The division championship in the NFC East is going to come down to the wire between the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins. At this point for these three teams, every remaining game matters and a loss will see them eliminated from contention. Before this weekend everyone thought they had it figured out – The Redskins were done, the Eagles were almost done, and the Cowboys were going to win the division comfortably. But things can change quickly in the NFL. The Cowboys got shut out by the Colts, dropping their record to 8-6. The Redskins sneaked a win in Jacksonville taking them up to 7-7, and the Eagles flew to L.A. and beat the Rams in their own backyard on Sunday Night Football, taking them too to 7-7. Both of the latter teams using backup quarterbacks. Only the Giants are now mathematically out of contention in the race to the NFC crown after also being shut out by the Titans.
Remember the Titans
It’s the end of the road for Eli Manning and company. In a torrential downpour at the Meadowlands the Giants saw their chance at a playoff berth get flushed away by Mike Vrabel’s defense and the monster that is Derrick Henry. The former held Saquon Barkley to a total of 56 yards from scrimmage (his lowest of the season) and sacked Eli Manning 3 times. The also forced a fumble from him as well as picking him off, whilst the latter followed up his huge week with another 2 touchdown effort off a career-high 33 carries and 170 yards, and in doing so setting a franchise record for rushing yards in back to back games. The Giants seemed unable to stop the rushing attack of Tennessee, giving up 216 total yards off 42 carries to the Titans and it was ultimately this that lead to their defeat due to the amount of clock it chewed up as well as the resultant points it delivered. Add to this the fact Eli completed less than 50% of his passing attempts meant that the Giants had no real chance to win against the Titans, eventually losing 17-0. This was New York’s first shutout since last Christmas Eve and their first at home in 5 years. For Tennessee, it was their first win against a scoreless opponent since 2000, on Christmas Day against the Cowboys.
Cowboys run out of Luck
Speaking of Cowboys’ shutouts let’s look at their game against Indianapolis… Snapping a five game win streak for the Cowboys, Andrew Luck and Marlon Mack took Dallas to task in Indy, delivering their first shutout since 2003 and beating them 23-0. Needing to win in order to keep their own playoff hope alive, the Colts seemed unintimidated by the, recently much ballyhooed, Cowboys. Maybe because they realized that despite their recent run of success, the only team with a winning record that Dallas have beaten was New Orleans. Their once famous O-Line has 3 significant injury losses in the form of Frederick, Martin and now Smith which has lead to Dak Prescott suffering 52 sacks this season, second highest in the league behind DeShawn Watson. Indy put him on his back 3 times on Sunday, whereas the Cowboys pass rush didn’t sack Luck once. On the ground Elliott was, impressive as usual, but through the air Prescott couldn’t connect for a touchdown with anyone, including his new favorite toy Amari Cooper. Cooper finished the night with just 4 receptions for just 32 yards. On the other side of the ball however, Marlon Mack devastated Dallas’ run defense finishing with 139 yards and 2 scores. This marked the first time that Dallas had surrendered more than 100 yards on the ground since Week 9. With Philly and Washington hot on their heels in the division race, Dallas can ill afford a repeat performance of Sunday in the last two weeks of the regular season. They need to beat Tampa next week to wrap it up once and for all, because another loss would keep the door open for the Eagles or Skins to sweep in and grab it.
Redskins QB gets first ever win
Josh Johnson had to use Madden in order to learn his new teammates names. Who is Josh Johnson? He is the Redskins fourth starting quarterback in as many weeks. The 32 year old hadn’t started a game in 7 years has been on 12 different NFL teams since he was drafted by the Bucs in 2008. After the injuries to Smith and McCoy as well as the ill-fated start of Mark “Butt-fumble” Sanchez, Jay Gruden brought in Johnson after being familiar with him through his time in Tampa and Cincinnati. Since he came in as relief pitcher for Sanchez last week against the Giants, Johnson has actually looked pretty good. He’s thrown for a combined 346 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick and had he started the Giants game, the Redskins may very easily be sitting at 8-6 also. This week he started his first game since 2011 and got his first ever NFL win as the Redskins won 16-13 down in Duval County against the Jaguars. Not only did Washington keep themselves in the hunt for a playoff berth, but they also snapped a terrible streak by winning a game that they were trailing at the half, doing so for the first time in 2 years. Plaudits for the win must also go to the Redskins defensive front, who sacked Cody Kessler 6 times during the contest as well as holding Leonard Fournette to under 50 yards rushing. Washington will try to keep this momentum going into their next must-win game against the Titans, looking to do what Dallas couldn’t, and beat Tennessee.
Foles Me Twice
This all seems very familiar. Last year Carson Wentz was injured late in the season so Nick Foles had to come in, and travel to the Coliseum to face the LA Rams. He won that game and led the Eagles to become Super Bowl Champions. This year, once again Wentz has become sidelined by injury, so once again the Super Bowl MVP had to step into his shoes, and cross the country to face Sean Mcvay’s Rams once again. And once again he beat them becoming the only quarterback to win against them twice. If the historical implications were weighing heavily on Foles, you wouldn’t have known it, as the Eagles’ backup comfortably lead Philadelphia to a 30-23 win in California, keeping them in the playoff hunt and knocking on the door of Dallas’ division lead by taking their record to 7-7. Foles hadn’t started for Philly since Week 2, but picked up right where he left off completing 24 of 31 passes and throwing for 270 yards in the win. Seemingly revitalized by Foles’ presence the Eagles faced down the stuttering Rams, who have now lost 2 games on the bounce with quarterback Jared Goff coughing up 6 picks over those 2 weeks. Wendell Smallwood found the end zone twice and rookie running back Josh Adams also scored on a night that will have done wonders for the morale of the city of Philadelphia. You can almost hear them now daring to dream that maybe, just maybe history will continue to repeat itself, and the Eagles can once again put together an unlikely postseason run. Next week they face the AFC South leaders Houston in another must-win game. Hopefully for them the history won’t repeat itself in their division’s battles with AFC South teams, as this week only 16 points were conceded by the Titans, Colts and Jags combined to their NFC East opponents. But like I said, things can change quickly in the NFL.
Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Our NFC East reporter is Chris Milner who covers Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants. Chris is a Washington Redskins fan who has followed the game since 2011. He is one of our fantasy football correspondents and also co-hosts the ‘Same Level Fantasy Football’ podcast. Follow him on Twitter @chrismilner