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Division Rundown: No Changes As NFC East Has 4-0 Weekend
In a weekend full of tragedy, the NFC East standings remained the same as all four teams recorded impressive wins.
New York Giants 8-5
Washington Redskins 7-6
Dallas Cowboys 7-6
Philadelphia Eagles 4-9
After watching the Cowboys and Redskins both record wins to move within a half game of New York, the Giants needed to defeat the New Orleans Saints to remain in control of the NFC East.
The New York offense has been inconsistent all season and the question coming into the game was whether or not they could capitalize against a terrible New Orleans defense. The answer was a resounding yes.
The Giants were able to maintain a great balance of run and pass and put up 52 points on the Saints. Running back David Wilson was the breakout star of the game as he rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns and also ran back a 97-yard kickoff return.
The Giants also saw Victor Cruz begin to round into form for a possible playoff run. Cruz had arguably his best performance of the season, catching eight passes for 121 yards and a touchdown.
After about 13 weeks, you would think that most people would have learned not to count the Redskins out. But coming into their game against the Baltimore Ravens many people expected them to lose and finally drop out of the division race.
And just like they’ve been doing all season, they won mainly due to the impressive performance of their rookies. Robert Griffin III had another standout performance as he was 15-of-26 for 246 yards and a touchdown to go along with his 34 yards rushing. And, as usual, running back Alfred Morris rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown.
But on the final drive of regulation, with the Redskins down 28-20, Griffin left the game with a knee injury and it was another rookie, Kirk Cousins, who led the team into overtime. Cousins completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon and ran a quarterback draw for the two-point conversion.
Washington then won the game in overtime, 31-28. The Redskins have claimed that Griffin’s injury is not a season ending ACL tear. For now, the team remains alive in its Cinderella-like attempt at the NFC East crown.
The Cowboys’ impressive comeback victory over the Cincinnati Bengals seems miniscule compared to the devastating loss they received the day before. But the players had to take the field even after the death of teammate Jerry Brown and their performance in the face of adversity was nothing if not admirable.
Dallas was aided by a gutsy performance from Tony Romo, and DeMarco Murray made big plays when he needed to, but the defense of the Cowboys was what was really impressive. The unit was torn apart by various injuries coming into the game and they continued to lose players as the day went on.
But defensive players flat out stepped up for Dallas. Despite having to leave the game at one point to receive an IV, Anthony Spencer had perhaps his best performance of the year. Ernie Sims played a crucial role at linebacker, recording 10 tackles and pursuing the ball in a way that brought back memories of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter.
But it was Brandon Carr who made the play that seemed to stand out the most. Carr, who had heard about Brown’s death on his way back from the funeral of Kasandra Perkins, made an interception in the second quarter and returned it 37 yards. The play set up the Cowboys’ first touchdown.
Despite being down 19-10, the Cowboys rallied and pulled off a 20-19 victory largely due to the fourth quarter emergence of Dez Bryant.
Coming into their matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Philadelphia Eagles were sitting at 3-9. There wasn’t much to play for anymore. But that didn’t stop them from coming out and bringing the type of performance that you might expect from a team in the heat of a playoff battle.
The Eagles’ defense contained one of the most efficient offenses in the NFL in a 23-21 victory over Tampa. The normally dangerous Josh Freeman was held to just 189 yards passing.
On offense, the Eagles put the game in the hands of rookie Nick Foles and he showed signs of being a franchise caliber quarterback. Foles accounted for just about all of the Eagles offense. He threw the ball 52 times, racking up 381 yards through the air to go along with two touchdowns, despite being sacked six times. The Eagles had just 29 rushing yards, but 27 of them came from Foles, who also had a rushing touchdown.
If Foles can keep up this type of play then the Eagles will face quite the dilemma with both he and Michael Vick under contract.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys saw various injuries to their already banged up defense. Cornerback Morris Claiborne left the game with a severely cut lip and had to receive stiches in his mouth. In all likelihood he will not miss any more time from the injury. Ernie Sims and Anthony Spencer both left Sunday’s game at times, but were healthy enough to return. The Cowboys are hoping that defensive tackle Jay Ratliff (groin) will be able to practice this week in the absence of Josh Brent. But perhaps most important is the finger injury to Bryant. He has requested the advice of a hand specialist who will determine whether or not the finger requires surgery, which could cost him the rest of the season.
New York Giants: Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw injured his knee in their victory over the Saints. He received an MRI on Monday and the team is awaiting results, although they don’t believe it to be serious. Head coach Tom Coughlin claimed that he believed Bradshaw could have returned to the game if he was needed. Cornerback Prince Amukamara is also being evaluated for a hamstring injury, which could mean trouble for a secondary that has been picked on at times this season.
Philadelphia Eagles: After already having lost Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy to concussions earlier in the season, the Eagles once again saw one of their top players go down with a concussion. This time it was tight end Brent Celek. There has been no word on his availability for next week.
Washington Redskins: The biggest concern for the Washington Redskins is the health of Robert Griffin III, who left Sunday’s game in a crucial moment with what looked to be a severe knee injury at the time. The Redskins have reported that Griffin sprained his LCL, which is typically less serious than an ACL injury. He is listed as day-to-day.
NFL.com Power Rankings:
#5– New York Giants (previously #8)
#11– Washington Redskins (previously #14)
#14 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #16)
#27 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #29)
ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:
#7 – New York Giants (previously #10)
#12 – Washington Redskins (previously #14)
#13 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #16)
#27 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #30)
• This Sunday the Giants will travel to play the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys will host the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Redskins will face the Browns in Cleveland. If the Redskins and Cowboys are able to win, then a Giants loss would result in a three-way tie for the division lead.
• The Cowboys have consistently been the best passing team in the NFC East, but have also consistently been the worst rushing team in the division.
• At 3,928 yards, Tony Romo still has a small chance at claiming the passing title this season. He is currently 100 yards behind the leader, Drew Brees.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Philadelphia Eagles
Thursday, Dec. 13, 7:20 CT (NFL Network)
Washington Redskins @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, Dec. 16, Noon CT (FOX)
New York Giants @ Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, Dec. 16, Noon CT (CBS)
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, Dec. 13, 3:25 CT (CBS)