NFC East Roundup: Traffic Jam At The Top

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Photo courtesy of USA Today.

With four games to go, the NFC East’s collection of porous football teams is a scrunched-up mess with a combined record of 19-29. But the division will still send someone to the postseason, which means each team is still striving for a possible seventeenth game.

We’ve collected the latest headlines from around the division for your reading pleasure, and compiled each team’s remaining strength of schedule for reference.

Someone has to win this division.

Washington (5-7, T-1st)

Remaining schedule: @CHI, BUF, @PHI, @DAL (.416 win percentage)

Washington fumbled away a prime opportunity to take hold of the NFC East, writes the Washington Post’s Mike Jones.

With the New York Giants having lost to the New York Jets on Sunday, the Redskins had a chance to give themselves a two-game cushion between them and the Giants. However, because of their 19-16 loss to Dallas on Monday night, the Redskins instead slipped into a tie for first place with the Giants and Eagles, who also own 5-7 records.

“It’s very disappointing,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “That goes without saying, it’s very disappointing. We’ve got to come back to work tomorrow.”

Washington holds the three-way tiebreaker over each of those teams because of head-to-head competition and a superior divisional record.

However, the Redskins now have next to no margin for error in the final quarter of the season, which begins next week in Chicago.

DeSean Jackson was at the center of Washington’s mind-boggling, nearly-epic, eventually disappointing loss to the Cowboys, writes the Washington Post’s Jerry Brewer.

[DeSean] Jackson had his chance to do epic (bleep) Monday night.

Epic stupidity. Epic redemption. And finally, for Jackson and the entire Washington team, there was epic disappointment — all within the final two minutes of the weirdest, wackiest bad game turned good turned devastating.

This was a sobering evening at FedEx Field, not in the sense that the “Monday Night Football” spotlight revealed anything season-long observers didn’t know about Washington, but because it reflected the blemishes that already exist. It exaggerated some of the issues — foolish penalties, special teams blunders, the inability to run the ball, a lack of killer instinct — resulting in a 19-16 loss to a Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys team that struggles to run a clean offensive play every down.

Giants (5-7, T-1st)

Remaining schedule: @MIA, CAR, @MIN, PHI  (.625 win percentage)

The Giants continue to choke their season away in crunch time, writes the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz, and now it’s in their heads.

“People probably say, ‘Hey, we get a game close, the Giants are going to do something, they’re going to cost themselves a game,’ ’’ Justin Pugh said.

“If you pay attention to our team and just know OK, we shoot ourselves in the foot,’’ said [Prince] Amukamara, who was torched by Brandon Marshall most of the game and gave up the touchdown that tied the game with 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter. “You want to think positive, but you’re a realist at the same time it’s in the back of your head, you’re like crossing your fingers.’’

That is what it has come to for the Giants — hoping. After this fiasco [Tom] Coughlin admitted it was difficult to assemble his team in the locker room, so damaging and dispiriting was this latest setback. It dropped the Giants to 5-7 — they have lost three straight and four of their last five. They went from first place with everything falling into place in the NFC to this, dropping into third place, behind the Redskins (5-6) and Eagles (5-7 after upsetting the Patriots).

After another loss in an eminently winnable game, Tom Coughlin is doing himself no favors, writes ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

In a season of terrible losses, this one holds up as the worst. And while yes, his defense needs to be able to stop someone, and yes, his offense needs to be able to pick up a first down to protect a late lead, Coughlin blew this one. The Giants aren’t the type of team to fire a coach for clock management, and Coughlin’s two Super Bowl rings justifiably make him a coach who doesn’t deserve to be fired for such a thing. But at some point, the accumulation of disappointment erodes even the most formidable reservoir of goodwill.

Coughlin is not permitted an endless string of losing seasons, and if the Giants don’t finish at least 3-1, this will be his third in a row. Coughlin is not permitted an endless string of stay-at-home Januaries, and if the Giants don’t make the playoffs, this would be his fourth in a row and his sixth in the past seven years. The Giants’ owners understand that Coughlin is coaching the whole week and not just the fourth quarter on Sundays, and they’re not going to fire a franchise icon for poor goal-line decision-making. But Coughlin’s bad decision Sunday, in the midst of a season of fourth-quarter hiccups, doesn’t help matters.

Cowboys (4-8, 4th)

Remaining schedule: @GB, NYJ, @BUF, WSH (.541 win percentage)

Somehow, some way, the Dallas Cowboys remain alive for at least another week after their win over Washington, writes ESPN’s Todd Archer.

With a month to go, the 4-8 Cowboys are just one game out of first place in the NFC East.

[Matt] Cassel gets credit for the win. It was the first by a Dallas backup since Stephen McGee in Week 17 of the 2010 season, snapping a nine-game losing streak by Tony Romo’s backups. But Cassel was off all night. The running game wasn’t much better, with Darren McFadden fumbling twice. Devin Street fumbled once.

By no means was it pretty but the Cowboys didn’t need a pretty win. They just needed a win — any win.

The season lives for at least another week.

After what we’ve seen from the NFC East’s four teams, it would be unwise to count out the Cowboys with four games left to play, writes the Dallas Morning-News’s Bob Sturm.

This is about as bad as we’ve seen in many years in the NFL. As we sit here tonight, it seems possible that seven wins could win the division. As far as remaining Cowboys hope, this was a big divisional win, as crazy as it sounds, they’re only one game back.

I find it absurd that the Cowboys could still be in this. As I’ve been saying all along, I would not sacrifice certain younger players to continue to chase this longshot. But with four games to play, it would probably be silly to rule a team out who’s only one game back.