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NFC East: Midway Through The Season In a Middling Division

Posted Oct 28, 2013


I checked my phone as we were boarding the buses bound for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport on Sunday afternoon.

Thanks to a pick-six by DeAngelo Hall, the Redskins had a two-possession lead on Denver in the second half of an important afternoon game. With a 21-7 advantage and a ball control offense, I thought maybe Washington had a chance at an upset – something I prophesized in this spot on Friday.

I turned my phone on when we landed at DFW International Airport, and the final score was enough to make me laugh – Denver 45, Washington 21. So much for that.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record at this point, because the story line just keeps repeating itself. The Cowboys lost a game they had a great probability of winning – Sunday’s loss to Detroit even moreso than the other three that came before it – and yet they remain the class of a classless division.

After two weeks of racking up yardage, the Redskins – like the Cowboys – couldn’t manage to attain 300 yards of offense. A lot of that has to do with a knee injury to Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter of what turned into a Denver romp.

Griffin appeared to be well enough to return to the action, but the Redskins trailed by enough to make it pointless. Backup Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions in his stead.

So the Redskins’ attempt to claw back into the division standings has been put on hold. It’s the third time this season Washington has lost a game by multiple possessions, as opposed to the Cowboys, who have lost four games by a combined total of 14 points.

On the other side of the league, Denver’s win against Washington gives them a 4-0 sweep of the NFC East. The Broncos scored at least 40 points against all four teams, and they hung 50 on Dallas and Philadelphia. The final margin for all four games was 189-112.

Backing Back Into It

This is a ridiculous thing to have to write, but it beautifully illustrates the futility of the division in which the Cowboys are playing.

With a 15-7 win against Philadelphia, in which they didn’t score a touchdown, the Giants have climbed within two games of the division lead. Believe it or not, the team that started 2013 on a 0-6 losing streak has now won two straight games – albeit in about as ugly a fashion as you can imagine.

New York ran the ball for just 88 yards on 31 attempts, and Eli Manning failed to notch 250 passing yards for the third straight week. As noted above, nobody wearing Giants’ colors found the end zone.

The Giants defense nearly doubled its sack tally, however, with four on the afternoon after managing just six in the previous seven games combined. Much like Washington’s loss to Denver, a lot of this had to do with a backup quarterback.

Michael Vick left the game after attempting just nine passes, as his injured hamstring had clearly not progressed as far as he thought it had. With Nick Foles still out from the head injury he suffered against the Cowboys, Matt Barkley was once again thrown to the wolves.

Statistically, the rookie wasn’t terrible, as he completed 65 percent of his passes for 158 yards with an interception. He did allow himself to be sacked three times, though, and he made perhaps the boneheaded play of the day when he was stripped trying to scramble away from pressure in the red zone.

The loss is a missed opportunity for Philadelphia to keep pace, especially with a two-game road swing at Oakland and at Green Bay in the next two weeks. The Eagles’ offense just has not been effective since Vick’s injury, with the exception of a win against hapless Tampa Bay.

But really, the later we get into the season, the more this becomes about the Cowboys. Had they managed to convert just one, or perhaps two of their four losses into a victory, their position as a playoff team would look pretty promising at the halfway point.

Instead, the lead against last-place New York is just two games, and plenty of tough opposition remains on the schedule.

Division championships are decided in November and December. But the Cowboys were given a great opportunity to lay the ground work in the first half of the season, and they couldn’t capitalize. Now it’s time to buckle in for what will almost certainly be a wild second half.

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