NFC East Week 17 preview

The NFC East has been one of the more interesting divisions to watch in 2020, with every team under .500 and tiny separation.

It is no surprise that the division, which will not have a team with a winning record, will come down to the Sunday at 8 p.m.
When the Washington Football Team takes on the Philadelphia Eagles, the division’s fate and the NFC playoff picture will be finalized.

Heading into the final week of the NFL season, The New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, and the Football Team all have an opportunity to win the division, but the path is simple for Washington. Just win.

Washington Football Team sits in first place with six wins, the same amount as Dallas, but they won both head-to-head matchups. All Washington has to do to keep that top spot is defeating the lowly Eagles. But that’s easier said than done.
Alex Smith has helped resurrect the Football Team with the solid quarterback play, limiting turnovers and making plays when called upon. Unfortunately, Smith has been injured the last two weeks, and his backup Dwayne Haskins was released due to poor off-field decisions and poor on field play. More on Haskins below. Alex Smith is expected to start the pivotal week 17 game for Washington. Still, if he cannot play, they will have to go with Taylor Heinicke, who finished the game against Carolina with a respectable line, completing 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. If Washington cannot defeat the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, its season will end, and the Giants and Cowboys game-winner will take the NFC East crown.

It’s been a long season for Dallas, but they were able to hang in long enough to make one final play for the division. With Washington playing on Sunday night, the Cowboys game against the Giants decides second place’s fate in the division with a chance to slide into first place with a Washington loss. Even though the Giants and Cowboys game will have ended before the Washington game, the game’s magnitude won’t be decided until after the Sunday night game concludes. The Giants and Cowboys game winner will temporarily take over first place in the NFC East and keep it if Washington loses.

So, Andy Dalton and the suddenly surging Cowboys, who looked dead in the water a few weeks ago, will play for a chance at a division title. But Dallas’s opponent, the Giants, is also playing for the division, making for an interesting game between two teams going in opposite directions. Dallas has lost just once since the bye week, and Andy Dalton has started settling into the Cowboys’ starting role after battling injuries earlier in the season. Dallas still has weapons on both sides of the ball with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, running backs Ezekiel Elliot and Tony Pollard. The defense has struggled under coordinator Mike Nolan, but they have improved throughout the season. Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence have been providing the pass rush, and while Jaylen Smith has stepped up in the absence of Leighton Vander Esch.

The Giants, on the other hand, has gone downhill since their big upset win over Seattle. Quarterback Daniel Jones hasn’t been the same since injuring his hamstring against Cincinnati, and the progress the Giants’ offense seemed to make this season disappeared. New York has now lost three straight games since its four-game winning streak, and they have been outscored 73-26 over the last three games. The Giants’ defense has played well almost all season, but the offense has been nonexistent.
It is tough to see the Giants winning this game against Dallas, but as the NFC East has shown experts all season, we need to expect the unexpected.

Prediction: Alex Smith starts for Washington and defeats the Eagles to win the division. Cowboys defeat the Giants to claim second place in the NFC East.

Haskins Released: The former first-round pick’s time in Washington has come to an end in less than two seasons. New head coach Ron Rivera was mostly unimpressed by Haskins, and multiple immature decisions off the field didn’t help the young quarterback’s case. Haskins’ career in the NFL surely isn’t over yet, but teams may not be interested in him. He shows potential with a fluent throwing motion, but his decision-making hasn’t improved in his two seasons.

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