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NFC East roundup: A three-team race for No. 1

Four weeks into the season, each NFC East team has shown their formula for success.

NFL: Washington Commanders at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

NFC East Pick ’em record: (9-4)

The New York Giants at 3-1 feel a lot different than the Dallas Cowboys at 3-1. Dallas’ strength of schedule is harder against the top divisional teams. They have played the Buccaneers and Bengals, going 1-1. The Giants have played the 2021 AFC No. 1 seeded Titans and won, but their other wins against bad Panthers and Bears.

At the end of the day, a team can only play their schedule. New York and Dallas have an uphill climb this week to keep pace with the Eagles. Here’s a look around the NFC East for Week 5.

Dallas Cowboys (3-1) at Los Angeles Rams (2-2)

The Rams, who are the defending Super Bowl champions, have looked nothing like the team who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy a short eight months ago. They lost many players to either injury, free agency, or retirement. It’s been a band-aid roster that head coach Sean McVay is trying to keep together.

It starts at quarterback in McVay’s system, with Stafford coming in last season to replace what the Rams had in Jared Goff. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, Goff in Detroit has statistically outplayed Stafford this season. The former Rams quarterback has more passing yards, touchdowns, average yards per attempt, and fewer interceptions. McVay is not getting quality play from the guy the franchise bet their future on.

The offensive line has just struggled in all areas of football which is crippling the team. The offense has also struggled to run the ball, which would take pressure off Stafford to do everything. The Rams are at the bottom of the NFL, averaging 68.5 rushing yards per game. The Texans, Colts, and Jets are running the ball more effectively. It’s not like the Rams don’t have quality rushers. Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson are good running backs.

The Cowboys are catching the Rams at the right time. They are struggling to stay healthy, their run game is a disaster, and their offensive line is vulnerable at every position. Run defense should not be a problem for Dallas this week, and their pass rushers should get home, considering the Rams allowed seven sacks to the 49ers.

Protect the ball. If Cooper Rush gets to start again this week, he has to follow the exact blueprint from all the other wins for Dallas. If the Cowboys can run the ball effectively and Rush can make big throws downfield, as we saw against the Commanders, there is no way Dallas should lose this game. The Cowboys keep rolling before they meet the Eagles and win this game 27-13.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-0) at Arizona Cardinals (2-2)

Jalen Hurts should get a lot of credit. He has developed not only into a better quarterback but a better leader. In his press conference this week, the Philadelphia media asked him about the Manning Cast and other silly questions. Hurts turned the conversation around and asked the reporters if they had any questions about Arizona and the game. That’s a quarterback looking to stay locked in while the rest of the world crowns the Super Bowl champs.

The Philly media does have a point. There are good vibes in the City of Brotherly Love right now. The Eagles beat a competitive Jaguars team in the rain, where they trailed 14-0 at one point. Each week has presented a new hurdle, and they’ve jumped over each one. Kyler Murray presents a problem for the Eagles defense they haven’t seen this season.

Murray is undoubtedly more elusive and tougher to bring down than Carson Wentz, Kirk Cousins, Trevor Lawrence, and Jared Goff. According to Next Gen Stats, the former No. 1 pick willed his team to a win against the Raiders on an early two-point conversion play where he ran for almost 90 yards. He’s always a threat to run, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Eagles defense defends that threat.

In all categories, Philadelphia is the better team. The Eagles have the No. 1 offense and will be playing an Arizona defense that has allowed 342.8 yards per game and is getting zero help from the pass rush. The Cardinals defense has just four sacks on the year, which is dead last in the NFL.

The Cardinals will be desperate for a win in what would end up being a statement game for them. However, the Eagles are too much for Arizona and will be another hurdle the Super Bowl favorites leap over. Philadelphia will win 35-17.

New York Giants (3-1) vs. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

The Giants will fly overseas with their starting quarterback in the second 2022 NFL game played in London. Daniel Jones injured his ankle in the win over the Chicago Bears and has been limited in practice this week. However, Ian Rapoport said Jones had no injury status and would play on Sunday against the Packers.

The Giants feel like a hollow 3-1. Their run game has bailed the team out week after week, showing no signs of a passing offense. Against the Bears, New York had 82 passing yards with 242 yards rushing. It does not sound like a sustainable recipe to win games in the modern NFL. Green Bay has been playing the same type of football, and Aaron Rodgers recognizes it.

The Packers offense ranks 15th in the league in passing yards and 7th in rushing yards. With Rodgers at quarterback, you think it would be flipped. However, with an aging quarterback and having no quality wide receivers, the offense is forced to be run first.

The Packers are also allowing five yards per carry to opposing running backs. With Jones still recovering from injury and the Giants having the leagues leading rusher in Saquon Barkley, they would be wise to run early and often. It will keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands and limit their time of possession. It’s a very Jason Garrett game plan.

This game features two of the top ten rushers in the NFL. Both defenses have allowed over 500 total rushing yards to opponents through four weeks. We know both teams will run the ball, but whichever offense can get their passing game going should win. The Packers have the better quarterback and more recognizable wide receivers. They should go to 4-1 winning in London, 28-17.

Washington Commanders (1-3) vs. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

With how things are going in Washington, there might be a new quarterback and head coach on the opposing sideline when the Cowboys play them in January. In his press conference this week, head coach Ron Rivera talked about how visible change doesn’t happen overnight and that this team needs time. Unfortunately for Rivera, he needs to show results after three years in the organization.

Carson Wentz can’t get it together and puts his team in bad situations. The defensive line holds things up front, while the secondary allows big plays left and right. This team has talent and could be dangerous if the leadership was better. The Commanders catch a Tennessee Titans team at the wrong time.

The Titans were difficult to watch during the first two weeks of the season. Since then, the offense has played better, and the defense is getting more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Moving forward, how they played the Colts last week should be their style of play. Make sure Ryan Tannehill doesn’t throw more than 25 times to make mistakes and run Derrick Henry into the ground.

Tennessee would be much better if the offense had more experienced wide receivers. That’s why the A.J Brown trade hurts them so much. Robert Woods brings a veteran presence but is not their leading receiver. Treylon Burks was supposed to replace Brown, but he could be out this weekend dealing with a turf toe. Tannehill and Brown’s visible connection has been difficult to duplicate, so they’ve relied on the ground game more recently.

Both teams are statistically strong in defending the run. The Titans are 29th, allowing opponents an average of 274 passing yards per game, and the Commanders are 24th. Wentz and Tannehill are capable of turning the ball over.

Flip a coin, and there wouldn’t be an argument about which team wins because the matchups are that close. Washington will win out of desperation because being at home gives a slight advantage. The final score could be 24-21.

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