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Division Rundown: Things Tighten Up In NFC East Race
Two inner-division games were played in Week 14, with the result being that the Giants’ lead is looking a little less comfortable.
New York Giants 7-5
Dallas Cowboys 6-6
Washington Redskins 6-6
Philadelphia Eagles 3-9
For weeks it has looked like the Giants would eventually lock down the NFC East title, but they just haven’t been able to maintain firm control.
On Monday night, they ran into a Redskin team that seemed to be playing with luck on their side. In the first quarter, Robert Griffin III rolled out to the left and took off running. As he started to slide to the ground, the ball was knocked loose from his grasp. It bounced off Griffin’s elbow into the hands of Joshua Morgan, almost as if it was a designed lateral, and Morgan ran it in for the touchdown.
The Giants had no such plays of luck. They did not exactly play poorly, Eli Manning was relatively efficient and Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for over 100 yards. But Griffin was too difficult to stop in key moments and the Redskins were able to rush for over 200 yards as they pulled out a 17-16 victory.
The Giants now have a one game lead over both the Redskins and Cowboys with three straight games coming up against New Orleans, Atlanta and Baltimore.
The Cowboys couldn’t afford to lose to Philadelphia. And they did just enough to make sure that didn’t happen. Despite once again placing themselves in an early deficit, trailing 17-10 at halftime, Dallas was aided by the return of running back DeMarco Murray and pulled off a 38-33 victory.
Murray’s presence allowed the Cowboys to run the ball more times than they passed, something they hadn’t done since he was injured six weeks ago. Murray had 83 yards and a touchdown, but the real beneficiary was Tony Romo, who was extremely efficient in completing 22-of-27 passes for 303 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Less positive was how easily the Eagles, led by rookies Nick Foles and Bryce Brown, were able to move the ball down field on the Cowboys defense. The Eagles offense gained over 400 total yards and converted 21 first downs in the game.
The Cowboys will head to Cincinnati only one game behind the Giants for the division lead.
The Redskins were supposed to give up a few weeks ago, but they just can’t be killed. Their victory over the division-leading Giants puts them at .500 for the first time since they were 3-3.
It is becoming harder and harder to argue that Robert Griffin III is not playing like the best quarterback in the division. His versatility, along with the steady running of Alfred Morris, has allowed Washington to wear down opposing defenses. Add this to the fact that the Redskins’ offense might also have the most dangerous quick-strike ability in the NFC East. They thrive off of big plays that catch their opponents off guard.
Washington’s defense might have been the most underrated part of its 17-16 victory over New York. London Fletcher, who has been battling injuries all season, led the team with 12 tackles, as they were able to hold the Giants to three second-half points.
Things only get tougher as the Redskins head to Baltimore this week as they try to inch closer to the division lead and a shot at the playoffs.
At 3-9 there aren’t a lot of positives concerning the Philadelphia Eagles.
You could probably point toward the fact that rookies Nick Foles and Bryce Brown seem to have bright futures in this league. Foles completed 22-of-24 passes on Sunday for 251 yards and a touchdown. Brown was nearly unstoppable in the first half and finished with 169 yards and two touchdowns.
But even the game’s biggest bright spot could be seen as a negative. With the emergence of Foles and Brown what does that mean for the futures of Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy? Both recovering from concussions, the two men were previously the most explosive members of the Eagles’ offense. Have they lost their jobs?
To make things more complicated, after constantly defending Vick as “his quarterback” head coach Andy Reid has announced that he was awarding the starting job to Nick Foles for the rest of the season. And, of course, most are assuming that Reid will be fired at season’s end.
In other words, it’s a circus in Philadelphia.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys saw the return of running back DeMarco, who had missed six weeks with a foot injury. However, they played their first game without both Sean Lee and Bruce Carter at inside linebacker. They were also missing defensive tackle Jay Ratliff due to a groin injury. He will be monitored this week to determine his availability.
New York Giants: The Giants lost more than just a division game to the Washington Redskins on Monday. Offensive tackle Sean Locklear injured his knee and reports say that he will miss the rest of the season. This will be a huge blow for the Giants as the versatile Locklear has played an instrumental part in protecting Manning this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles played Sunday night’s game with both Vick and McCoy on the sidelines recovering from concussions. It has been announced that Vick will not start another game this year and there has been no word on the status of McCoy. He will likely not be rushed back to the field as the Eagles have made it clear that they want to give opportunities to younger players.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins sustained a devastating number of injuries early in the season, but have stayed relatively healthy in recent weeks. They were aided by the return of linebacker London Fletcher, who was questionable due to a sprained left ankle.
NFL.com Power Rankings:
#8– New York Giants (previously #7)
#14– Washington Redskins (previously #15)
#15 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #18)
#29 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #29)
ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:
#10 – New York Giants (previously #8)
#14 – Washington Redskins (previously #17)
#16 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #19)
#30 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #30)
• The Redskins have more than double the total rushing yards as the Cowboys for the season.
• Despite having a reputation as a team with a great defensive line, the Giants don’t have a single player with seven or more sacks. DeMarcus Ware leads the NFC East with 10 sacks.
• The Giants will play the Saints in one of the most pivotal games for the NFC East thus far. If they lose, both the Cowboys and Redskins will have a chance to be tied for the division lead. The last time the Saints and Giants played was a year ago when the Saints routed New York, 49-24, accumulating nearly 600 yards of total offense.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, Dec. 9, Noon CT (FOX)
Dallas Cowboys @ Cincinnati Bengals
Sunday, Dec. 9, Noon CT (FOX)
Baltimore Ravens @ Washington Redskins
Sunday, Dec. 9, Noon CT (CBS)
New Orleans Saints @ New York Giants
Sunday, Dec. 9, 3:25 p.m. CT (FOX)