As Thanksgiving fades to a memory, the huge victory over the Cowboys in their home stadium, completing a sweep of the Dallas team, seems to be a long time ago. The Week 12 schedule, after all, extended all the way to Wednesday this week, when the Ravens met the Steelers at the confluence of the rivers, and there hasn’t been an NFL game since.
I’ve long since shifted my sights to Washington’s upcoming game against Pittsburgh on Monday, but because of the extended play in Week 12, some of last week’s business still needs to be taken care of.
Part of that business is tracking fan confidence via the NFL Reacts poll.
Fan confidence shot up to 89% this week. It’s only been higher two times in 2020 — it hit 90% post-draft, and 93% following the opening week win against the Eagles at FedEx Field.
It seems that it’s not just Hogs Haven readers who see brighter days ahead for the Washington Football Team. The national poll asked which team would win the NFC East division crown.
The results weren’t really close. it wasn’t just that the largest percentage of those polled picked Washington; with 4 teams to choose from, Washington got an absolute majority, with 57% of those polled predicting the burgundy and gold to be hanging the divisional champion banner ahead of the 2021 season.
What might be more interesting is to see how the entire division has been turned on its head compared to preseason expectations.
The Cowboys, who nearly everyone in the nation (including me) picked to win the East handily, now look to be headed for a top-5 pick in the draft. The Eagles, who were projected by many (but not by me) to either win the division or earn a wild card spot and make some noise in the playoffs, drew less than 10% support for the idea that they can win the division title from here.
It’s a bit hard to explain how lopsided this vote is when you consider how much closer most statistical models have the race, with all 4 teams still legitimate contenders. I suspect that it has a lot to do with the fact that a reported 30 million people watched Washington demolish Dallas on Thursday afternoon last week — it was, according to reports — the largest audience for an NFL game this season. Washington looked very good in that game, and it may have been the only time a lot of NFL fans have seen them play this season.
I suspect that the Giants might have had a better showing in this poll if Daniel Jones were healthy. The consensus seems to be that New York will struggle to win games with Colt McCoy as the signal caller.
Rival fan base confidence
We’ve seen nationally what SB Nation readers think of the division race. What has happened with the confidence of our division rivals this season?
The results are what I think most people would expect, with Philly and Dallas fans seeing their confidence fall from strong levels early in the season, while the New York fans have been similar to Washington fans, with confidence falling a bit, but hitting a floor and then recovering to about the same levels as were seen in pre-season polling.
The confidence of Dallas fans eroded a bit early in the season, but really fell off a cliff when Dak Prescott broke his leg. They saw a rebound as the team got a couple of wins and put up a good performance against the Steelers. The recovery peaked at 39% with the win against the Vikings, and then fell off to just 21% after the Thanksgiving day embarrassment. If I were to guess, I’d say that the fall off in confidence had more to do with the coaching in that game than the performance of the players, though the inability of Zeke Elliott to get his 2020 season to kick-start must be troubling for a franchise that is so invested in him.
I’m kind of shocked at the absolute bust in confidence that we see from Eagles fans. This is reminiscent of the Hogs Haven fan base last year at this time. Philly fan confidence has registered 5%, 5%, 4% over the past three weeks. The same combination of Howie Roseman, Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz that had Philly fans talking about a dynasty following the 2017 Super Bowl season now inspires talk of firings, lynchings and irresponsible cap management. Suddenly, the fan base seems to have lost faith in the General Manager, the Head Coach and the franchise quarterback. Come to think of it, that does sound a lot like the Redskins and the Washington fan base at this time last year. It may be a really interesting December and January for Jeffrey Lurie and Eagles fans (and, by extension, all fans of the NFC East).
Giants fans seem to be happy with the direction of their franchise. After a rocky start to this season, their offensive line, including first round draft pick, LT Andrew Thomas and 3rd year LG Will Hernandez, is showing development. Also, Daniel Jones has quarterbacked the team to some wins, and all things considered, the players seem to like Joe Judge. The fan base seems to be split on GM Dave Gettleman. A few weeks ago, I would have been willing to place a (very) small wager on the idea that 2020 might be his last season in the Giants’ front office, but now I’d be surprised to see the ownership make a change. Gettleman is a crazy blend of good and bad, and I don’t really care for him, but he seems to fit, however awkwardly, into what is happening in the Giants plan.
All in all, I’m not complaining. I’ll take Kyle Smith as the key personnel guy over Gettleman, Roseman and Jones Senior. I’ll take Ron Rivera over Pederson, and I hope Dallas never fires Mike McCarthy, who spent years in Green Bay proving that he couldn’t successfully coach talent. I’ll even take Riverboat Ron over Joe Judge, though I think that call is a bit closer than the others. And I’ll take Jason Wright, the new President of the Washington franchise over anyone they want to put up against him.
The leadership of our franchise is probably the strongest its been since the death of Jack Kent Cooke, and there seems to be a united direction. Washington may be a team without a name, but it seems to be a team with a future. The leadership group, for the first time in a loooong time seems united, coherent and transparent; it can only be so long before the results of that strong leadership show up consistently on the field of play.