offensive day (and Doug Pederson going Full-Andy with some clock-mismanagement and a pass-happy gameplan), the Giants would fall flat due to their inability to stop a backup QB and a hat trick’s work of blocked kicks. They had maybe their best game of the year and still lost. These are your 2017 New York Giants.

Positive Spin: Giants fans can argue this was the perfect outcome; the team fought hard, the game was entertaining, but in the end, the GMen got the loss, keeping them in position for the second-overall-draft-pick come 2018. There’s a market in Manhattan these days for a Rights-to-Ricky-Sanchez-style podcast. Can someone check if Chris Christie is available?

Negative Spin: This team has no head coach, no general manager, no long-term answer at quarterback, no offensive line, no healthy wide receivers, no running backs, and no one outside of Landon Collins that’s young and exciting on defense. The only good thing that came out of this season is tight end Evan Engram and the exodus of Jerry Reese and the coach he hired. Odell Beckham’s return next year alone should put them over two wins, but they still have a huge number of over-priced veterans on defense who are about as interested in being a part of a rebuild as I am in an all-male reboot of HBO’s “Girls.”

Other than that, everything is gravy.

What’s Next: The Giants play one of only three games this week with zero playoff implications, versus the Arizona Cardinals. Bruce Arians crew has made a quarterback change, as they’ve decided Blake Bortles is not the answer. EXCITING STUFF!! In other news, Home Depot actually lets you order paint online now, so you can have it delivered to your house, throw it on your wall, and spend the afternoon watching it dry instead.

Washington (6-8)

What Happened: I know, Washington still playing football came as a surprise to me, too. But not only did they play, they actually won, a victory that’s about as productive as staying in the office late the same day you gave your two-weeks notice. The Washington Football Club was officially knocked out of postseason contention a week ago, so naturally, Jay Gruden and Co. went out of their way to hurt their own draft stock, beating the Arizona Cardinals 15-20. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Washington’s quarterback Kirk Cousins played well enough to get the win, with a pair of touchdowns and zero interceptions (and a paltry 196-yards in the air). In short, he was good enough to get a W, but not good enough to inspire confidence he’s an elite option as a signal caller. The guy is so middle-of-the-pact, Republicans are about to raise his taxes. Seriously, the Kirk Cousins Saga is as predictable as a Jurassic Park movie (Spoiler Alert: the dinosaurs end up eating dudes).

Oh, and the Scot McCloughan hearing is underway, in case you’ve forgotten that less than a year ago this franchise fired the only semi-successful GM they’ve had in the past twenty years, then threw him under the bus faster than a cheetah in heat. All in all, its been a pretty low-key season for Washington, as they quietly (yet dysfunctionally) march their way toward the exit, almost undetected. Like Keyser Soze, just less enjoyable to watch.

Positive Spin: Hmmm… well, Jimmy Garoppolo seems like the real deal in San Francisco, so that’s one less landing spot when Cousins becomes a free agent in two months. Other than that, there’s really not much to say about Dan Snyder’s squad right now. The best news this week may have been that players weren’t accusing their teammates of quitting, which is like YELP reviews on the Titanic complimenting the wait-staff on their table manners.

The most exciting news out of D.C. may have been the promotion of safety Fish Smithson from the practice squad, as he promptly surpasses C.J. Beathard as the coolest-named guy in the NFL. I’ve been hearing he’s a pretty hard hitter, too, and cod have an immediate impact. Seriously, he’s off the scales.

When the best news a team has is wrapped in fish-puns, it may be time to start getting your hopes up about the Capitals. 

Negative Spin: After two straight losses and some grumblings in the locker room, Jay Gruden’s job was potentially in jeopardy. This may still be the case, especially if he can’t get his squad back up to .500 to close out the year. It’s hard to imagine Snyder inviting Gruden back for a fifth campaign if they drop four of their last five, so the results in the next two weeks will likely have a direct impact on Washington’s entire game-plan this offseason.

What’s Next: Like the Giants, Washington plays a game this week with zero playoff implications for either team, taking on the Denver Broncos at home. And again, if you’re more interested in getting some of that paint to dry, you can still get delivery in advance of the holiday if you order today.

Dallas Cowboys (8-6)

What Happened: Aw, BOOO! Dallas kept their playoff hopes alive with a 20-17 win Sunday night that felt more like an escape Houdini would be proud of… if all of Houdini’s tricks were a result of audience participation. Up by three with less than a minute to go, Oakland had the ball in the red zone with a sure-thing kick available to tie it. Alas, on third down, Raiders QB Derek Carr did a Wentz-in-Seattle impression and fumbled the ball out the back of the end zone, giving Jerry Jones’ squad the ball back and ensuring Dallas’ playoff heart kept beating for at least another six days.

Dak Prescott… who has never thrown four touchdowns in a game ever, which is exactly what we watched Nick Foles do Sunday… had a pair of interceptions and is likely breathing a sigh of relief knowing he’ll have Ezekiel Elliott back next week to bail him out. At this point, I feel completely confident stating the Birds are in better shape with Foles than the Cowboys are with the 2nd-year 4th-rounder who’s thrown eleven interceptions in 2017 (or one more on the year than Eli). Tell me I’m wrong.

The weirdest part of this game was when head referee Gene Steratore pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket to help determine a late Cowboys first down. Yeah, you read that right: the ref used a freakin’ index card to give the Cowboys a first down, and considering I have a smartphone with more computing power than Apollo 11 and the WTA can tell within a fraction of an inch how close a 100-mph tennis ball hits the ground, it’s probably time the NFL looked for some sort of technological upgrade. My 84-year-old grandmother is more tech-savvy (she’s big on emojis, though I’m trying to teach her Venmo). 

Additionally, for all y’all out there who get palpitations every time you hear the Joe Buck’s of the World make a Santa Clause reference whenever we Iggles fans feel the need to let the Boo Birds out, take pleasure in watching Raiders fans throw beer bottles at the Cowboys after a touchdown. You think this will get referenced for the next 70 years, or will it fade out like every other fan-transgression that occurs outside of South Philly? My bet is on the latter. FOX News and HuffPost are less biased.

Oh, and the Cowboys punter called his own number on a fake punt, and the idea that a punter can do so is an abuse of power so huge, even Kim-Jong Un feels it’s out of line. I think Donnie Jones is an underrated stud, but if he ever calls his own fake and it fails, I consider that high-treason.

Positive Spin: Zeke’s suspension is over, so ‘dem Boys will get their best playmaker back with the playoffs on the line… which worked out so well for Green Bay this past weekend. Also, as of Tuesday night, Tyron Smith’s knee injury hadn’t knocked him out for the year (and curse you, Cowboys fans, for actually getting good news from an MRI machine). Along with Sean Lee, those guys may be the most important parts of the Cowboys Machine, and they’ll need strong play from all three to have any shot at the postseason.

At the end of the day, the Cowboys have seemingly gotten through the Zeke Suspension (which they did everything in their power to draw out as long as they could) and the Jones/Goodell battle that resulted from it. For the moment, this franchise is controversy-free, a peace that will last about as long as silence on Donald Trump’s twitter feed.

Negative Spin: The playoff-stuff is obvious; the Cowboys remain longshots to play in the postseason for a second consecutive season, as they’ll need to win out and get a little help in order to get a seventeenth game. A loss to desperate Seattle come Sunday, and this one is OVA.

However, the biggest news in Dallas may have actually come via Carolina; the sudden announcement by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson that he would sell his team as a direct result of reported habitual workplace sexual harassment and racial slurs getting thrown around like Prescott interceptions. The #MeToo movement has finally hit the NFL, and it resulted in the excommunication of an owner faster than the NBA banishment of Donald Sterling. 

How does this impact the Cowboys? Let me take you back to 2014 when pictures of Jerry Jones and some strippers got about as much national attention as the updated packaging for Go-Gurt. We’re living in a new social world order, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to picture Jones The Good Ol’ Boy getting put under the microscope again. Considering he just spent the entire season making the Commissioner angry, don’t expect the league office to come rushing when Jones is in need of assistance.

Please note: Jones’ reaction to the Richardson news was to express sadness for his fellow-owner, not disappointment in his actions or even (more appropriately) sadness for the victims of habitual workplace mistreatment. It is like if Jones said he felt bad about CTE because owners were losing perfectly good players as a result. If you’re looking for a sure-thing football bet this holiday season, bet on Jones being the next owner under scrutiny.

What’s Next: Dallas gets the Seahawks at home on Sunday, and Seattle is coming off the worst loss in the Pete Carroll Era. If Russell Wilson can pull some leftover magic out of his hat this weekend, the Cowboys season could be done before Santa finishes his round.

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg get a bit heated in dugout altercation

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FOX Sports Atlanta

Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg get a bit heated in dugout altercation

While the Phillies put up seven early runs Friday in an attempt to overcome a shaky start by Jake Arrieta out of the All-Star break, there was some drama in D.C.

Stephen Strasburg, in his return from the DL, was pulled after allowing six runs in 4⅔ innings to the Braves. As he jogged off the field and down the dugout steps, he was greeted by Nats ace Max Scherzer, who gave him a supportive pat on the back.

Seconds later, Strasburg barked at Scherzer, who snapped his head back and shrugged in exasperation.

Scherzer was clearly ticked off and shouted back at Strasburg with some emphatic gestures. Strasburg jumped up and began to walk down the steps back to the clubhouse with Scherzer following him. It appeared they wanted to finish their heated conversation in private.

It's been a frustrating season for the Nats. They're 48-49 and six games behind both the Braves and Phillies. This was Strasburg's 14th start of the season and it hasn't been Strasburg-like at all. He has a 3.90 ERA and has allowed 12 home runs in 85⅓ innings.

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Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

Mike Muscala wasn't very fond of Joel Embiid as an opponent

Joel Embiid's new backup wasn't very fond of the Sixers' star center when he wasn't his teammate.

The Sixers will eventually acquire Mike Muscala from the Atlanta Hawks as part of a three-team trade involving Carmelo Anthony (see story). The trade is not official yet.

As is the case these days with social media, players' old takes resurface and Muscala is no different — except this time, it's not old tweets from a teenaged Muscala.

Appearing on the Road Trippin' podcast (h/t Jeff McMenamin and Pro Basketball Talk) on Feb. 13, 2018, Muscala, then with the Hawks, said the following:

I don’t like the Sixers.

I just don’t like them. I just feel like they talk a lot of s—, especially Embiid.

I understand there’s going to be some trash-talking. But I just feel like — I don’t know. Sometimes, I just — I respect players that just let their play do the talking. And I think sometimes, it just gets excessive, especially with Embiid.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the league. I think it’s entertaining, and I think people can feed off of that. In a weird way, I respect him for being to do that, because it takes a lot of guts and confidence, at the same time.

One important thing to note here. Muscala and Embiid were not teammates at the time and anyone who has watched Embiid play basketball knows he's a trash-talker. Of course, his opponents are not going to like it.

Embiid played just one game against the Hawks in 2017-18. He scored 21 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in 30 minutes on Nov. 1, 2017. Muscala? Just two points in 22 minutes.

Yeah, it's pretty clear who had the better stat line. And you can bet Embiid was chirping the entire game. Who could blame him?

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