NFC East Week 9 Preview

By Jack Henkels

New York Giants (4-­4) Week 9 at Tampa Bay (3­-4)

After being absolutely shredded last week by New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees, the Giants defense looks to rebound against a passing attack led by 2015 #1 overall pick Jameis Winston. Traditionally, after being shredded by a veteran like Brees, the Giants should feel lucky about going up against a rookie quarterback on Sunday, but Winston may be an exception. Coming off a big win against playoff­ hopeful Atlanta in overtime, Winston and his offense looks to keep rolling, maybe even into a 2nd wildcard spot in the NFC.

Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin and Charles Sims combine for a formidable two-­headed running attack. Winston’s effectiveness relies on the success of Tampa’s running game, as he likes to utilize play ­action to get out of the pocket and find receivers downfield. However, against a banged ­up Giants secondary heading into Week 9, I’d expect Winston to look vertically more often, trying to gash the Giants for big plays down the field. Tampa Bay second­ year wide receiver Mike Evans should have a field day, while running backs Martin and Sims may see their workload diminish in place of a more pass­ oriented attack.

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While the Giants defense was busy being demolished by Drew Brees last week, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was matching him step for step, as he put up 49 big ones on the scoreboard. Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (8 grabs, 130 yards, 3 touchdowns) had a fantasy dream day, and Manning threw for 350 and 6 touchdowns. The Saints defense is terrible, but putting up 49 points against anyone in the NFL is not easy, and the Giants offense looks to be clicking. I expect Manning and Beckham to have another big day on Saturday against Tampa Bay, who was torched by Atlanta stud wide receiver Julio Jones (12 grabs, 162 yards, 1 td).

Prediction:

This game turns out to be one of the best games of the NFL slate this weekend as the Bucs edge the Giants 31­-28 thanks to a strong performance from their rookie quarterback.

Washington Redskins (3-­4) Week 9 at New England (7­-0)

Coming off a bye week, the Redskins face the Patriots. The best team in the NFL. In Foxboro. I know Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing good football, as demonstrated in a beautiful come­from­behind 31­30 win against Tampa Bay in Week 7, but New England isn’t Tampa Bay and Tom Brady isn’t Jameis Winston.

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This game will not be close, but Washington fans should still watch for a couple reasons:

  • 1)  The Patriots defense has played very well so far this year and it’ll be interesting to see not only if Cousins can put up points, but just sustain offense against an above average defense on the road. Washington fans can learn a little bit more about their young quarterback who still has a million questions surrounding him.
  • 2)  Does Alfred Morris have anything left in the tank? Washington fans should keep an eye on any signs of life from their franchise running back.
  • 3)  Tom Brady is playing football. That’s reason enough.

Prediction:

The Patriots don’t really lose football games, let alone lose football games at Gillette. New England trounces Washington 38-­17, but Cousins comes alive for two second half touchdown drives.

Game of the Week:

Philadelphia (3-­4) at Dallas (2-­5)

The game of the week in the NFC East. Philadelphia vs Dallas. Sam Bradford vs Matt Cassell. 3­4 vs 2­5. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from the NFC East. It’s an awful division.

The Eagles roll into Dallas out of the bye week healthier than they entered it. It looks like linebacker Kiko Alonso and wide receiver Nelson Agholor will be back in action on Sunday, adding depth to an already dominant linebacking core and a deep threat for Bradford. Running backs Demarco Murray and Ryan Mathews will be fresh, and an offensive line that struggled against Carolina in Week 7 should be ready to face a Cowboys D­-line headed by former Panther Greg Hardy.

Meanwhile, Dallas just cannot seem to win a game without franchise quarterback Tony Romo under center. They’ve come very close the last two weeks, suffering heartbreaking defeats against the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks. Matt Cassell appears to be a bit more formidable than his predecessor Brandon Weeden, and Cowboy fans are praying that he can salvage this game in Romo’s absence. After all, If Dallas wins this week, even if the Giants beat Tampa Bay, Dallas sits in 2nd place alone with Tony Romo’s return looming in Week 11. Once again, that’s the magic of the NFC East. The Cowboys have lost four straight without their starting quarterback, yet a win against a divisional opponent in Week 9 can throw them right back in the swing of things.

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Dallas needs Cassell to play well to win this game. The Cowboy’s impotent rushing offense is not going to get the job done against a staunch Eagles run D, and Cassell is going to need to put the ball in the air and convert 3rd downs for Dallas to be successful. Dez Bryant is back, someone who Philly has struggled with in the past. Bryant must finish the game with upwards of 12 targets for Dallas to win the football game, especially if he’s shadowed by Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell who has struggled so far this season.

On the flipside, the Eagles should absolutely not shadow Bryant with Maxwell. In fact, Maxwell’s counterpart Nolan Carroll III should get more reps against the Cowboys stud because he’s actually been the better cornerback this season. With the Eagles top-­tier front seven, they should consider doubling Dez Bryant occasionally, especially in the red zone. No Eagles fan wants to re­live the Dez Bryant/Bradley Fletcher nightmare of last season. For the Eagles offense, if 100% healthy, Ryan Mathews needs more carries. I know Murray wants his touches, but Ryan Mathews has frankly been the more explosive back, and the Eagles need that to stay ahead of the chains.

Prediction:

Like most Eagles games this year, this game will be ugly. Nothing about Sam Bradford against Matt Cassell will be pretty. Eagles will eek out a brutal 20-­16 win because the Cowboys just cannot win without Romo at the helm.

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