Week 7 of the NFL season has concluded, having featured Eli Manning outdueling Robert Griffin III and the Cowboys crawling back to .500. Now there is a clear front-runner in the division with the other three teams battling it out for last (or second, depending on your perspective).
Below is a quick recap of the division going into Week 8.
New York Giants 5-2
Philadelphia Eagles 3-3
Dallas Cowboys 3-3
Washington Redskins 3-4
Every so often there will be certain games where you make your fair share of mistakes and your opponent is able to execute a number of big plays against you. The great teams react, respond and find a way to still get the victory. Over the past few years, the Giants have perfected the art of winning these types of games and last Sunday against the Redskins was no different.
The Giants didn't particularly play their best football against Washington. Eli Manning threw two costly interceptions, they only rushed for 64 yards and the New York defense surrendered nearly 500 total yards. But when it came down to having to make a play or leaving with a loss, the Giants were able to make a play.
An interception by Stevie Brown in the third quarter led to an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown to break a tie at 13. Then later in the fourth, after Robert Griffin III scored what seemed to be a game-winning touchdown with 1:27 left, Manning was able to pull off a miracle, a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 19 seconds giving the Giants the win.
Pointing out weaknesses on this Giant team is not the most difficult thing to do this season. However, finding a way to beat them has been a whole other story.
The Eagles had a bye last weekend. At 3-3, they are entering a crucial part of their season. Will the turnover prone, let-anybody-in-the-game team show up? Or will the dangerous big-play offense accompany a relatively efficient defense?
The Eagles will play their first game under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Juan Castillo having been fired despite a defense that was outplaying the offense.
Did the Cowboys play their best game last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers? Probably not, but they came away with what they desperately needed, a victory. Without starting running back DeMarco Murray, Dallas' rushing numbers were nothing special, but the commitment to the ground game seemed to take pressure off of the aerial attack.
Tony Romo was able to avoid any costly turnovers, but the passing game still did not reach the efficiency level that many people have expected. Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree both dropped catchable passes at critical moments. Miles Austin, on the other hand, had a much bigger impact on the game. Austin had three big plays, one of which ended with him fumbling the ball away, and another with him in the end zone.
But the Cowboys defense deserves a great deal of credit for the win. While they did give up almost 300 total yards to Cam Newton, they managed to hold the Panthers' three talented running backs to a combined 48 yards. The defense also made key stops when they needed them most, which included Morris Claiborne's first career interception, the first for the Dallas secondary this season.
The Cowboys will likely need a better all-around effort to beat the New York Giants next week. But in a close game at Carolina, Dallas executed on a more consistent basis than its opponent, and it's been quite a few weeks since that could be said.
Last Sunday, the Redskins did what they have done all season: proved that they have a lot of fight in them. On paper, they may not be as talented as the New York Giants, but they hung in with the Super Bowl champions until the final seconds.
RGIII had a couple of rare mistakes as the Giants' pass-rush bothered him all game. He threw one critical interception and Jason Pierre-Paul stripped the ball from him for a lost fumble. But the rookie quarterback inspired hope when he brushed off the turnovers and played his best football at the end of the game, leading the Redskins down the field with less than two minutes to play. Griffin might have had his play of the season thus far when he kept a play alive by scrambling in the pocket for almost 12 seconds, avoiding tacklers to find a man down the field for a first down.
Washington's other rookie, Alfred Morris, once again ran for over 100 yards. The Redskins may not win the division, but they are certainly a threat to jeopardize other teams' chances of taking the title every time they face them.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys received a few troubling injuries during their game against the Panthers. Starting center Phil Costa went down with a severe sprained ankle. The injury looked much worse live, but it will still keep him out for at least next week's game against the Giants and perhaps longer. Sean Leealso sprained his toe and is questionable for Sunday's game as well. DeMarco Murrayis still recovering from a sprained foot. The timetable for his return is unknown, but he will probably sit out against the Giants.
New York Giants: The Giants didn't sustain any major injuries in their victory over the Washington Redskins. Prior to the game, they placed running back Da'Rel Scotton the short-term injury reserve, which will keep him out at least six weeks. Safety Kenny Phillipsand defensive tackle Rocky Bernardare both considered to be questionable against the Cowboys this week.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had a bye last week and were fortunate enough to enter the break with all 22 starters healthy. Perhaps we will see a rejuvenated Philadelphia team coming out of their week off.
Washington Redskins: The team that has suffered the most from injuries in the NFC East took yet another brutal hit. Productive tight end Fred Davis tore his Achilles, ending his season. The Redskins brought back Chris Cooley to help replace him. Veteran linebacker London Fletcheralso strained his hamstring and is questionable for next Sunday's game against the Steelers. Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon still seems to be on the mend and is not expected to return next week.
NFL.com Power Rankings:
3– New York Giants (previously #2)
13 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #11)
14 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #17)
15– Washington Redskins (previously #16)
ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:
2 – New York Giants (previously #3)
13 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #13)
15 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #18)
18 – Washington Redskins (previously #15)
• In terms of individual rushing yards, the Washington Redskins have the top two runners in the NFC East and they are *both *rookies. Alfred Morris is second in the league in rushing yards while Robert Griffin ranks first among quarterbacks in the NFL and is still ahead of every other NFC East running back outside of Morris.
• In terms of yards per game, it is hard to argue against the NFC East being the best offensive division in football. All four teams are in the top 10 in total offense, with New York at No. 2, Washington at No. 5, Philadelphia at No. 7 and Dallas at No. 10.
• This week the New York Giants, who have the No. 3 ranked passing offense in football, will face off with the Dallas Cowboys, who have the No. 3 ranked passing defense in football.
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Oct. 28, Noon CT (FOX)
Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, Oct. 28, 12:00 Noon CT (FOX)
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, Oct. 28, 3:25 CT (FOX)