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Around the NFC East In 1500 Words, More Or Less

Five weeks are down in the 2015 season, and a clear picture is starting to emerge but that picture could easily be knocked out of focus. All it takes is one week and things could change once again.

Wishful thinking
Wishful thinking
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have entered the bye week while the rest of the NFC East will enter another week of the war that is the NFL schedule. The race is still wide open, but the New York Giants are poised to take charge of the division if they can overcome the next obstacle in their path. At the opposite end of the spectrum Dallas is floundering while in the middle the Eagles and Skins are both looking for consistency.

New York Giants  (3-2)

Last Week:

San Francisco 49ers - 27

New York Giants - 30

Next Up: @ Philadelphia Eagles

The Giants proved something in week five; this team has the ability to dig down deep and grind out a game that other teams might have lost. They have come a long way from the squad that squandered consecutive fourth quarter leads to open the season. They are playing with heart and determination at this point in the NFL season and they have established themselves as the front runners in the NFC East race by doing it the hard way.

I often talk about teams having to learn how to win in tough situations. Against the Niners this weekend, the New York Giants took a major step forward in learning that lesson. Eli Manning started the game winning series with his three major weapons all on the sidelines yet somehow he and the team managed to capitalize on their opportunity.

"They're resilient, they're tough, they're tough-minded. They (think of) themselves as a scrappy bunch and they are that. I told them in the locker room it took every guy tonight, every guy to secure the win. People were playing and getting pushed into roles they hadn't been in before. That's the real sign of a team." - Tom Coughlin

We pick on Eli Manning quite a bit here at Blogging The Boys, but when he's good he deserves his praise. Right now Eli is playing some exceptionally good football, and when Good Eli is in the game for the Giants the team is hard to beat. This week his efforts against San Francisco were recognized as he was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week. The award was well deserved, not only for his leadership role in the come from behind victory, but for his entire outing, Manning went 41 for 54 passing and threw for  441 yards  and three touchdowns in week five. He did offer up one interception, but it was only his second miscue of the season. Eli is playing some of the best football of his career right now, and he is a significant reason that the G-Men are staking a claim on the NFC East crown.

One of the best pieces of news to come out of the Giants camp this week has nothing to do with what happens on the gridiron. You have no doubt heard the news of the MRSA incident that had threatened to force tight end Daniel Fells' foot to be amputated. The latest word is that the current course of antibiotics is having an impact and doctors are now optimistic that he will not have to face amputation. Fells has already been through multiple surgical procedures to stop the spread of the infection, and it is good to hear something positive  regarding his prognosis.  We take a lot of smack regarding our teams, but none of use ever want to see something like what Fells is facing happen to any player.

Washington Redskins (2-3)

Last Week:

Washington Redskins - 19

Atlanta Falcons - 25

Next Up: @ New York Jets

The Washington Redskins started out the season behind a power running game serving notice that the team was threatening to be something other than the same old Redskins. The lion's share of that credit could be placed on an offensive line that was performing ahead of expectations under coach Bill Callahan. Now things have started to cool off somewhat and the Skins are regressing in the run game. Guard Shawn  Lauvao went down with a season-ending ankle injury a couple weeks ago and the tone of Jay Gruden's offense has changed. Washington is no longer getting the impact plays out of the backfield on first down and the team is forced to go to the air more on second and long. Missing just one key piece on an OL that does not have great depth has taken a toll on the progress that Callahan has made. It has changed the flow of the Redskins offensive game.

Washington had several opportunities to prevent the 5-0 Atlanta Falcons from sweeping the NFC East this season but a game winning pick-six took away their final opportunity. The offense, and quarterback Kirk Cousins, was inconsistent all afternoon. Missed blocks, bad passes, and some missing bodies conspired to slow down Washington. The defense had issues, too. Playing without both starting corners, Washington played more nickel than they wanted to shut down Julio Jones (the did fairly well there) but the result was that DeVonta Freeman was able to take up the slack for Atlanta. You have to wonder if this is going to be the missed opportunity that Gruden and the Redskins would like to have back.

One bright spot for the Washington offense is that they have a new weapon emerging in slot receiver Jamison Crowder. The way he is starting to come along will remind Cowboys fans of how Cole Beasley progressed for Dallas a few seasons ago, but Crowder seems to be progressing even faster. He is showing himself to be a reliable and QB-friendly target for Cousins. Once the Skins get DeSean Jackson back in the lineup it will likely create more opportunities for the QB to go to his new favorite pass-catcher as the deep threat will help to open things up in the middle. Crowder is going to be a headache for defenses in the near future.

Philadelphia Eagles  (2-3)

Last Week:

New Orleans Saints - 17

Philadelphia Eagles - 39

Next Up: New York Giants

Fletcher Cox played one of the best defensive games I have ever seen against the Saints. One of the big keys to beating Drew Brees is to keep him under duress, and Cox single-handedly contributed three sacks on the game. Two of those resulted in forced fumbles. Cox is a force any time that he steps onto the field, but he was exceptional last week. If he can continue to play at the level he displayed he is deserving of his first Pro Bowl invitation. As it is, he was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week.

The win over the New Orleans Saints was something that was needed in the Philadelphia locker room. There are still questions about how Chip Kelly is handling all of his duties with the team and the coaching vacancy  at Southern Cal has helped to fuel rumors of his impending return to the college ranks, but for now a win over a team that is even more dysfunctional than the Eagles will serve to take some heat off of Kelly. The boost that was gained last week could dissipate quickly if Chip's team goes out and lays an egg against the Giants. Look for more of the three ring circus to continue unless Kelly & Company can get on a roll over the next several weeks.

Connor Barwin understands just how fleeting last week's success can be.

"If you go rest on this game and then go lay another egg next week, then this week's win was meaningless, We need to be happy with the way we played, look at what we did wrong, and try to improve next week.

Phil Sheridan of ESPN gave us the best analysis of what really took place in the Eagles win. It is easy to look at the score plus how a few guys were able to turn in solid performances and assume that all is well in Philly. Sheridan delivered a does of reality after the game and it is much closer to the point than the overly enthusiastic would like.

It may not mean the Eagles are entirely in the clear. Again, this looked like two mediocre teams going at it. Whichever managed to make the first big play was going to win, and that's what the Eagles got from Cox's strip-sack of Brees.

Sam Bradford still threw two red zone interceptions that would have proven fatal against many teams, Cox turned in his performance against second-team linemen, and the Saints are in disarray on defense and one denominational on offense. It was a big win for the Eagles, but they dominated the New Orleans Saints not the New England Patriots last week. There is a big difference. Tougher days are in store and if Philadelphia wants to taste success this season, it will still be an uphill battle.

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