It’s not really much of a “story”, I guess, but it was something I’d can’t recall ever seeing before. The entire NFC East, from top to bottom, showed up in the NFL.com Power Rankings this week back-to-back, starting with the Giants at #24. Dan Hanzus, who put the Power Rankings together had something to say about each team.
#24 NY Giants
If you’re a Giants fan concerned about Colt McCoy’s ability to hang with Russell Wilson and the explosive Seattle offense ... well ... you have every right to be worried. Get well soon, kid.
The only thing that would make sense in the NFC East this season is Alex Smith leading Washington to the division title. It suddenly feels like a very real possibility after the Football Team blew out the Cowboys on Thanksgiving in Jerrah World. Smith’s journey from a life-threatening on-field injury to QB of a playoff-contending team is Disney-movie remarkable, but he’s not being asked to do it alone. Washington’s front seven is a problem for teams who struggle to block up front (there’s a lot of those!), and rookie Antonio Gibson is turning into an impact player in the backfield. Gibson rushed for 115 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-icing 23-yard score on the first play after Dallas’ ludicrous failed fake-punt attempt in the fourth quarter. Keeping this momentum could prove difficult on Monday in Pittsburgh.
#26 Dallas Cowboys
Last week on the Around the NFL Podcast, I offered up a breakdown on the job-security level of each head coach entering the final stretch of the regular season. Mike McCarthy was in my “50/50” category — I believed there was a coin-flip chance he’d be one-and-done in Dallas. That scenario might have ticked up to 60/40 after a grim Thanksgiving performance that included a wild fake-punt gambit that could’ve sunk the season. Sure, the loss of both starting tackles in one drive was another reminder of Dallas’ brutal injury luck this season, but that can’t totally absolve McCarthy. Jerry Jones is 78 and he sees other teams — most recently, the Lions — taking aggressive steps to improve their team on the sideline. Will he still feel McCarthy is the right guy if the Cowboys finish this absurd season in the NFC East basement?
The Eagles faced the league’s worst-ranked pass defense on Monday night and looked like they were playing on a 120-yard field going uphill both ways. Doug Pederson told reporters Tuesday that he was given no assurances he would keep his job through the end of the season — a stunning admission for the head coach who brought the Eagles their only Super Bowl win less than three years ago.
Week 13 Schedule for NFC East teams
Incredibly, none of the NFC East teams is playing in the 1:00 time slot on Sunday, but division fans will get their fill with two games in the late times slot on Sunday followed by a game on Monday and another on Tuesday.
Interestingly, every NFC East team is on the road this week, with three of the games coming against division leaders. Every team in the NFCE goes into Week 13 as the underdog, with the narrowest point spread belonging to the Cowboys, who are +7.5 against the deeply COVID-affected Baltimore Ravens.
Sunday, 4:05 pm Giants at Seahawks
The Seahawks are favored by ten points against the Giants, and why wouldn’t they be? The Giants have won games this season against Washington, Philadelphia and Cincinnati, but have lost to everyone else. It looks increasingly as if New York will go into the game with Colt McCoy as the starting quarterback. Seattle, meanwhile, enters the game averaging 31 points per game on offense (33 ppg at home), and sitting atop the very tough NFC West after winning their last two games against the Cardinals and Eagles. The Giants actually have a pretty good defense, ranked 9th in points per game given up, but it’s hard to conjure the game script where they are able to stifle Seattle’s offense to a great enough extent to allow Colt McCoy to lead the Giants to victory.
Prediction: Seattle wins 31-23
Sunday, 4:25 pm Eagles at Packers
The Packers go into this game as 8.5 point favorites. They’ve won three of their last four games, losing narrowly to the Colts two weeks ago. Meanwhile, the Eagles have lost three straight since their Week 9 bye, falling to the Giants, Browns and Seahawks. In the most recent game, Carson Wentz continued his season of regression; he no longer appears to be the same human being who was a contender for league MVP in 2017. I watched a Brett Kollman film breakdown of Wentz this week in which Kollman cited Wentz’s poor mechanics, propensity to play “hero ball” with a limited cast around him, and poor play calling by the coaching staff as reasons why Carson Wentz is playing like a bad quarterback. Chances are, what’s wrong with Wentz won’t be solved during the 2020 regular season. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers continues to be one of the best to ever play the game.
Prediction: Packers win 27-20
Monday, 5:00 pm Washington at Pittsburgh
You don’t need me to tell you what this game is about. The Steelers are 8.5 point favorites. I’m looking for both defenses to play well, but Pittsbugh has one of the highest scoring offenses in the league while Washington has one of the lowest. In the end, I think this is gonna come down to the Steelers being able to sustain drives and make plays more consistently than Washingon.
Prediction: Steelers win 28-17
Tuesday, 8:05 pm Dallas at Baltimore
This is the one game where I can imagine an NFC East team getting the upset this week. The Cowboys have struggled this season, but they’ve had 12 days to rest and regain their composure since the Thanksgiving day beatdown. Meanwhile, the Ravens have had a tumultuous ride on the NFL COVID Protocol rollercoaster and play this game just 5 days after a physical game in Pittsburgh. Jackson was placed on the Covid-19 injured reserve list last Friday after testing positive. If he remained asymptomatic, he could return as soon as ten days later, while if he was symptomatic, he’d be out at least 14 days. There is no word on his status at this point, so we don’t know if he is at all symptomatic. If Lamar Jackson plays, I think this game is won by the Ravens; if not, then I lean towards the Andy Dalton-led Cowboys for the win. Baltimore played a feisty game against the Steelers in bad circumstances and could have come away with the win if a couple of plays had gone differently, but the short turnaround makes this game against the Cowboys a lot more difficult than it looks on paper.
Prediction: Ravens win 23-20 with a last-second field goal
Projected NFC East Standings
If these four games all follow the point spreads, then nothing will change in the standings except for each team to add one to the loss column with 4 games left to play:
Week 14 NFC East games:
- Arizona @ New York Giants
- Washington @ San Fran
- Saints @ Eagles
- Dallas @ Cincinnati