The NFC East is currently one of the ugliest log jams that you could possibly imagine, so the realization that one of these teams will make the playoffs is pretty incredible. When looking at the standings for the division (below), factor this in: The AFC East has just one team, the Miami Dolphins, sitting at 5-7; the other three teams in the division all have better records. Essentially, if any of the NFC East teams happened to be in the AFC East, well, their chances of winning the division would already be long gone.
- Washington Redskins: 5-7
- Philadelphia Eagles: 5-7
- New York Giants: 5-7
- Dallas Cowboys: 4-8
As we know, the Cowboys kept their hopes alive by defeating the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Week 13, with their defense making life brutal for Washington. Each team has an opportunity now, so let’s take a look at whether we should buy or sell the chances of each one taking down the NFC East.
Washington Redskins: Sell
To put this as simply as possible, the Redskins are 0-5 away from home this year. In their final four games of the season, three of them are on the road. That simply doesn’t bode well for the Redskins. As much as we’d love to say that the team currently sitting at the top of the division is the real contender here, they just aren’t.
On Monday night, we learned a lot about the Redskins. First, they really, really struggle offensively against a team who sends pressure. If not for a late touchdown from Kirk Cousins, his numbers and Washington’s offensive numbers would have been atrocious. The Redskins also averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in that loss. Washington may be in it, but on the road against the Eagles, Cowboys, and even the Chicago Bears this coming week, I’m not going to take them in any scenario.
Philadelphia Eagles: Sell
After the Eagles beat the New England Patriots, everyone in the world lost their minds concerning this “amazing” Philadelphia team — but we’re going to stay levelheaded here. Before beating the Patriots (thanks to two special teams touchdowns and a defensive score), the Eagles lost three straight. The first was a close one against the Dolphins (who are 5-7, as we mentioned), and then they were completely dominated by both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions.
The Eagles may have impressed people with their win over New England, but let’s not overlook the fact that they had 248 total yards of offense. Winning these games thanks to their special teams and defense won’t be a consistent thing for them. Buying the Eagles would be crazy right now, and let’s not forget that the Patriots played with a severely depleted group of pass catchers due to injuries.
New York Giants: Buy
Yes, we’re buying the team who lost their last three games, as well as four of their last five and five of their last seven. Why? Because they can defeat the Dolphins and Eagles. There’s even a small chance they can push the Carolina Panthers, but seeing them win that game would be more than a bit shocking. This division race may wind up being who gets to 7-9, and the Giants are capable of doing that based on their schedule. With Odell Beckham Jr. playing at an elite level, and Jason Pierre-Paul seemingly back to playing at a high level, this team could prevail from a rough division.
It’s hard to fully “trust” anyone in this division, but the Giants have our attention, and at the very least, they aren’t getting blown out of games. Over their last four losses, they’ve come by a combined 13 points, including a one-point loss to the Patriots, who had Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman at the time. Don’t count out the G-Men, because they probably have one of the most talented groups of players across the board out of the entire division.
Dallas Cowboys: Buy
How insane would this be? When the Cowboys lost Tony Romo on Thanksgiving, it seemed that they were done. Fortunately for them, the rest of the division left things wide open for Matt Cassel. Yes, Matt Cassel. There are a few things to note here. While the Cowboys offense hasn’t been anywhere near great without Romo, Dez Bryant is finally healthy, and it showed in the second half of Dallas’s victory over the Redskins on Monday night.
The most important thing? This defense wants it. They want it bad. The Cowboys offense turned the ball over three times in that game against the Redskins, yet gave up just 16 points. Dallas was beaten in time of possession and turnovers against Washington, but their Sean Lee-led defense stopped Washington from doing hardly anything until the very end of the game.
The Dallas defense may be worth believing in. While Cassel isn’t the best quarterback out there, he got far more comfortable as the game went on, and with options like Bryant and the reliable Jason Witten, this pass game has the potential to actually move the ball. Now, we aren’t sure the Cowboys can win the division, but with tough schedules across the board and struggles from every team, why would we count out the team with the best defense of the bunch?
Follow Jeff Smith on Twitter @JSM8ith
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com.