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NFC East Breakdown: Week 9


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

The New York Giants made it clear that they are the cream of the crop in the NFC this year, and they are making their case that there is not a team in the conference that is even close to them. But the Dallas Cowboys proved how important it is to have a backup quarterback who can actually throw the ball and read defenses. No one at the beginning of the season would have predicted the Cowboys would be last after the halfway point, but they are. The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are not as bad as the defending division champs who will scratch and fight for a playoff spot the rest of the season.

Dallas Cowboys (5-4):

Looking Back: Wade Phillips should have pulled flimsy backup Brad Johnson after the first interception thrown in Giants territory. When noodle-arm threw the second, some fan in the stands should have shot both of them. In came kid-faced Brooks Bollinger who threw an interception on his very first pass. At that moment, there was a collective vomiting sound across America. I heard it. Bollinger has more zip in the ball, and that would have helped the Cowboys in the short passing game, but for some reason they held back bringing in the kid until the third quarter. But the woeful offense wasn’t the only problem. The defense returned to mediocrity again, missing tackles, and some players (MIke Jenkins) just plain out avoided tackles. Jenkins shouldn’t get another start for the year after that game. Despite his interception return for a touchdown, he was an embarrassment out there. The Cowboys are officially on the outside looking in. Every game from here on out will be a dog fight. These final seven games will test the will of this entire team, from the coaching staff to the owner. Speaking of owners, Jerry Jones tried to cover his rear-end by saying the Cowboys made it a point in the offseason to shore up a respectable backup quarterback. Someone want to fill me in on what he is talking about?

Looking Forward: The Cowboys have a much-needed bye to regroup the forces before they head to Fed Ex field for a must-win game against the Redskins. Tony Romo should be back, as will Terence Newman at cornerback. Those two alone will pump some much needed energy into a team that after starting 4-1, has gone 1-3 since then. Ouch. After the Redskins, the Cowboys face the 49ers and Seahawks, and they could turn the corner at 8-4 before a four-game run against the Giants, Steelers, Ravens and Eagles. None of those games will be easy, but all the Cowboys will need is to win at least two of them.

New York Giants (7-1):

Looking Back: The Giants wanted to prove that they were not going to be pushed around by anyone in the NFC East, and to date, no one has. They manhandled the Cowboys on Sunday, with the only glitch being a miscommunication between Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress that resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. All facets of the Giants game are running strong, from the defense to the offense. It will be hard to beat these guys, but it is so hard for teams to continue to win for an entire season. They’ll have some obstacles soon that will test this team, but from the looks of it, they’ll overcome them better than any other team in the NFL.

Looking Forward: Another NFC East showdown for the Giants who visit the Philadelphia EaglesDonovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are playing good enough football now to make the playoffs, but they’ll have to start defeating divisional foes as the season winds down. Both teams have great running backs, and if you stop Westbrook and Brandon Jacobs, you’re left with Eli Manning and McNabb. The Giants won’t overlook anyone in their division, but I give the upper hand in any shootout to McNabb. It’s always a crap-shoot when trying to pick who will win in a rivalry matchup from this division, but this is one the Giants should take.

Philadelphia Eagles (5-3):

Looking Back: After the Seahawks took a quick 7-0 lead, the Eagles settled down and took command of the game, thwarting any upset that would have left this team reeling. McNabb had another 300-plus-yard game and it was needed because Westbrook was not very effective running the ball. The Eagles are one of four teams ranked in the top 10 in total offense and defense and ironically, the other three teams are the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins. After a concussion to L.J. Smith, McNabb found a new weapon at tight end, some guy named Brent Celek caught six balls for 131 yards. I wonder if he’ll see the ball next week.

Looking Forward: The Eagles will host the division leading New York Giants in a game that could be a defensive struggle or a shootout; hard to tell. One thing is for sure, if the Eagles are going to win, Westbrook has to rush for more than 60 yards. The problem for the Eagles will be protecting McNabb who will feel pressure all day. There probably is not an offensive line in the NFL that can fully contain the Giants pass rush, but minimizing it will go a long way toward victory.

Washington Redskins (6-2):

Looking Back: The Redskins got manhandled at home by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. The Redskins have been a lot worse than there record indicates over the past month, going 2-2 despite only playing one team that will reach the playoffs. It was just a bad night for the Skins, because even Jason Campbell threw his first pick of the season. Maybe the Redskins were distracted by all the election buzz?

Looking Forward: The Redskins have a bye week before a key game against the Dallas Cowboys at home, and it couldn’t come at a better time following the loss. Giving the Redskins two weeks doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys, but it doesn’t exactly mean the Redskins will walk all over them if their backs are against the wall. It should be a great game.