If you have only just learnt what the ‘NFL’ stands for, or just want to follow something interesting for the last two weeks of the regular season then look no further than the NFC East. The division consistently provides is with close end of season finishes. While other divisional races have been closer in the past few seasons, such as the AFC West last season, its a pretty safe bet that the big market teams of the NFC East will be competing for a playoff place right up until Week 17. This year’s close finish involves the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants, with one or possibly two of these teams featuring in the post season playoffs. With six playoff spots available, here’s how the playoff picture looks with the NFC East teams highlighted in red;
With all three teams on 8 wins and 6 defeats I’m going to look at certain criteria to see which team should be looking ahead to some January game time. I will then give each team a mark out of 5 with regards to each category, and hopefully the NFC East will be just as clear as Mark Sanchez’s future with the Jets.
- Defence– what potential is there for a Superbowl win? because as they say in almost any sport, ‘Defence wins Championships’
- Quarterback- If you ignore a certain Trent Dilfer, you can’t win without a good one!
- Past Experiences- Do players have big game experience or do they just want to emulate last season’s Broncos and give the big boys some practice in the later rounds?
- Form and Schedule- As the Giants and Packers have proved in recent years, a late season surge is vital.
Defence- At 381.1 and 377.4 yards per game respectively, the Redskins and Giants both rank in the bottom five teams for defense, and in the past decade, no superbowl winning defense has been as bad. This may not be a great omen, but it isn’t neccessarily all doom and gloom for the Giants, as they did win last year’s Superbowl with a similarly ranked defence, and they have in fact conceded fewer points this season than last (hard to believe when they’ve been on the wrong end of a pummeling from both the Bengals and Falcons so far this season). Score=3
Redskins fans on the other hand may have to get used to the recurring image of cornerback Deangelo Hall throwing his hands up in frustration after being beaten deep. The Redskins allowed 7 straight 100 yard receivers to start the season and although things have improved, effective passing offenses still have the upper hand on an aging London Fletcher and his defence. Score=2
Now to the Cowboys, the best of a somewhat mediocre bunch. The Cowboys defence traditionally run good teams close and the acquisition of Morris Claiborne has considerably strengthened the Cowboys secondary, so the cowboys may surprise a few and therefore have a significant edge on their NFC East competitors. Score=4
Quarterback- Possibly the most difficult category of the lot. Tony Romo provides us with some dazzling displays but these never seem to translate to team success. Take this season for example. Romo has thrown for over 400 yards twice for the Cowboys this season, though both in defeats and both to their playoff division rivals. So you may have the ability Tony, but I’m not sure he can deliver now when it matters most. Score=2
Eli Manning is the reigning Superbowl champion, but some uncharacteristically shaky performances make you wonder if we are looking at the unsure Eli of old ..but then again he is a reigning Superbowl champion. Score=4
The Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III or RG3 has the league’s second highest passer rating, and for those not familiar with this particular rating, it basically means he has been a terrifically effective quarterback all season, and the Redskins have an NFC high 45 touchdowns to prove it. With his recent injury though can fellow rookie Kirk Cousins continue his good NFL start and get the Redskins to the playoffs if called upon? All the RG3 hype has meant that the Redskins’ acquisition of Cousins went largely unnoticed, but let’s not forget that Cousins was highly touted himself and I think he has the tools to deliver on the big stage. Score=3
Past Experiences- The Giants won the Superbowl as a wildcard in the 2006 season and no one would bet against the repeating their triumph even if they ended up wilcards again. The Redskins are at the other end of the spectrum and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2007 and when it comes to December the Cowboys are very consistent i.e they consistently lose. So will they buck that trend and make the playoffs this year? Even if they do, our favourite QB Tony Romo will try his best to hinder their progress. Giants=4, Redskins=2, Cowboys=2
Form and Schedule- As you can see from the table above, the Redskins and Cowboys are really hitting form at the right time, just as the Giants had done in 2006. The Giants on the other hand are coming off a massive defeat to the Falcons, and with a difficult game away to the Ravens this weekend they really need other results to go their way. Despite equal records, the Cowboys and Redskins have the upper hand in the division, and so it may come down to the final game between the two next week. With the amount riding on this game and the fact that the Redskins beat the Cowboys in Dallas,I feel the Redskins will probably edge it.
Redskins=4+4 Cowboys=3+3, Giants=2+1 (Giants get a 1 for their schedule simply because they have to rely on others, and well they simply must beat the Ravens)
Conclusion: If the Giants qualify for the playoffs they have the potential to go the furthest, but a difficult schedule means they have too many factors to rely on. I think previous divisional results will indicate how things go. The Redskins will edge it while the Cowboys will sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard along with the Seahawks who are featured in my next blog.