NFC East Roundup: Three Teams, Three Weeks

Photo courtesy: USA Today Sports Images

Odell Beckham, Jr. (USA Today Sports)

It hasn’t been pretty, but the NFC East is officially the most intriguing division race in the league with three weeks to go until playoff time.

The Eagles, Giants, and Washington are all tied for first place heading into Week 15, each with at least one divisional game remaining. The Birds and Washington each hold their playoff futures in their own hands; the Week 16 matchup between the two teams will be a seismic matchup. The Eagles can still win the division if they lose to the Cardinals in Week 15 with two wins over Washington and the Giants.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictive models, the Eagles have the best odds of any team in the NFC East to win the division. Right now, they have a 44 percent chance of winning the NFC East. The Giants are the second-most-likely victors, at 31 percent, and Washington is third, at 25 percent.

The Cowboys, for what it’s worth, still have a two percent chance of winning the division because, after all, the division is still a brutal mess.

You can catch up on each team below.

EAGLES (6-7, T-1st)

Remaining schedule: ARI, WAS, @NYG (.590 combined win percentage).

Washington (6-7, T-1st)

Remaining schedule: BUF, @PHI, @DAL (.410 combined win percentage)

The Eagles have the best odds of winning the NFC East, writes the Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg, but Washington still controls its future.

The Washington Redskins won on the road — shocking, I know — and continue to remain atop the NFC East with a 6-7 record. The Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) are right there as well, with the New York Giants (5-7) and Dallas Cowboys (4-9) within striking distance. The Giants can add to the logjam at the top of the division with a win on Monday against the Miami Dolphins.

According to the Upshot’s playoff simulator, the Redskins now have a 32 percent chance at winning the division, which is their only path to the playoffs. The Eagles have a 48 percent chance to win the NFC East and the Giants just 18 percent, but Washington can still direct their own fate over their next two games.

“We have everything we want. It’s all in front of us. It keeps us alive. It keeps our heart beating, heart pumping,” coach Jay Gruden said after Sunday’s victory over Chicago. “The guys should be excited to come back to work on Monday and the coaches can be ready to get back to work and get a great plan together and have great practices and have a great game against Buffalo.”

Washington has reversed its early-season narrative, writes ESPN’s John Keim, and just keeps on surviving in the murky NFC East.

It’s the life of a team fighting for first place, enduring wild mood swings based on results. But it takes a mature team to know how to handle them, and that’s what the Redskins have become. Or at least are becoming.

They have faced four must-win situations this season and responded each time. They continue to lose players and have stayed in the NFC East race (helped, of course, by it being the NFC East). Look at their defensive starting lineup: Only three starters Sunday were in that spot when the season began; three of them weren’t even on the roster. No, the defense did not excel Sunday. But they survived; that’s what this season is about.

And they survived a difficult loss a week ago because of that mentality. Just survive.

New York Giants (6-7, T-1st)

Remaining schedule: CAR, @MIN, PHI (.692 combined win percentage)

Thanks to Eli Manning, writes ESPN’s Dan Graziano, the mediocre Giants are still in the thick of the NFC East race.

This is not a great New York Giants team. We all know that by now. But due to the odd circumstances of the 2015 NFC East, it is a Giants team that still has a chance to make the playoffs. If the Giants are to cash in that chance, they’re going to need Eli Manning to play like the franchise quarterback they’re paying him $21 million a year to be.

Monday night, he did just that.

In a game the Giants had to win to keep pace in the NFC East race, Manning completed 27 of 31 passes for 337 yards and four touchdowns. He hooked up with Odell Beckham Jr. deep when he had to, and he was sharp and in rhythm in the short passing game all night. This time, the Giants held their fourth-quarter lead and got out the game with a 31-24 victory over the Dolphins. Their season continues to be, as coach Tom Coughlin would say, “relevant.”

Beckham, Jr., continued his string of incredible performances Monday night and saved the Giants’ season, writes the New York Post’s Paul Schwartz.

Whatever was in that IV, bottle it and distribute it to all the Giants.

After leaving the field in the third quarter because of cramping, Odell Beckham Jr. needed an intravenous injection, and the nourishing fluids turned him into even more of a superhero than ever before. Beckham returned and caught two touchdown passes, both very different and altogether spectacular, to turn a 24-17 deficit into a 31-24 victory Monday night that saves the season and allows the Giants to stay in contention in the wacky NFC East.

Beckham showed fancy footwork in hauling in a 6-yard scoring strike from Eli Manning in the third quarter, and early in the fourth quarter Beckham displayed his breathtaking big-play ability on an 84-yard scoring burst. The ball was perfectly thrown by Manning, who had one of the most accurate and effective games of his 12-year career. Manning completed 27 of his 31 passes for 337 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Dallas Cowboys (4-9, 4th)

Remaining schedule: NYJ, @BUF, WAS (.513 combined win percentage)

After another loss, the Cowboys’ ninth of the year, Jerry Jones finally admitted his team simply isn’t very good, writes the Star-Telegram’s Gil Lebreton.

Normally a fountain of postgame positivity, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones could only survey the debris of a lost season Sunday night.

“The game was sobering,” Jones confessed.

It was a strong assessment from a man who used to know how to throw a Super Bowl party.

With his team’s playoff hopes already reeling Sunday, Jones watched the Green Bay Packers deliver a 28-7 haymaker to the Cowboys’ fragile chins.

Matt Cassel continued to flounder for Dallas in the Cowboys’ hideous loss to the Packers, writes the Dallas Morning-News’s Rainer Sabin.

No matter the method used to appraise it, there would be the same conclusion: Matt Cassel’s performance Sunday in the Cowboys’ 28-7 loss to Green Bay was bad.

The anecdotal and hard evidence matched up. Cassel looked inaccurate, limited and incapable of delivering the ball downfield. All of this was true. Cassel’s awful 41.5 passer rating summed up this wretched display of quarterbacking. It was the 29th-worst mark by a Cowboys’ player since Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989. His 44.8 completion percentage? The lowest by a Cowboys quarterback since a 2013 blowout loss to New Orleans. What about Cassel’s 3.93 yards per attempt? Only 14 times in the last 26 years has a Cowboys quarterback produced an inferior average.

Amazingly enough, one of those instances occurred earlier this year, when — you guessed it– Cassel accomplished that dubious feat against Seattle.