By Jack Henkels
On Sunday, Washington was waxed by an offense engineered by Harvard grad Ryan Fitzpatrick. On Monday, Philadelphia and New York participated in one of the ugliest primetime football games in recent memory. Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys spent the bye week turning over the starting quarterback responsibility to journeyman Matt Cassel, hoping to spark their offense. It’s a sad state of affairs in the NFC East.
Does anyone really want to win this division? Two weeks ago, Washington had the ball in overtime against the then unbeaten Atlanta Falcons, only to blow it with a Cousins’ walk-off pick six. This week, Cousins looked lifeless, throwing multiple picks in the second half, while the ground game cannot get any sort of momentum. The once promising two-headed running back monster of Matt Jones and Alfred Morris has floundered with Jones’ injury and Morris’ limited effectiveness. The defensive front seven was pounded by Jets’ halfback Chris Ivory (20 carries, 146 yards, 1 td) and the secondary was shredded by WR Brandon Marshall (7 rec, 111 yards, 1 td).Embed from Getty Images
There’s good news for Washington: they play in the NFC East. So, even at 2-4, they sit just one game out of first place and could very well be sitting at the top with a win over Tampa Bay next week. That’s the magic of the NFC East.
The New York Giants appeared to be the odds on favorite to win the NFC East after escaping against San Francisco in the nightcap of Week 5. Sitting at 3-2 and facing a banged up Eagles team on both sides of the ball, the Giants had a golden opportunity to take hold of the division at 4-2, while putting away the Eagles and sending them to 0-3 in divisional games. But, of course, because it’s an NFC East game, that’s not at all what happened. The Giants marched down the field on their first possession, cashing in on an Odell Beckham Jr. sliding touchdown up the middle, but that would be it for the Giants offense. Three first half turnovers later, the Giants were staring at a 17-7 deficit heading into the halftime locker room. The second half proved no better for Eli and his offensive unit, as the Eagles front seven wreaked havoc on the Giants’ offensive line, pressuring Eli on nearly every throw, leaving them scoreless in the second half. The Giants hurt themselves with countless penalties and mental mistakes. It looked like anything but a team who had a chance to grab hold of a division.Embed from Getty Images
For the Eagles, although it was a rather convincing 27-7 win over a division rival, there are still many areas of concern for the Philadelphia faithful. Center Jason Kelce struggled, committing two penalties (holding, snap infraction) and also snapping the ball over the head of his quarterback for an 18 yard loss. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews carelessly fumbled while fighting for extra yards after the catch. Although quarterback Sam Bradford looked sharp at times, he made a couple horrendous throws resulting in three interceptions against a depleted Giants’ secondary. The bright spots for Philadelphia were running back Demarco Murray and the defensive front seven. Murray topped 100 yards for the first time this season including a strong north south touchdown run from 12 yards out. The Eagles’ front seven, even without LB’s Kiko Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, and Demeco Ryans (second half) dominated the line of scrimmage. Defensive linemen Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan stuffed the opposing running game while also putting Manning under constant duress. Defensive coordinator Billy Davis has something special going here with his defensive unit as on Monday it showed its ability to absolutely dominate a football game.Embed from Getty Images
The Dallas Cowboys spent their bye week turning the playbook over to quarterback Matt Cassel. Brandon Weeden wasn’t getting the job done under center for America’s Team, so head coach Jason Garrett has decided to give the starting job to Cassell until Tony Romo returns from injury. This is a very dire quarterback situation for the Dallas Cowboys. Giving the offense to Matt Cassel to provide some sort of offensive midseason spark probably wasn’t what owner Jerry Jones had drawn up in training camp. It will be very important for Dallas to establish the running game early with halfbacks Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden to open up the play action for Cassel on Sunday against the New York Giants.
This division really stinks. At the end of the year, one of these four teams will host a playoff game, re-spurring the argument for the abolishment of the divisional system, which is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.