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NFC East roundup: Playoff runs for all but one

The Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles all punched their ticket for a post-season run. The Commanders, however, are on the outside looking in.

Syndication: The Tennessean George Walker IV / / USA TODAY NETWORK

NFC East Pick ’em record: (26-12)

You know it’s Week 18 when the Dallas Cowboys end the season playing a division rival with playoff implications on the line. During the Jason Garrett era, it was seemingly every season that the final game of the season would be flexed to Sunday Night Football.

Even though the Cowboys have playoff seeding on the line, this is far from a stressful Week 18 matchup with the Washington Commanders.

All four teams will be squaring off against an opponent from the division, with Dallas and Philadelphia having the most to play for. Here is your NFC East roundup for Week 18.

Dallas Cowboys (12-4) @ Washington Commanders (7-8-1)

If the Commanders found a way to beat the Cleveland Browns at home on Sunday, this game against the Cowboys could have been in contention for a SNF flexing. However, the Commanders failed to play with the urgency their playoff hopes were on the line and lost 24-10.

Washington’s Week 16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers seemed to put their season on skates. Taylor Heinicke was benched after throwing an interception in the fourth quarter, and head coach Ron Rivera wanted to see what a healthy Carson Wentz could do. It’s never good when there’s a controversy at the most important position in football heading into the final stretch of the season.

Rivera opted to start Wentz against the Browns, and the decision completely backfired. The offense looked inept, and the former first-round pick finished with under 150 yards passing and three interceptions. To make matters worse, Rivera said in his press conference that he didn’t know the Commanders would be eliminated from the playoffs if they lost and Green Bay won. That’s a sign of a dysfunctional franchise.

On the flip side, the Cowboys are left wondering how long they play their starters for. In the game on Thursday, Dallas lost center Tyler Biadasz to a high ankle sprain. While Stephen Jones remains optimistic he will be ready for the playoffs, it reminds us of the risk of injury to starters.

Mike McCarthy has mentioned this season playing his starters until there are no more mathematical possibilities for seeding in the playoffs. With the Eagles losing two games in a row, it opens the door for the Cowboys to be as high as the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a chance at the No. 2 seed.

The Cowboys will be playing to win as long as they see there’s a chance that Philadelphia could lose, and even if the Eagles are blowing out the Giants, McCarthy might not call off the dogs. The Cowboys should win 21-17 and let the chips fall as they may.

New York Giants (9-6-1) @ Philadelphia Eagles (13-3)

The New York Giants need to decide if they play their starters or rest key players before the playoffs? Head coach Brian Daboll spoke after Sunday’s win against the Indianapolis Colts, saying he wouldn’t and that players can relax when the season is over.

But in later conversations with the press, he hinted that decisions needed to be made about who will play or not.

The preseason expectations for the Giants were to be in a rebuilding year and consider hitting the reset button on a rookie quarterback in May. That didn’t happen. Instead, the team decided to set the tone early by going for a two-point conversion, winning Week 1 against the Tennessee Titans, which told everyone all they needed to know about this team. They were going to claw their way to some victories.

Anything can happen once you’re in the dance. That’s why Daboll might be playing his starters this weekend against the Eagles. He might want to carry the momentum of beating a 13-win team as a 14-point underdog into Wild Card weekend. This way, his team knows they can do the impossible with proof from just a week prior.

As far as the Eagles go, their season has suddenly taken a tailspin. Fans are up in arms about how the Eagles can’t finish the season and do what they’ve done for 13 weeks—win. Living about 30 minutes outside of Philadelphia, I can personally tell you it has been chaos to start the week.

Philadelphia’s loss to the New Orleans Saints forces the hand of playing Jalen Hurts in a matchup with the Giants and not giving him an entire month to allow his shoulder to heal. The offense needs Hurts back at the helm after opening Sunday’s game with four consecutive three-and-outs under Gardner Minshew.

If Hurts comes back this week, they will clinch the No. 1 seed with a 27-21 win. But imagine if the Eagles lost their final three games and dropped to the fifth seed. There might be riots in the streets of Philly instead of a victory parade.

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