There are now 12 weeks in the books of the 2017 NFL season and it’s all apparent that the Philadelphia Eagles will win the NFC East division title. With their 31-3 win over the Chicago Bears, Philadelphia now sits at 10-1 on the season. The closest team(s) in the standings are the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. Both have the record of 5-6.
But, those 5-6 records are two different 5-6 records when it comes to the Eagles and the NFC East title. Philadelphia have two wins over the Redskins, a season sweep, and one over the fading Cowboys. Both the Skins and Cowboys play Thursday in Arlington, Texas. If the Redskins win the Eagles will clinch the division title.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 26, 2017
With the Eagles’ 10th win of the season coming on Sunday, Washington at best could tie the Eagles at 10-6, because Philly won both meetings this season, Washington would lose the tiebreaker off the first criteria, head-to-head record. Dallas has a faint chance. One that will include the Eagles losing their remaining five games of the season and the Cowboys winning all of their five remaining games, including a Week 17 matchup between the two teams in Philadelphia.
Those scenarios are put to bed with a Redskins win on Thursday in Dallas or just one more win by the Eagles at any point. Thus, the winner of Washington-Dallas must turn their attention to getting into the postseason via a wild card.
Don’t Count Out the Redskins, Just Yet
The good thing for the Redskins, who mathematically cannot win the division, the NFC South holds three of six playoff spots in the conference. They all pretty much must play each other down the stretch. New Orleans and Atlanta play each other twice in the final five weeks. New Orleans and Carolina play one more time and the same for Carolina and Atlanta.
Then there is the added variable. Entering Week 12, the Redskins had the weakest schedule of any team, this is after playing the toughest schedule of any team through 11 weeks. After their 20-10 win over the 2-9 New York Giants, Washington finishes the season with the Cowboys and the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers in their next two games. Both teams are 5-6.
Then they play the Arizona Cardinals (5-6) and Denver Broncos (3-8) at home. The Redskins close the season at the Giants, who again have just two wins on the season. With a red-hot QB in Kirk Cousins, who is second in the NFL in passing yards with 3,038 yards, don’t count out the Redskins just yet.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys Are a Sinking Ship
Meanwhile, the Cowboys may have the same record as the Redskins, but they are headed in the wrong direction. They have scored a franchise-low 22 points over the last three games and went a stretch of 10 quarters without a score. Coincidentally, the horrid play has lined up with the suspension of running back Ezekiel Elliott. He has three more games to go before he can return to the team.
By then, the Cowboys’ season could be all but over. Thursday’s showdown with the Redskins is pivotal. A win restores things and they get nearly as weak of a schedule as Washington in the next two games following. They’ll be on the road, but they’ll get the Giants and the fading Oakland Raiders before Elliott comes back for the Seahawks in Week 16. The Seahawks are depleted on defense and have a Russell Wilson, who accounts for 86 percent of the team’s offense.
Then there’s that Week 17 finish at Philly. For an Eagles team that could have a first-round bye and/or home-field advantage already clinched, the dynamics of that game could be so different. But, it all starts with Washington on Thursday. A loss would be devastating. Can Dak Prescott overcome his woes — zero touchdowns and five interceptions in the last three games — enough to win the next three games before his savior returns?
Eli Manning Gets Rare Pass
While Kirk Cousins is having his best season display with a makeshift offensive line, no contribution from his wide receivers, and losing his best receiving options in TE Jordan Reed and RB Chris Thompson, Eli Manning may be trying to do the second-best salvage job of the NFL. In one game he lost his best two WRs in Odell Beckham Jr and Brandon Marshall. His offensive line has always been suspect and his team’s secondary trio of Eli Apple, Janoris Jenkins, and Dominique Rogers-Cromartie have taken turns taking leave or being suspended by the team.
In Thursday’s 20-10 loss to the Redskins, his lack of supporting cast was all on display. Receivers running wrong routes, dropping passes, and just being simply overmatched on the offensive line. Manning is fighting a fight he cannot win. Sure, Cousins is balling in just as bad circumstances, but all struggles aren’t always the same, so to speak.
Throw in the fact that their head coach is not on a hot seat but a torching seat. Right now, trying to play spoiler is all the Giants have to look for in the season among being evaluated. Manning gets a rare pass, and one that if New York is picking in the top-5 of next spring’s NFL Draft, they may want to consider RB Saquon Barkley out of Penn State or Oklahoma’s LT Orlando Brown. This team could be back in the thick of things next year with a motivated Eli Manning and better health.