NFC East Roundup: Will Cowboys Rest Stars vs. Eagles?

Plus: Did LeSean McCoy hint at DeSean Jackson returning to Philadelphia?

Ezekiel Elliott leaps over Malcolm Jenkins. (USA Today Sports)

Ezekiel Elliott leaps over Malcolm Jenkins. (USA Today Sports)

After the Eagles defeated the New York Giants on Thursday night, let’s take a look at the rest of the NFC East and check in with the other three teams in the division.

We’ll begin with the Giants, who were on the short end of the 24-19 loss to the Eagles last week. Although the team lost, they did clinch a spot in the playoffs as one of the NFC’s two wild card teams. Still, Eli Manning still wants to play in the season finale in Washington, pens Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.

Manning’s desire to play in what is effectively an exhibition game for Big Blue stems from wanting to make offensive improvements. No doubt, the offense has been an issue for the Giants, who have been carried for most of the year by their stellar defense. He said the recent injuries to Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota did not change his thinking.

“No. That’s for the coach to think about, I guess,” Manning said. “As a player, you don’t think about injuries and you know that’s a part of the game and you go out there and you play tough and you play your regular game and you can’t be worried about that.”

And there is some successful precedent for the Giants playing in their final game of the year. Back in 2007, the Giants played the Patriots hard in a meaningless Week 17 game and narrowly lost, 38-35, to the then-undefeated New England squad. A few weeks later and Big Blue upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

“Obviously ’07, we clinched the spot and the playoffs and couldn’t make a difference in the last game whether we won or lost,” Manning recalled. “But we went and played the Patriots, played well offensively and got into a good rhythm, kind of took that confidence into the playoffs. I think we’re going to be confident going into the playoffs no matter what.”

The New York Post’s Bart Hubbuch writes the defense has suddenly become a concern for the team, especially with the two best rushing offenses in the NFL in the NFC.

Alarm bells are going off after the Giants allowed 118 rushing yards in Thursday’s 24-19 road loss to the Eagles. That marked the third time in the past four games they allowed 108 or more yards on the ground, and Ben McAdoo’s team went 2-2 in that span after a six-game winning streak.

Adding to the concern is that the Giants’ best run-stuffer, veteran tackle Damon Harrison, had to come out of the Eagles game in the second half because of a knee injury that could hamper the former Jet. None of that is good news, considering the Giants could face the Falcons in the wild-card round and, should they get that far, the Cowboys in the division playoffs.

Dallas and Atlanta are the NFC’s two most prolific running teams, with the Cowboys led by Ezekiel Elliott’s league-best 1,551 rushing yards and the Falcons boasting the two-headed backfield monster of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman — owners of an astounding 18 rushing touchdowns between them. Defending the run was an issue the Giants thought they had solved until it suddenly reared its head again the past month.

After giving up 100 or more rushing yards in three of their first five games, the Giants went six consecutive games without an opponent breaking the century mark on the ground and — not coincidentally — came away with a 6-0 mark to show for it.

Next up is Washington, who breezed by the Chicago Bears, 41-21, at Soldier Field on Saturday. Kirk Cousins threw for 270 yards and a touchdown and ran for two scores of his own, while Mack Brown ran eight times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Chris Thompson had the other rushing score, and also caught Cousins’ touchdown pass as well. DeSean Jackson led the team in receiving with five catches for 114 yards. The defense managed to pick off Matt Barkley five times, including two interceptions each from Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland.

Washington is pretty much in the playoffs if they beat the Giants on Sunday, thanks to Dallas beating Detroit last night. The only scenario that would keep them out of the playoffs is a tie in the Green Bay-Detroit game Sunday night. Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post notes the season will be defined by whether or not Washington makes the postseason for a second straight year.

The Redskins have seemingly played better in the face of adversity. When they needed a win to avoid an 0-3 start, the Redskins escaped MetLife Stadium with a two-point victory over the Giants. In a must-win situation to remain in the playoff hunt, Washington defeated the Chicago Bears on Christmas Eve to make its season finale meaningful.

But if the Redskins don’t make the playoffs, they will look back at a few crucial outcomes throughout the season that didn’t go their way. Their defense couldn’t make a stand in the final minutes of a Week 7 loss at the Lions. Place kicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 34-yard field goal late in overtime during Washington’s tie with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8.

In just the past four games, the Redskins put together two of their most disappointing performances of the season against NFC opponents with losing records, falling to the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers in games that would’ve given them a firm grip on one of the two NFC wild-card spots.

“That happens sometimes with certain teams,” defensive end Chris Baker said after Saturday’s win over the Bears. “It would’ve been better if we could’ve handled our business like this last week [against the Panthers] and been in the driver’s seat, but it is what it is. You’ve just got to take care of your business and hope for the best.”

DeSean Jackson is in Washington now, but will he return to Philadelphia? LeSean McCoy reportedly hinted at that on Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, McCoy had a special Instagram Live session taking questions from NFL fans on any topic. McCoy may have hinted about a potential Jackson return to Philadelphia.

Of course, Jackson saying to McCoy he was “going back” could mean the former Eagles wideout could be returning to the Washington Redskins as well. Jackson is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, so he’s free to sign with any team.

For the past few months, the Eagles and Jackson have reportedly shown mutual interest in a reunion.

Washington hosts the Giants on Sunday in what could make or break the team’s season.

And finally is the NFC East champion Dallas Cowboys, who took care of the Detroit Lions last night, 42-21. Dak Prescott threw for 212 yards and three touchdowns on 15 passes, while Ezekiel Elliott ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Dez Bryant caught four passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns, and also threw a touchdown pass to tight end Jason WittenBrice Butler caught Prescott’s other touchdown pass. The defense recorded five sacks on Matthew Stafford, and J.J. Wilcox recorded an interception.

Speaking of that Bryant touchdown pass, Bryant said he was really nervous at first, but he eventually “hit them with the Steph Curry,” meaning after he threw the pass, he turned around because he knew he completed the pass, according to the Dallas Morning News’ Jon Machota.

Heading to his left, Bryant stopped near the 15-yard line and lofted a pass into the hands of a wide-open Witten heading to the corner of the end zone.

Witten celebrated by throwing up the X, Bryant’s signature move following a score.

“I wanted to show him a little respect by throwing up that X,” Witten said. “It’s great when you have those moments. This is what you play for.

“Dez is like a little brother to me. I’ve told you guys before how proud I am of him and who he has become.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones says playing Tony Romo in the season finale in Philadelphia isn’t worth the injury risk, according to ESPN’s Todd Archer.

While there were some “We want Romo” and “Tony, Tony, Tony” chants in the second half of Dallas’ 42-21 win over the Detroit Lions on Monday night, the Cowboys never had their franchise leader in passing yards and touchdown tosses take a snap.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones does not want Romo to take a snap in Sunday’s Week 17 finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, either.

“Because I don’t like the circumstance it would come under, which would be injury,” Jones said before stepping onto the elevator to his suite after the game.

Dak Prescott will start against the Eagles, and it is possible the team could also activate third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez in addition to Romo. The Cowboys (13-2) already had the top seed in the NFC clinched before Monday night’s win.

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