Week 7 is guaranteed to be the first week of the 2020 season in which an NFC East division team doesn’t lose to a non-divisional opponent. The reason is that the four teams play each other, with the Giants @ Eagles kicking off the week on Thursday Night Football. The Cowboys will travel to Washington for a Sunday afternoon matchup.
I thought it might be useful to use a decision tree format to look at what the possible outcomes are for the division standings come Sunday night. There are only four:
If Dallas wins on Sunday, then the Cowboys retain control of first place in the division and the Washington Football Team stays mired at the bottom of the division. In this case, the Thursday night game will simply determine second and third place in the NFCE.
The winner of Thursday night’s game, however, should be rooting for the burgundy & gold to prevail over the silver & blue.
If Washington wins on Sunday, then the winner of the TNF (whether the Eagles or Giants) will pole vault into first place in the division, while Washington takes over second place and the Cowboys fall to third. In this scenario, the loser of the Thursday game falls to dead last in the division.
The early point spreads have the Eagles favored by 6 and the Cowboys by 3.
Just two weeks ago I would have put Washington’s chances of beating the Cowboys at no better than 1 in 10. But a lot has happened in the past two weeks. Dallas has seen several key players go down to injury, with the most significant being Dak Prescott, who was lost at least for the season in a horrific ankle injury in the narrow victory against the Giants in Week 5. The Cowboys barely got out of that game with a win, beating the Giants by 3 points in Dallas.
In Week 6, the Cowboys were bullied by the Arizona Cardinals in Texas on Monday Night Football, losing by a final score of 38-10 in a game that was never as close as that score would indicate. The injury woes that have dogged Dallas this season did not abate against the Cardinals as Zach Martin suffered a concussion in the first quarter and did not return.
The injury toll in Dallas has been horrific this season. In addition to Dak Prescott, if we focus only on the offensive line, the Cowboys, after losing Travis Frederick to an unexpected retirement early in the off-season, has seen injuries to starting tackles Tyron Smith and La’el Collins along with Center Joe Looney, who is expected to return to the active roster at some point this season.
Against Arizona this week, the once-feared offensive line was reduced to starting two undrafted rookies at tackle (Brandon Knight, 2019, Terence Steele, 2020), a rookie center (Tyler Biadasz), a second-year player (Connor McGovern) with two offensive snaps of experience prior to Monday, and a third-year guard coming off knee surgery (Connor Williams).
In addition, Blake Jarwin, Gerald McCoy, and Trysten Hill are all lost for the season, and Chidobe Awuzie is currently on IR with a chance to return at some point.
Despite its 1-5 record and generally poor offensive and defensive execution throughout September and October, this would seem to open up some opportunities for the Washington Football Team as they kick off November football against a Dallas team that is traveling east in a short week and missing way too many starters to sustain a high level of play.
Against Arizona on Monday, Andy Dalton threw two interceptions and Ezekiel Elliott lost two fumbles. For Elliott, that brought him to a total of 5 lost fumbles in the past 5 games. This is from the Dallas Morning News:
Elliott has normally been a sure-handed player but now he’s fumbling and if that continues, he turns into an unreliable player. You could probably say Elliott has what they call what a baseball infielder has, “The Yips.”
Dallas, of course, is struggling through the season with a first year coach in Mike McCarthy, the same as are Washington and New York. The real differences are that there were high expectations for the Cowboys to start the season, with the annual talk of contending for the Super Bowl, and that the injury bug has bitten much deeper in Dallas.
The result is that Washington has a chance to pick up what has become an increasingly rare win against the ‘Boys. With a win on Sunday, Washington would shake up the entire division. Between now and the kickoff to Thursday night’s game, I think it’s fair to say that everyone in the division except Dallas fans, coaches and players will be rooting for Washington to get the win on Sunday.
Which team will lead the NFC East at the end of Week 7?
This poll is closed
New York Giants
Where will the Washington Football Team be at the end of Week 7?
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Second place in the division
Last place in the division