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NFC East Breakdown: Week 8

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(Dan T. writes for The Landry Hat, which is FSB‘s Dallas Cowboys blog. Representing the rest of the NFC East are G-Men HQ, Inside the Iggles. and Riggo’s Rag.)

All week long we’ll hear sports analysts talking about how the Dallas Cowboys are the New York Giants of 2009. This is the time of year when the Giants turned around their own season in 2008. But don’t get too ecstatic. It was a win over the Bucs that only had one touchdown. A win for the Cowboys defensive line and linebackers for sure, but the offense sputtered again. The New York Giants showed how resilient they are against the Steelers. After a fluke snap from the backup snapper resulted in a game-tying safety, the Giants scored again to put a “W” in the win column after the NFL”s top ranked defense dominated for 54 minutes of the game. The Philadelphia Eagles sure look good when Brian Westbrook is healthy. The Washington Redskins continue to win ugly.

Dallas Cowboys (5-3):

Looking Back: Congratulations, Wade Phillips. You kept your job for one more week. After losing three of four games, Wade Phillips decided that he would call all of the defensive plays. It worked. The Cowboys defense hit hard, played inspired football, and held the Bucs to three field goals. However, the Bucs aren’t exactly known for their powerful offense. So, that’s a reason why Cowboys fans need to chill. Jason Witten and cornerback Anthony Henry both were injured. Roy Williams caught his first touchdown as a Cowboys with a short-yardage lob and catch. But who is going to fix the awful secondary. Cornerbacks continue to play 10-feet off the ball and if they stink that bad at playing man-to-man then they shouldn’t be starting.

Looking Forward: The New York Giants are really going to test the will of this Cowboys team. If Jason Witten does not play, the Cowboys will be without their top receiver. If Anthony Henry is out, the Cowboys are left with two rookie cornerbacks, neither of whom have played lights-out football. And then there is the mystery of who may play quarterback this week: noodle-arm Brad Johnson or six-year backup boy Brooks Bollinger. Ouch. The Cowboys continue to face these challenges and a playoff caliber team has to win these games. The Bucs win was a necessary one to keep the Cowboys in the hunt. A win may be necessary for a different reason: to keep the locker room intact. Things could really unravel for the Cowboys depending on the outcome of this game.

New York Giants (6-1):

Looking Back: The New York Giants didn’t play well at all last week, but they played well enough to win. After a bizarre safety, the Giants scored late to break a 14-14 tie. It seemed like the Steelers were playing their second team with so many injuries and suspensions they were dealt this week. The Steelers still dominated the Giants for 54 minutes and held them to four field goals until late in the game. The Giants struggled in the red zone, a nod to the NFL’s top defense. The Giants defense forced four interceptions and sacked Big Ben all night long. Even without its two best linebackers, the Giants are still a hot defense.

Looking Forward: The New York Giants would love nothing more than to pound the Cowboys into submission. But if the Cowboys play with the intensity they did with the Bucs, it might be the Giants who get walloped. The Giants have to be very, very careful. Even a Jason Witten-less Cowboys have the ability to do a lot of damage if someone were to spark the backside of Brad Johnson, who is simply awful. He is really bad. So, that is unlikely. The Cowboys learned a big lesson thinking they could go along with a 40-year-old backup. If the Giants pressure whoever is in the backfield throwing the ball, it won’t be pretty. The winner of this game will be the team that plays the best defense and commits the least turnovers. Last week that was Dallas. They won. The Giants did to. They won.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-3):

Looking Back: When Brian Westbrook is healthy, the Eagles are scary good. The guy does it all and he carried the Eagles to another win, this time over the Atlanta Falcons. Kevin Curtis is back and that’s another weapon for the Eagles who they’ve missed all season. Now don’t think the Eagles dominated. They didn’t. Matt Ryan threw an interception in the end zone and the punt returner muffed a punt that killed the Falcons chances.

Looking Forward: Seneca Wallace vs. Donovan McNabb. Yawn. ZZZZzzzzz. The Seahawks are a joke. Brian Westbrook will have a field day on this team and it shouldn’t be close. McNabb just needs to hand the ball and throw the ball to Westbrook and this game will be over in two quarters. The Eagles are a different team when these two guys are healthy.

Washington Redskins (6-2):

Looking Back: How many times are the Redskins going to win ugly this year? For three quarters, the winless Detroit Lions beat the Redskins. But a bomb to Santana Moss was the killer in this game. Jason Campbell was stellar, completing his first 10 passes and throwing for more than 300 yards and one touchdown. Clinton Portis had another 120-yard plus performance. He is having an MVP-like year. There is nothing particular special about the Redskins defense other than the secondary sure does hit hard.

Looking Forward: It is highly unlikely the Steelers will screw up a long snap in this game. The NFL’s top defense will shut down Clinton Portis and put the game on the arm of Jason Campbell, who has the talents to jack up an offense. But the Steelers will claw and fight not to lose two in a row with the Cowboys still on the schedule. Big Ben won’t throw four interceptions, either. It all spells danger for the Redskins. Jason Campbell will get a serious test in his mobility and judgment in this game. The Redskins are in good shape even if they do lose because they’ve beaten the Cowboys and Eagles already.