As the season comes into its final month it is very possible that the toughest and strongest division in football might only send one team to the playoffs. Yes. One team. The New York Giants continue to roll through opponents. This week the Giants basically ended any hopes for the Washington Redskins to make the playoffs with a serious bruising. They beat them worse than the loss the Redskins took in week 1. As for the Dallas Cowboys, it is apparent that 10-6 will not get them in unless there is a colossal failure of the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Buccaneers or the Carolina Panthers. Considering that those three teams play each other again, someone is going to fall. But that also means the Cowboys need to win at least 3 of 4 games and quite possibly all four games in the toughest stretch of its schedule. It looks like that loss to St. Louis was worse than the Cowboys could ever imagine. Donovan McNabb had a rebirth Thanksgiving night, helping the Eagles absolutely embarrass the Arizona Cardinals. But is just me who thinks his days in Philly are numbered? I don’t think I am alone.
Dallas Cowboys (8-4):
Looking Back: The Dallas Cowboys were expected to crush the Seattle Seahawks, and they did. But don’t think that this game was a flawless win. The Seahawks moved the ball well early, and without turnovers and decent red-zone play calling, the score could have been a lot closer. The secondary still has those holes in it that worry a lot of people, but having Terence Newman back has brought the team some consistent play, and even a few interceptions. Tony Romo should get MVP if the Cowboys can make it to the playoffs. Surely no other quarterback than maybe Eli Manning has been this important to a team’s success. The biggest problems came near the end when both Marion Barber and DeMarcus Ware, the NFL sack leader, left the game with injuries. Both reportedly look to be fine, but you never know. The Cowboys need both of these guys to win.
Looking Forward: This is the deal breaker for the Dallas Cowboys when they head into Pittsburgh to play the Steelers at Heinz Field. It is a must win game not only to help the Cowboys make the playoffs, but to also show they deserve the respect in this league that they had during week 1. The Steelers are one of the AFC’s best, if not THE best, and they have the top ranked defense in the league. A win surely will boost the Cowboys playoffs hopes. But it won’t get any easier. The Cowboys then would play Baltimore, who also has a strong defense, and then the Giants before ending the season with the Eagles. The Cowboys haven’t done well in December in five years. However, if they do find a way to win out the season, or at least 3 of 4, you better watch out for this team in the playoffs. As for the Steelers, even the NFL’s best running team, the New York Giants couldn’t run the ball on those guys. Dallas is going to have to beat these guys with the passing game, and Tony Romo ought to be ready for that. So should the offensive line.
Looking Back: As Super Bowl champions, the Giants truly are the team to beat. These guys play some really rough, hard-nosed football and the coaching is superb. Eli Manning is in the running for MVP and the Giants running game is tops in the NFL. So how do you beat these guys? The Washington Redskins didn’t have any answers and they had to win this game to remain in the playoff hunt. The Giants just overpowered these guys and they solidified themselves as the one team that just looks invincible in the NFL right now.
Looking Forward: The Giants face the Philadelphia Eagles who are only out to ruin the paths of other playoff caliber teams. Too bad the Giants are already in. The Eagles don’t need to necessarily show up for this game, but I am sure they will try for a few quarters. The Eagles defense is going to have to focus on the run, but only the Steelers are the only team that was able to slow the Giants running game.
Looking Back: Too bad the win was a little late in the game, but the Eagles sure looked good against the Arizona Cardinals on the evening of Thanksgiving. It’s amazing how different this team looks when both Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb play well. The problem is before this game, they did not play well for three weeks in a row and that sent the Eagles in a downward spiral. They are now out of the playoff hunt.
Looking Forward:All that’s left for the Eagles is to ruin the playoff opportunities of other teams. Although they play the Giants this week, they still have games against the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins, who are already on the outside looking in. Expect the Eagles to finish strong, beating the Browns and Redskins, ending the season in a very intriguing game against the Dallas Cowboys. That game could cause problems for the Cowboys if McNabb and Westbrook decide to show up.
Looking Back: Bye Bye playoffs. I predicted in the beginning of the season that the Redskins would finish 8-8 and last in the NFC East. That’s not because they aren’t a good team. They’re ok. But the offense is sputtering at the wrong time. Jason Campbell hasn’t found Santana Moss in several weeks and Clinton Portis cannot seem to kick his nagging injuries. He’s no longer the NFL’s leading rusher. Rookie head coach Jim Zorn was angry after the blowout loss to the Giants. He was throwing tempter tantrums on the sidelines and rightly so. The Redskins are not playing inspired football right now.
Looking Forward: What a horrible time to lose, too. The Redskins don’t exactly have a killer schedule remaining, with games against the Cincinnati Bengals and San Fransisco 49ers, as well as beatable team like the Eagles and Baltimore Ravens. Don’t expect them to win but one of those games. Nothing is going right for these guys right now and it is only going to get worse.