As we head into week seven, the Philadelphia Eagles sit a top of the NFC East with a 5-1 record, and with the injury to Aaron Rodgers, now look like favorites in the NFC. In second place are the Washington Redskins with a 3-2 record, followed by the Dallas Cowboys at 2-3, and the New York Giants at 1-5. With exception to the Giants, this division is still wide open. With a big Monday Night Football matchup coming up between the Redskins and Eagles, lets take a look at the NFC East after six weeks.
The Cowboys are coming out of a bye week after losing two in a row to the L.A. Rams and the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys lead big early against the Rams and had a lead in the last-minute of the fourth against the Packers, but both times, their defense let them down. The Cowboys defense has given up 35 points in back to back games, and their defense continues to be torched, as they rank 29th in the NFL in total points allowed.
On the flip side, the Cowboys get to face the winless 49ers, who will be starting rookie quarterback CJ Beathard. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliot, who had his possible suspension delayed, but still this will be no cake walk. The Cowboys haven’t looked like the same dominate team that they were last year. The line looks vulnerable, the running game hasn’t been as strong, and Dak Prescott looks like he’s having some sophomore jitters. The 49ers have lost their last five games by no more than three points each and will play with nothing to lose. Now a loss by no means puts Dallas out of contention in the division, but the Cowboys are certainly a vulnerable team. The Cowboys have one of the tougher remaining schedules, so they’ll need to return to last year’s form if they are going to win this game and hang around in the division.
New York Giants
The Giants came away with a surprising win last week in Denver. The Giants for once looked like a half way decent team, as they throughly outplayed the Broncos, even though they lacked some of their best players. Eli Manning got rookie tight end Evan Engram involved early, and the two looked to develop some solid chemistry. Also the Giants ran the ball relatively well for the first time all year, and thanks to a bit of a shake-up, the offensive line held together real well. Also, head coach Ben McAdoo finally swallowed his pride and handed over the play calling to Mike Sullivan, who did a good job at getting Engram involved in the game and kept Manning well protected.
However, while this win is impressive, it means relatively little in the long run for the Giants. They have a very difficult remaining schedule as well, and still have Eli Manning under center with very few weapons. Denver looked a little flat coming off their bye week, which worked in the Giants favor. They have the Seattle Seahawks coming across the country Sunday, and this matchup will be between teams that are relatively similar. Both have struggling offensive lines, poor running games, few offensive weapons, and quarterbacks that are tasked with doing it all. Should make for a low scoring game that comes down to the play of the quarterbacks, and Russell Wilson will have the advantage. The Giants will most likely be sitting at 1-6 heading into their bye.
After the injury to Aaron Rodgers, the Eagles now look like the favorites in the NFC. Atlanta is struggling, and there is no clear favorite in the North and West divisions. It is still early, but the Eagles are in a good position after coming away with a road win against the refs… uhm… excuse me… the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. The Eagles defense was superb. To say the suffocated Carolina’s running game would be an understatement, as Panther’s running backs managed only 9 yards on the ground. Also, the Eagles defense forced three interceptions, which set up Wentz with and the Eagles offense with great field position. Wentz only completed 16 passes, but threw three touchdowns, two to Zach Ertz and one to Nelson Agholor. LeGarrette Blount was terrific once again, carrying defenders with him whenever he touched the ball.
The Eagles have a big game coming up on Monday. They handled the Redskins well in the opener, but this is a different team in many ways. They have a few injuries on defense, as Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland are questionable for the game, but Kirk Cousins and the rest of the offense are looking more in synch every week. Doug Pederson has to keep giving the ball to Blount. He only had 46 yards on the ground in the opener against a solid Redskins run defense, but he has just been so impressive since that Pederson has no excuse not to get him the ball. Also, Wentz will have his choice on how to attack the Washington pass defense. If Norman and Breeland can’t go, he and Alshon Jeffrey could each have a big game. If Norman and Breeland do play, Wentz can look over the middle for Agholor and Ertz. Cornerback Ronald Darby, who was hurt in the season opener against Washington, is practicing this week, so it’ll be interesting to see if he plays on Monday. The Eagles secondary has held up well in his absence, but having Darby back would be a huge boost. A win would be huge, and would cement the Eagles as favorites in the NFC as we head towards the midway point in the season.
The Redskins are coming off a two point win over the 49ers in a game where they led by 17 before taking advantage of a questionable offensive pass interference call late in the game. Kirk Cousins played well, accounting for three total touchdowns and throwing for over 300 yards. At the same time, the banged up defense was a bit shaky, and allowed rookie quarterback CJ Beathard to look pretty comfortable in his first game action.
Now, the Redskins have a big rematch against the Eagles in Philadelphia. If the Redskins can come away with a win, it would be huge and would have a big impact on the NFC East as we move forward. The Redskins are going to struggle to get something going on the ground, so Cousins is going to have to take advantage of the shaky Eagles secondary. Cousins usually has big games against the Eagles, and he is going to have to throw the ball up to his bigger receivers and trust that they will come down with the ball against the smaller Eagles corners. On defense, they need to keep LeGarrette Blount and the Eagles running game in check like they did in the opener. That’ll allow the Redskins to dial up some pressure to try to fluster Wentz. This one has the makings of an exciting shootout in what will be one of the most exciting games of the season.