Who Will Be the Best of the Worst in the NFC East?
Last night, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New York Giants 22–21 on Thursday Night Football. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz led an 11 point fourth quarter comeback, throwing a touchdown to Boston Scott to take the lead with 40 seconds left. Wentz played good, not great, completing 25 of 43 passes for 359 yards, three total touchdowns, and one interception.
So where does this win put Philadelphia in terms of winning the NFC East?
The worst division in football doesn’t seem to get any better by the week. The four teams have a combined record of 6–19–1. For perspective, that’s only one win better than six teams. As bad as that combined record is, it only gets worse considering most of the few wins come within the division. Of the six total wins, only two have come against opponents not in the NFC East. The Eagles defeated the San Francisco 49ers, while the Cowboys really shouldn’t have beaten the lowly Atlanta Falcons (see the terrible onside kick execution by Atlanta). Despite all this however, one team is going to be hosting a playoff game as the winner of the NFC East. Is Philadelphia the favorite?
I guess the short answer would be yes. Washington and New York, while technically no where close to being eliminated, feel like they aren’t going to be able to do enough. The Eagles main opponent will be the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas had been explosive on offense this season, but their defense was severely holding them back. This season the Cowboys are allowing the most points per game, the second must rushing yards per game, and the sixth-most total yards per game. The unit has also struggled forcing turnovers, as they have the fewest takeaways this season. Despite the defensive struggles, Dallas’ offense has been able to make games close. That was until quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a season ending injury against the Giants. That’s not the only injury the Cowboys are dealing with on offense as well. Four of Dallas’ five starting offensive linemen have missed time this season. These injuries have turned a Dallas offense that was averaging the most total yards per game (464), into a team that managed only 344 total yards in a 38–10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas defense is still atrocious, while the new Andy Dalton led offense appears to be heading that way. Dalton threw two interceptions (linebacker Jordan Hicks dropped a wide open third interception as well), while running back Ezekiel Elliott lost two fumbles.
This should leave Philadelphia as a default option to win the division. I however, do not have much to any confidence saying that. For as bad as the other teams in the NFC East have been, the Eagles fall right in line. Nothing has been special about Philadelphia this season. On offense they’re averaging the eighth-fewest total yards, and the eleventh-fewest points per game. On defense they’re allowing the twelfth-most points per game. The Eagles also have the second-most giveaways, in part causing them to be tied for the third-worst turnover differential. This is largely due to the play of quarterback Carson Wentz.
Wentz has really struggled this season. He is tied for the league-lead in interceptions thrown with 10. Wentz also has the third-worst passer rating, and the sixth-worst QBR. Now all of the blame for the QB’s struggles isn’t on Wentz. Like Dallas, Philadelphia has been ravaged by injuries on the offensive side of the ball. Players who have missed time include offensive linemen Andre Dillard, Brandon Brooks, Lane Johnson, tight ends Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, receivers Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson, and running back Miles Sanders. This has led to Wentz being sacked a league-high 28 times, while throwing to mainly no name receivers. There are excuses and then there are reasons. The injuries are part of the reason for Carson Wentz’s struggles. Despite that however, Wentz is at blame as well. He simply must be better. The Philadelphia quarterback has to cut down on the interceptions. The one last night against the Giants is just one example of many unnecessary throws leading to poor interceptions. If Wentz can do that, then the Eagles should be able to win the NFC East. That is a big if though, considering his play this season.
Even if Wentz doesn’t improve this year, Philadelphia most likely ends up taking the division. Washington and New York simply don’t have enough. The loss of Dak Prescott will severely limit any chance Dallas has of competing. Philadelphia should be the default NFC East winner. Don’t be surprised though, if they finish this year with a losing record.