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State of the NFC East: Sunday is the biggest game of the season for Dallas and Washington

Things are heating up in the NFC East.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a fan of NFC East football then you are in some serious luck. December is going to be fun. We discussed over the weekend how all four teams in the division are getting set to play a bunch of games against one another which means the division could go in a few different directions.

Every week Brandon Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation and I discuss the state of the division on the appropriately-named NFC East Mixtape. This is a unique podcast at SB Nation as it is accessible on both the BTB and BGN podcast networks and needless to say it will be a vital tool for the run we are about to see. Remember to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network wherever you get your podcasts so you get access to all of our shows. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.

How are the non-Cowboys teams feeling entering this particular stretch, though? Let’s check in on all of them.

Washington Football Team (6-6)

The Football Team was 2-6 a month ago but has ripped off four straight wins. Considering the first one was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers it is not like they have been total flukes or anything.

Ultimately what is happening is that Washington is becoming who many thought they would be at season’s beginning. Their defense is keeping them in games and their offense (led by Taylor Heinicke as opposed to what people envisioned from Ryan Fitzpatrick) is doing just enough to win. Consider that they did not score at all in the second or third quarters against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday yet still came out on top.

Washington is firmly in the mix of things as we roll through December and not just hanging on to playoff life by a loose thread. They are the second wildcard in the NFC at the moment and fully control their own destiny relative to the division as they will play the Cowboys twice over the next three weeks. They are calling everyone who can to show up to the first match on Sunday.

Not to make any excuses for Mike McCarthy, but this game will be the first meeting between he and Ron Rivera in their newer homes where McCarthy is able to field the team that he wants (Rivera is hardly able to given the quarterback situation, Logan Thomas’ season-ending injury, and other notable absences). Dallas did not play Washington at all with Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, or La’el Collins last year. All three will be there on Sunday with friends at their back.

Needless to say this game is massive. They know it. We know it. Bring it.

Up Next: Dallas Cowboys (8-4)

Philadelphia Eagles (6-7)

The Eagles responded to their humiliating loss against the New York Giants by beating their neighbors in the New York Jets and did so with a fair bit of authority.

What made Sunday’s performance from the dirty birds interesting was that they were led by quarterback Gardner Minshew as opposed to Jalen Hurts. Philly is on their bye this week, but it is going to be nothing but non-stop talk about how Minshew should play over Hurts when they return to face Washington.

From our friends at Bleeding Green Nation:

Most QBCs [quarterback controversies] are simply the NFL’s manifestation of the human phenomenon “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Eagles fans can see there are limitations in Hurts’ game right now, and it’s uncertain whether he’ll fix them. With Minshew, they see a QB who can do many of the things they haven’t seen Hurts do yet. What’s forgotten are all the things Hurts can do that Minshew can’t.

Many also remember the Wentz era which, despite so much promise, never materialized the way it should have. The opinions of those who wanted Foles to stay appear to have been validated with Wentz’ Philly flameout, even if those opinions were wrong at the time (which they were).

Gardner Minshew did what a good backup quarterback is supposed to do in the NFL — step in for the starting quarterback and win a game against a beatable team. It’s possible Minshew’s strengths and playing style more closely resemble what Sirianni would want in his NFL quarterback, but Sirianni also knows Hurts is a more talented athlete. Barring a shocking change of mind, he will at least give Hurts the rest of the season to prove he can be the future.

Fans say they don’t want a QBC but, secretly, they love them. Heading into a bye week, there will be two weeks to debate Hurts vs. Minshew, even though there really is no rational choice other than allowing Hurts to start against Washington after the bye.

There is nothing like a discussion involving Carson Wentz to help set the stage for what is going on with the Eagles, is there?

If Jalen Hurts comes out and struggles against Washington in two weeks the chatter will be rather high about how the Eagles should make a change for the season’s final few weeks. When Philadelphia returns from their bye, so will the Indianapolis Colts and in Indy’s first game back the aforementioned Wentz should cross the necessary threshold for the Eagles to take the Colts’ first-round pick in 2022. Thankfully Indy already has seven wins and the Miami Dolphins (Philly owns theirs as well), who are also on their bye incidentally, have won six with the last five all coming in a row.

Up Next: BYE

New York Giants (4-8)

In case you were wondering, yes, it can get worse for the New York Giants.

After beating the Eagles last week (great job!) the Giants actually further damaged the Eagles’ cause as they lost to the Dolphins (as noted Philly holds Miami’s first-round pick next year). It was quite the hilarious turn of events from a Cowboys vantage point.

But that is about as interesting/entertaining as things are with the Giants these days. With Daniel Jones unable to play last week, Mike Glennon stepped up and unfortunately suffered a concussion. It appears that Jake Fromm - who the Giants only stole from the Buffalo Bills practice squad last week - might start for them this week. When it rains it pours.

Whoever is playing for the Giants the issues are well-beyond the quarterback position. They are on offense, on defense, in decision-making, it really is just a shame to see.

From our friends at Big Blue View:

Week after week I think we see disorganization that just should not happen on an NFL team.

The Giants took a weird timeout with :12 left in the first quarter when it appeared the play clock and game clock were going to expire simultaneously. Cyd Zeigler of SB Nation’s Outsports, referees high school and college football and told me the play clock would not have been running if it wasn’t actually going to expire before the game clock. In that sense, Zeigler said the Giants’ coaching staff “did nothing wrong.” The odd part was that in viewing the game it appeared the Giants thought the game clock would run out and they wouldn’t have to run a play, but that turned out to be incorrect. They were caught without enough time to get a play in.

The Giants surrendered a touchdown to Miami with :26 left in the half. That came on a 14-play, 89-yard drive — Miami’s best of the day. The Giants have been outscored an incredible 52-0 in the final two minutes of the first half this season. How that happens I have no idea.

At the end of the third quarter, the Giants had a series that went like this: 13-yard sack (thanks, Will Hernandez!), timeout to avoid a delay of game because they couldn’t get their personnel right, 7-yard sack, delay of game penalty that left them with third-and-33 at their own 4-yard line.

On both Tua Tagovailoa touchdown passes Sunday, the Giants appeared to blow coverages. As well as the defense played you just cannot have those kinds of breakdowns that give you no chance to prevent touchdowns.

The bolding up top is mine. I just find it to be impossibly difficult for a team to consistently be that bad on a week-to-week basis. Odds of probability would suggest that at a certain point, this deep into the season, the Giants would have at least tripped into points at the end of a first half.

Up Next: at Los Angeles Chargers (7-5)

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