The Path of Least Consistence

The NFC East might be the least successful division in the NFL, but it’s not the division with the least compelling storylines. 

On Thanksgiving Day, the Washington Football Team dominated the Dallas Cowboys, and just like that, Washington – with a record of 4-7, good for a winning percentage of .364 – is atop the division, snatching the No. 1 spot away from the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles. 

But for many, Washington’s win wasn’t about the victorious squad.

Instead, what emerged from Thursday’s game – per usual – was a flurry of criticisms aimed at Jerry Jones’ franchise, beginning with Skip Bayless, who opted for a spot under the debate desk after the Cowboys’ latest defeat.

Once Bayless overcame the embarrassment of his team’s performance, he gave his take on Dallas’ Thanksgiving day loss, saying that the Cowboys’ most recent injuries – coupled with their past injuries – were too much to overcome. 

“When it comes to my team – my Dallas Cowboys – I had nothing to give thanks for because to me, it felt like the whole season was not meant to be … The injury gods said, ‘No, not this year.’ 

Not only is Dallas without its franchise quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle), and not only did its backup quarterback Andy Dalton miss time with an injury (head), the Cowboys lost two of their offensive lineman in yesterday’s game against Washington – Zack Martin (calf) and Cam Erving (knee).

Dallas is also missing left tackle Tyron Smith (neck), right tackle La’el Collins (hip) and center Tyler Biadasz (hamstring).

While the injuries for Dallas cannot be ignored, Shannon Sharpe pointed towards coaching as his chief cause for concern when it comes to the Cowboys. 

Under now-Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, and Aaron Rodgers won two NFL MVPs, in 2011 and 2014. 

He also guided the Packers to nine playoff appearances in 13 seasons as head coach, but so far, McCarthy hasn’t had the same success in Dallas, as the Cowboys sit at 3-8 and last in the NFC East. 

But Dallas wasn’t always in the bottom spot in the division, as the standings have shuffled significantly throughout the season. 

Washington has also occupied fourth place in the NFC East, but don’t tell Nick Wright that. 

In his estimation, the Washington Football Team – despite its below average record – could be dangerous come playoff time. 

While each of the NFC East offenses have left much to be desired, the Washington defense is the best of the four teams, allowing 194.6 passing yards per game (1st in the NFL), 309.5 total yards per game (5th), and 22.1 points per game (8th).

Defense aside, former Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall said on Friday that the injection of Alex Smith into the Washington offense has lifted the team to two consecutive wins.

“Sometimes when you insert a veteran quarterback … where they can lead without even talking, it changes the dynamic of the entire organization.”

Washington is averaging 30.5 points in its last two games – while giving up just 12.5 points per game over the last two – and Smith is completing 70.6 percent of his passes, although he’s thrown two touchdowns and two picks.

Washington has one division game remaining on its schedule, a Week 17 contest against Philadelphia, which spent multiple weeks atop the NFC East before Washington took over the top spot on Thursday. 

Much of the chatter revolving around the Eagles in recent weeks has been the play of their franchise quarterback Carson Wentz, which has mostly drawn negative reviews. 

Wentz leads the NFL in interceptions with 14 – Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins is second with 11 – and his interception total matches his touchdown total. 

Wentz has thrown a pick in eight of Philly’s 10 games this season, and he’s thrown two or more six games. 

His passer rating is an abysmal 73.3 on the year, third worst in the league. 

This past week, Colin Cowherd compared Wentz’s slide in Philadelphia to the slide that Lamar Jackson is currently enduring in Baltimore.

“Look at Carson Wentz – he’s reckless. Are there people now in the Philadelphia’s organization saying, ‘You can’t coach a guy out of reckless.’ I think there all people saying that.”

Cowherd might have been onto something, considering during a Wednesday press conference, Philly coach Doug Pederson said this when asked about outside pressure to bench Wentz in favor of backup Jalen Hurts.

“…Tough decisions have to be made in this business, whether it’s a tough decision to move on from a player in the offseason, or the decision now, whether you’re gonna make the move at quarterback or not.”

Former NFL linebacker Bart Scott was not feeling Pederson’s comments, to say the least. 

The Eagles have fallen short in their last two games, including a 27-17 loss at the hands of the New York Giants in Week 10. 

After beginning the season 0-5, the Giants have won three of their last five – two wins over Washington and that win over the Eagles, giving them the most division wins in the NFC East.

Not much drama has followed New York this season, and the Giants have a chance to make it three in a row when they face the lowly Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. 

However, the next four weeks will be as tough as tough sledding gets for New York, with the Giants traveling to face Seattle (7-3), before hosting Arizona (6-4) and Cleveland (7-3), and then traveling to Baltimore (6-4). 

New York will then finish the year at home against Dallas.

There are six more weeks left in the regular season, meaning Dallas, Philadelphia, Washington and New York each have time to make up ground on each other in the division race. 

And at the same time, fans and pundits can get ready for six more weeks of storylines. 

Welcome to the NFC East.

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