We have been talking for weeks now about how the final five weeks of the season were going to be extremely heavy with NFC East action, and that began last week for the Dallas Cowboys as they moved to 3-0 in the division with a win on the road against the Washington Football Team.
Nothing has been secured, there are still no caps and t-shirts, but the Cowboys have effectively won their first division title since 2018. They still have to work a bit more to secure it, but even the most pessimistic Cowboys fan knows it is coming.
The state of the division is always an interesting one which is why every week Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton and I get together to discuss it on the NFC East Mixtape. This is one of the most unique podcasts that SB Nation offers as it is accessible on both the BTB and BGN podcast networks. You can also hear from the folks at Hogs Haven and Big Blue View for perspectives on those teams, it really is a great way to stay caught up on the whole group. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network so you get access to it and all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
As it seems that the division belongs to the Cowboys the other fan bases have sort of waved the white flag on that campaign; however, both Washington and Philadelphia still have life in the NFC’s Wildcard race (New York has, um, four games left to play).
How are all of our friends feeling with so much hanging in the balance? Let’s check in.
Washington Football Team (6-7)
It is always sweet to see a division rival upset thanks to losing to the Dallas Cowboys, something we chronicled during the latest Trolling The Nation, but we will see WFT again very soon as they will be at AT&T Stadium on the Sunday night following this week’s game.
Until then, they are going to try and stabilize the ship and pick up a win against the Philadelphia Eagles. Take solace in the fact that after Sunday’s loss they were a bit beside themselves with bitterness.
In short, this was an imperfect game by two imperfect teams. Washington’s defense played well for most of the game, but the Dallas defense got the better of the WFT offense through too much of the game. Each defense scored a touchdown; each defense forced turnovers (2 by Washington, 4 by Dallas).
It felt, for much of the game, like a blowout, but that was just timing. Dallas dominated the first quarter and had a strong advantage in the second quarter. Washington outscored Dallas 20-3 in the second half, but it wasn’t enough.
Dallas was the better team on the day, but not so much better that I would think that Washington can’t beat them. In fact, the opposite is true. Watching the Football Team fight back in the second half — even though the team ultimately fell short — gave me confidence that they have enough talent to beat Dallas in the rematch that is now less than two weeks away.
Sunday was ultimately a frustrating and disappointing loss, but in the face of adversity, the team kept fighting and gave themselves a chance to win. They have four more chances to do better before the regular season comes to an end.
Let’s hope the make the most of those opportunities.
Ultimately the rematch between these two teams next Sunday night will not carry the significance for Dallas that it will for Washington. This isn’t to say that the game won’t be important for the Cowboys, but the Football Team is barely clinging to life on their season. They have to have it while the Cowboys are comfortably on pace to host a playoff game.
Up Next: at Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)
Speaking of! You may have forgotten because they were off for the week, but the Eagles have a bit of a quarterback controversy that could show up on Sunday afternoon.
You will recall that Gardner Minshew led them to victory during their last game out, but that hasn’t fully derailed the idea of Jalen Hurts being the team’s starting quarterback. While Philadelphia could still be postseason bound this has always been about building a future for them and in order to do so they are going to have to get a much better understanding of who Jalen Hurts is.
Imagine the following scenario: Hurts and the offense struggles against the Football Team in much the same way they did two weeks ago against the Giants. He’s turned the ball over twice, he’s inaccurate and out of sync, yet the Eagles trail only 10-3.
Undoubtedly, Twitter will scream for Gardner Minshew to take over and for Hurts to ride the bench. That reaction would be understandable if the chief goal of the Eagles is to make the playoffs in 2021.
But that was never the goal of the ‘21 season.
Given the three first round draft picks the Eagles will have in their war chest this off-season (barring a disastrous turn of events in Indianapolis), Sirianni, Roseman and Jeffrey Lurie need to know what they have in Jalen Hurts in order to make an informed decision regarding the future at the position.
Do they use those picks to trade for a veteran? Do they use a couple to move up in the draft? Do they simply use one to take a QB wherever they are? Or do they stick with Hurts as the answer in 2022 and possibly beyond?
I have not made up my mind about Hurts. He is an enigma. His running ability has turned the Eagles’ ground game into a force to be reckoned with and, at times, he’s shown improvement as a passer. But has he shown enough? The locker room is behind him, his teammates love him, and his intangibles are off the charts. But can he actually throw the football well enough to win key games in the month of December against divisional opponents?
This is a fair way of looking at things, but obviously a difficult one for any fan of the team to process. With the Eagles so close to the playoff line in the NFC (and an opportunity to leapfrog Washington with a win) it is difficult not to be distracted by the dangling carrot.
Whether or not the Eagles have the patience to fully decide on Jalen Hurts remains to be seen.
Up Next: Washington Football Team (6-7)
New York Giants (4-9)
Do you remember the infamous photo of the New York Giants players on a boat prior to their playoff game at the end of the 2016 season? Of course you do.
What if I told you that since that photo they have had not one, not two, not three, not four, but five straight losing seasons? It really is such a shame!
Times are tough for the New York Not Good At All At Football Giants and they were just dominated by the Los Angeles Chargers with Mike Glennon at quarterback as some salt in their wound.
Like the Eagles, New York will have some serious draft capital in the spring. For now though they are wondering whether the price they paid was worth it given that they passed on Rashawn Slater (who they just played) and Micah Parsons when they traded down from number 11 overall.
New York got an eyeful of just how good Slater is on Sunday. Yes, there was one play on which he might have been guilty of a hold but the kid is a terrific offensive lineman. Entering Week 14, slater was the seventh-graded offensive tackle by Pro Football Focus, and you could see why against the Giants.
If you watched Red Zone, or were fortunate enough to be in a locale where the Cowboys-Washington Football Team game was being shown, in the 1 p.m. window, you got an eyeful of just how phenomenal Parsons is.
I’m not trying to say ‘I told you so,’ because I did not think the Giants should have drafted Parsons. What I did say consistently in the pre-draft buildup was that Parsons was the best defensive player, and best edge rusher, in the draft class.
He keeps proving that.
Sunday, he had two sacks, including a strip sack that created a defensive score, and two quarterback hits. He now has 12 sacks, and might be Defensive Player of the Year and not just Rookie of the Year.
I think the Giants better hit a home run with that first-round pick from the Bears this coming April.
Parsons has been compared to Lawrence Taylor multiple times by many people so if anyone knows what kind of contribution that can be, it’s the New York Giants.
Up Next: Dallas Cowboys (9-4)