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State of the NFC East: The Carolina Panthers might get swept by the division

Things look great for the Cowboys, but are the Giants on the rise?

Carolina Panthers v New York Giants Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

While they did not play a game last week the Dallas Cowboys still came oh so close to having a perfect week as far as their division was concerned. The NFC East has hardly looked intimidating outside of America’s Team in 2021, and it almost went winless for the second week in a row, but the New York Giants were able to scrap out a win against the Carolina Panthers.

Some football fans found Carolina’s 3-0 start to be a positive sign of things to come, but ever since the Cowboys exposed them the Panthers have been struggling to get back on track. They are losers of four in a row and have lost twice in a three-week span to two of the terrible NFC East teams in the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants.

Things look very promising for the Cowboys in the division which is part of what Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton and I discussed on the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape. In case you were unaware this show is accessible every week on both the BGN and BTB podcast networks. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss any of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

But what about the state of the rest of the division? How are things looking for them with no real shot at hats and t-shirts in sight?

Washington Football Team (2-5)

By this point anybody who confidently picked the Washington Football Team to repeat as division champions has fessed up to being wrong. We don’t need to continue to poke at that idea.

It never made a ton of sense to believe in Washington in 2021, but to be fair to them their plan at quarterback was significantly altered when Ryan Fitzpatrick went down with an injury (Ron Rivera recently said they won’t have another MRI to evaluate for Fitzpatrick for two more weeks) very early on. But the main reason that people believed in Washington had nothing to do with quarterback. People thought this would be one of the best defenses in the NFL and that simply has not been the case.

At present time the Football Team feels rather directionless. They have a handful of players that any other squad would love to add to theirs, but what is Washington really building on right now? While no one is currently envious of teams like the Chicago Bears or New York Jets, they at least are enduring growing pains for young quarterbacks that they hope will stabilize their future.

Washington is stuck in a sort of purgatory right now and the idea they can escape it anytime soon doesn’t feel particularly likely. Lucky for them they have a matchup against a Broncos team that has dropped four games in a row to hopefully remedy things just a bit before the bye.

Up Next: at Denver Broncos (3-4)

Philadelphia Eagles (2-5)

It feels like forever ago that some Philadelphia Eagles fans talked themselves into this team being somewhat legitimate after a 1-0 start against the Atlanta Falcons. Since the season opener, Philly has only tasted success against the aforementioned Carolina Panthers and were just walked all over by Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Consider that Carr - a somewhat erratic quarterback historically - threw the ball 34 times and had a completion percentage over 90%. That just doesn’t happen.

Speaking of things that don’t happen, teams are running the ball with extreme success against the Eagles. Their fans are calling for a lot of things, but defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon is at the top of most lists. From our friends at Bleeding Green Nation:

The Eagles have given up 185 points this year. Only Washington, Miami, Kansas City, Houston and Detroit have given up more. They’re 9th-worst in points-per-game (26.4). In an era when no one runs the ball, the Eagles are getting gashed for 133.0 yards per game, 4th-most in the NFL. They have 11 sacks in seven games, 4th-fewest, and have given up 167 first downs, tied for 3rd-most.

Yes, the Eagles’ defense has allowed very few splash plays but they’re also allowing QBs to get the ball out quickly, avoid sacks, and repeatedly take the easy play the entire length of the field. Gannon’s defense is allowing an average of 5.3 yards per play (7th-fewest), but have allowed opposing offenses to run 472 plays, 6th-most. Compare that to 421 plays run by the Eagles’ offense (16th) at 5.8 yard per play (tied for 13th).

As a result, the Eagles’ average time of possession is 26:06 per game this year, 2nd-lowest, while Gannon’s defense has allowed a time of possession of 33:53, 2nd-most. Sirianni wasn’t wrong. You can’t win if you don’t have the ball (although when the Eagles do get the ball, it’s a disaster too, but that’s for another post).

To be fair, Gannon doesn’t have a ton of talent with which to work and, as the trade deadline approaches, it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to lose even more bodies. Brandon Graham’s injury in Week 2 was a crusher, but no other defensive end has stepped up in his absence.

Philadelphia’s roster has slowly depleted year by year since they won the Super Bowl and they are now at a place where they have too many holes to cover (no pun intended). It is not a joke or shot at a rival to say that they are literally one of the worst teams in the NFL at the moment.

You just hate to see it.

Up Next: at Detroit Lions (0-7)

New York Giants (2-5)

It is beyond me how a team could lose to the New York Giants, let alone get blown out by them, but that is simply who the Carolina Panthers are. Focusing on the G-Men here, we will get a chance to see them on Monday Night Football this week coming off of their win as they are getting set to visit the Kansas City Chiefs. Nobody thinks that the Giants have a real shot in this game, but Brandon and I noted how it would be very on brand for the current Chiefs to drop a lowly game like this.

What’s more is that this game is an opportunity for Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to take on a team coached by Andy Reid. Say what you will about Garrett’s time leading the Cowboys, but one thing he generally excelled at was studying his division rivals and having success against them. Andy Reid is a long way removed from being the Philadelphia Eagles coach, but you get the point.

Speaking of Jason Garrett, he is starting to earn some kudos from Giants fans. Seriously. From our friends at Big Blue View following the team’s win against the Panthers:

Giants’ fans who want Garrett gone don’t want to hear it, but the offensive coordinator has done pretty good job overall this season. The Giants still are not consistently scoring enough points (19.9 per game, 25th in the NFL), but they are 19th in yards after being 31st a season ago. Until the Giants are mostly healthy and Jones gets a chance to work with Saquon Barkley, Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard and the rest of the team’s playmakers for an extended period of time they can’t be expected to light up the scoreboard.

I have my issues at times with Garrett’s play-calling. Still, I think complaining about play calls is a favorite pastime of everyone who watches NFL games. We all think we know better than the guy calling the play. A good play call is any play that works. A bad play call is any play that doesn’t. In the heat of the moment, with only seconds to make a decision, sometimes guys get it right and sometimes they don’t.

All of that is preamble to this: Until and unless he gets another head-coaching opportunity, I don’t think Garrett is going anywhere for a while. He has a tremendous relationship with Jones, and Jones continuing his upward arc as an NFL quarterback remains the most important piece of the Giants’ puzzle. Garrett’s work, overall, is helping him.

I don’t think the Giants want to disturb Jones’ continued development if they don’t have to. I think the only thing that changes that is if the Giants ever get healthy on offense and still fail to produce a good product.

You will recall that Jason Garrett actually interviewed for the Los Angeles Chargers head coaching vacancy in the early days of the offseason, immediately coming off of a terrible offensive year during his first one as the Giants offensive coordinator. That being said my own personal read on the situation in New York agrees with Ed Valentine’s here in that it seems very Giants-like to keep things the way they are since that is how they like to roll.

Can Garrett help the Giants in a big spot this week? We will see.

Up Next: at Kansas City Chiefs (3-4)

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