NFC East Roundup: Everyone’s Alive, No One’s Good

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

While Chip Kelly‘s team sits in third place in the worst division in the NFL, the Eagles do have life.

As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover wrote Monday, the Eagles still, somehow, aren’t out of the NFC East race.

It would take herculean effort from the Birds and an impressive collapse from Washington and New York, but then, this division is built on falling apart.

“As silly as it sounds, the Eagles are still a contender,” Brookover writes. “Nothing, in fact, that has happened in the wretched NFC East since the Eagles embarrassingly left the field Thursday afternoon in Detroit has squashed the notion that they are still alive in their dilapidated division.”

For your convenience, we checked in with the rest of the division. Here’s how the wreckage looks after 12 weeks.

Washington (5-6, T-1st)

Remaining games: vs. DAL; @ CHI; vs. BUF; @ PHI; @ DAL

Washington Post columnist Jerry Brewer writes that, with five games to play, Washington looks like the most dangerous team in the NFC East.

Fight the urge to go searching the bottom of the standings to see Washington’s name. Look up. Burgundy and gold are trending again. The Redskins have turned a lousy division into a showcase of their improvement. After discarding the New York Giants, 20-14, on Sunday at FedEx Field and reaching five wins for the first time since 2012, the Redskins will enter December with visions of the postseason. And no one will accuse them of hallucinating.

They also will play the final five games with an edge developed during this jagged season. Because of all the bouncing back they’ve had to do, because of all the failure they’ve had to overcome and the breakthroughs they’ve had to put in perspective, this has become an elastic team. Through 11 games, it has been stretched many ways, but the group is still intact, still focused on the process of building and still making this season more intriguing than expected. The players face a task tougher than any they’ve had this season in trying to keep this top spot, but their week-to-week mind-set is perfect for this situation.

Washington could and should win the NFC East, writes ESPN’s John Keim, because it’s a pitiful collection of football teams.

A 5-6 record would leave them at least three games out of first place in every other division in the NFC. They’d even be a game out of first place in the AFC South. But that shouldn’t matter to the Redskins; all they must do is finish ahead of the three other teams in this division. Dallas is 3-8 and minus quarterback Tony Romo for the rest of the season. The Redskins play them twice, including Monday night at home.

They also play once more against Philadelphia, which has allowed 90 points combined the last two games. And the Eagles play at New England Sunday and still have to host Arizona. The Giants have a banged-up offensive line, a bad defense and no run game. So, yes, the division remains a key element in Washington’s contention.

New York Giants (5-6, T-1st)

Remaining games: vs. NYJ; @ MIA; vs. CAR; @ MIN; PHI

The Giants had a chance to seize the division by the horns, writes the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, but they faltered in the face of high expectations.

“I thought we would play well,” [Tom Coughlin said.] “We had some issues. There’s no doubt. But we’d overcome some issues before — next guy up, blah blah blah. We just started in such a poor fashion that we didn’t give anybody any reason to think that we were going to be able to turn the thing around. It took a while.”

Coughlin has spoken this season of the Giants being relevant again in the division. They remain that, although it is now taking an oh-so-humble division race for the Giants to retain that status.

“We’ve got five games to go,” Coughlin said. “And if we can get back to winning — again, it’s up to us. It’s up to us. We can be. But we certainly have to continue to put ourselves in that position. Obviously this is one where you can look at and say ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ all day long.”

The Giants aren’t good, writes ESPN’s Dan Graziano, but they’re still tied for first place in a division ripe for the picking.

Even after this loss, they’re still tied for first place. As shaky as it might be, the NFC East by rule will field a playoff team this year. And at this point, with five games to go, the Giants have as good a chance to be that team as any.

“Our goal is still attainable, and that’s to win the [division],” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I don’t know if we actually control our destiny or not anymore, but I know we have a chance if we play well.”

Amukamara’s uncertain optimism articulates this perfectly. The best way to sum up the Giants’ current situation is with a bemused shrug. Coach Tom Coughlin, assessing his team’s first-half performance Sunday, said the team “slept-walked,” which isn’t a word. But maybe inventing words to explain what’s going on with this weird season is the way to go. This Giants team, as currently constituted, has no business in the playoffs and just might get there anyway.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8, 4th)

Remaining games: @ WAS; at GB; vs. NYJ; at BUF; vs. WAS

Amazingly, Dallas is just two games out of first place in the NFC East. ESPN’s Todd Archer asks if Cowboys fans should even be marginally excited.

Maybe if the Dallas Cowboys had won on Thanksgiving against the Carolina Panthers you could feel pretty good. Maybe if they had just won one game in Tony Romo’s first absence with a broken collarbone you could feel pretty good.

The Cowboys’ season has been filled with maybes.

Washington did the Cowboys a favor by beating the New York Giants on Sunday, which means they remain just two games out of first place in the NFC East despite their 3-8 record.

Or maybe the Redskins didn’t do them a favor. Maybe the Cowboys just had the agony prolonged.

If Dallas’ season turns out to be a lost cause, should the Cowboys start thinking about a post-Tony Romo future? Dallas News’s Bob Sturm thinks it should be considered, at least.

It certainly has to go into the thought process. I think it’s possible Tony Romo has a couple really great seasons left. After the last two years of multiple back and clavicle injuries, you would have to be a real optimist. Romo, at this age, with this many miles, and this many previous injuries, you would have to be an optimist that everything will be fine at the start of 2016. I think it’s time for this team to have an alternate plan to accompany their Romo plan. Their 2015 strategy was probably more, “let’s just hope Romo doesn’t get hurt.” That would be ridiculous to try next year, given what’s happened.

Replacing Romo is probably not going to happen, but getting a plan in place as a massive insurance policy to go with Romo is. That could include a first-round pick or a better free agent — much better than what they had this year with Brandon Weeden.