Listen. Climbing to the top of the NFC East isn’t exactly like scaling the rocky torrain of Mt. Kilimanjaro. In a division that houses the baffling Philadelphia Eagles and also features dreck such as the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, and yes, even the 5-2 New York Giants, no result should be surprisng at this point.
But since dropping to 1-4 and dead last in the NFC East the Eagles have slowly began their climb back to the top of the division they won a year ago.
1. New York Giants (5-2): No team outside of the Green Bay Packers has been impressive on a consistent basis. So while I want to slam the Giants for a sluggish and uninspired win over the winless Miami Dolphins at home last Sunday, I’m not going to do it. The Giants won the game and that’s all that matters.
But even at 5-2, I’m not sure that anyone could possibly be convinced this team is a lock to remain atop the division for the remainder of the year. Their defense makes big plays, but has been inconsistent. Matt Moore and Reggie Bush turned in good games for the Dolphins and that has to be at least a bit concerning in New York this week.
Offensively, Eli Manning is carrying the Giants right now and I’m not sure I have an overwhelming amount of faith that he can continue his current pace. If his production drops to even respectable totals, this team is in trouble. Ahmad Bradshaw has been banged up and Brandon Jacobs looks horrible. But we’ll see. These two have a way of bouncing back after sluggish stretches.
The biggest concern for the Giants may be their remaining schedule. They travel to Foxboro to play an angry Patriots team and follow that up with a trip the west coast to play the 6-1 (unbelievable) San Francisco 49ers. The Giants won’t publically admit this, but they would probably be thrilled with a split between those two games.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4): There’s really no way I can justify moving them ahead of the Giants given they are two full games behind New York. And there’s no way I can justify placing them behind Dallas or Washington after impressive victories against both teams. Once left for dead, the Eagles’ Sunday night win resurrected their postseason hopes.
I’m not ready to annoint this team the favorite to win the NFC East. Frankly, I’ll be stunned if they do. I respect Andy Reid’s history of success in November and December, but having left themselves with almost no margin for error, I doubt they’ll be able to avoid a letdown at some point. While Sunday was a must-win, the next three games for the Eagles are equally important. They must beat Chicago and Arizona at home the next two weeks (they will be strongly favored to do so) before heading to New York on Nov. 20 for a rematch with Giants on Sunday Night Football.
If the Eagles can get to 5-4 heading into that game, things are going to get very, very interesting.
3. Dallas Cowboys (3-4): It’s cool if you want to keep saying the Cowboys are loaded with talent and are a dangerous team. But have they really played like it? At all? If so, I haven’t seen it. The Cowboys vaunted duo of receivers, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, were virtually invisible against the Eagles. While it appears Demarco Murray is the real deal, there’s serious questions surrounding this team. And now they are playing from behind.
They aren’t dead by any stretch–no team is dead in this division. The Cowboys are also helped by a favorable schedule over their last nine games. Still, one has to wonder if they have what it takes to play consistent football and surge to the top of the division. I’m not a believer.
4. Washington Redskins (3-4): John Beck looks like Rod Beck at quarterback. And that’s bad, you know, because Rod Beck is dead. So are the Redskins.