Week 14 NFC East Preview

The 2015 NFC East reminds me of American Idol’s heyday back in the early 2000s. I was never one to watch those types of award shows, especially growing up, but for whatever reason, there was something about American Idol that I just couldn’t take my eyes off. No, I didn’t necessarily watch week in and week out while people got voted off. I much preferred the auditions. Simon, Randy, and Paula traveled around the country seemingly trying to find the next “American Idol,” while a large majority of their viewers were just watching to see people who have 0 singing ability go on national television and sing their hearts out with no shame. Of course, this provided the television audience with countless opportunities to mock the contestants and laugh at their uncomfortable interactions with Simon Cowell. My fellow viewers and I didn’t watch to see who won, but rather to see who we could rip on endlessly to feel better about ourselves.

That’s the 2015 NFC East.

No one really cares who wins this division. People outside the metropolitan areas of Dallas, Washington, New York City, and Philadelphia didn’t watch on Monday Night to see which team proved victorious. Instead, they wanted to watch a trainwreck. Trainwrecks are awful, but people just can’t seem to take their eyes off of them. Viewers watched for the inevitable “Not­Top Ten play” of the week that would head water­cooler discussion on Tuesday morning (Washington Wide Receiver Desean Jackson provided that late in the fourth quarter). The Washington/Dallas Monday matchup was just like every awful American Idol audition in history ­ people watched because they wanted to laugh and feel better about themselves, not because they actually cared who won the football game.

However, on American Idol, none of the putrid auditioners received a spot in Hollywood. The NFC East, much to the chagrin of football fans everywhere, will have one team reach the playoffs and receive a first round home game. That’s like sending t​he guy who sang “Let my people go”​back in 2009 to Hollywood. It’s asinine and makes absolutely no sense, but until the NFL decides to move on from the divisional system, this situation will happen every few years.

 

Buffalo Bills (6­-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (5­-7)

As Lesean McCoy returns to the city that drafted him, both Buffalo and Philadelphia look to keep pace in their respective playoff hunts.

Matchups to watch:

1) In recent games, Buffalo QB Tyrod Taylor has been taking more shots down the field to his explosive Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins. Last week, Eagles’ rookie Defensive Back Eric Rowe got his first start of the year (starting DB Nolan Carroll III is out for the year with a broken ankle), and did a more than respectable job against New England’s depleted receiving core. On Sunday, because the Eagles generally don’t shadow #1 wide receivers with Byron Maxwell, Rowe will see a fair share of reps against Watkins. Look for Tyrod to try and abuse the rookie in one­-on-­one coverage. Eagles Defensive Coordinator Billy Davis may want to be careful with his rookie and get him away from Watkins when possible, but definitely give him safety help over the top.

2)  It’s Shady McCoy’s return to Philly and it’ll be interesting to see how the fans greet him. McCoy was traded in the off­season for linebacker Kiko Alonso (who has struggled), and with the ineffectiveness of free agent signing Demarco Murray, Eagles fans probably miss Shady a little bit. Look for Rex Ryan to pound the Eagles with a heavy dose of McCoy early and often. The Eagles must contain Shady and keep the Bills at 3rd and long behind the chains.

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3)  The Eagles special teams unit tries to keep it rolling after a HUGE day in New England last Sunday. When the Eagles offense is aided by a special teams touchdown or two, they can be a tough team to beat.

Prediction:

Picking Eagles games is nearly impossible this year, and although they’ll struggle containing the Tyrod/Shady/Watkins trio, I think they will score enough points to outlast Buffalo 31-­27.

 

Washington (5­-7) vs. Chicago (5­-7)

Washington travels to Chicago in a matchup of teams both coming off disappointing defeats to inferior teams.

Matchups to watch:

1) The Washington defense largely was able to stand up against Cassell and the Cowboys, allowing only one touchdown resulting from an atrocious special team play by Desean Jackson. The Cutler/Forte/Jeffery combo will prove much more challenging to contain and it’ll be interesting to see if this is the day the Bears offense explodes at home.

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2)  Kirk Cousins Stats (ESPN Stats and Info):

    • ●  Home Games (5­2): 74.2% completion, 264.4 yds per game, 12 TDs, 2 INTs, 111.5 rating ●  Away Games (0­5): 61.9% completion, 231 yds per game, 5 TDs, 8 INTs, 69.8 rating

Obviously, once Cousins steps out of the comfort of FedEx Field, he’s a different quarterback. On Sunday, Cousins will travel to the unfriendly confines of Soldier Field, where an angry Bears team (26­20 OT Loss to San Francisco) looks to play spoiler. Cousins cannot afford to add to that mark of 8 road interceptions, or else it’ll be a long day for the football team from Washington.

Prediction:

The Redskins are terrible on the road. The Bears are terrible at home. The Bears will suck just a little bit less and stretch out a 26­-22 W.

 

Dallas (4-­8) vs. Green Bay (8-­4)

Green Bay, in the stretch run of a tight NFC North race, faces a Dallas team fighting for its playoff livelihood.

Matchups to watch:

1)  In recent games, by Aaron Rodgers standards, he’s struggled mightily. While Dallas’ offense has been plagued with injuries and an inneffective running game all season, their defense has played surprisingly well. It’ll be interesting to see if Rodgers returns to the Aaron Rodgers we all know and love at Lambeau, or if he struggles again against a stingy Dallas D.

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2)  Usually a kicker isn’t considered worth a pregame mention, but Dan Bailey has quietly become the NFL’s best (sorry, Gostkowski). On Monday, he drilled a 54 yarder to give his Cowboys a much ­needed crunch time win over Washington. If this game is close in the fourth quarter, I give Dallas a slight edge due to Dan Bailey’s right foot.

3)  Cowboys running back Darren McFadden struggled with ball security last week, losing two crucial fumbles. To pull off the upset, the Cowboys need to protect the football, which may result in former Seahawk back Robert Turbin seeing more of the workload out of the backfield

Prediction:

The Cowboys just aren’t very good without Romo at the helm and Packer losses at Lambeau are few and far between. 36­-14 Pack win.

 

New York Giants (5­-7) vs. Miami (5-­7)

The Giants travel to South Beach following a crushing overtime loss to their New York counterpart.

Matchups to watch:

1)  Odell Beckham Jr. has turned into one of the most explosive and best receivers in the NFL. Miami’s below­ average pass defense cannot afford to let OBJ beat them. Miami’s D has to make the Giants run the football to beat them, something New York has struggled with in 2015, ranking 29th in the NFL (ESPN).

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2)  If Miami’s front office really believes that Ryan Tannehill is an elite quarterback, then they should fully expect him to go out and win this football game against a spiraling Giants team. Tannehill has weapons around him in running back Lamar Miller and wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews. Tannehill is running out of excuses for not tapping into his potential, and this game is a great chance for him to break out against a struggling defense.

Prediction:

The Giants need this one to take charge in the NFC East race, and quite frankly, Tannehill isn’t as good as his front office seems to believe. Giants 31, Dolphins 16.

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