The NFC East is front and center in Week 13 of the NFL; whether or not that’s a good thing remains to be seen.
Teams from the East division – which has the fewest wins of any division in the NFC and the second-fewest wins of any division in the league – will square off in the Sunday night NBC game as well as for ESPN’s Monday Night Football.
NFC East Division
- Philadelphia (3-8) at Dallas (5-6), Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
- New York Giants (7-4) at Washington (5-6), Monday, 8:30 p.m.
Here are FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR heading into Week 13:
- Which Giants team will show up?
Will the New York team we see on Monday night resemble the one that lost to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in back-to-back games, or will it more closely resemble the team that whipped Green Bay last week?
With a chance to essentially wrap up the division – because a win puts the Giants three games up on Washington and at least two games ahead of Dallas with four games remaining – the Redskins have to be prepared for the very best version of the 2012 Giants.
Everything worked in last week’s surprisingly easy win against the Packers, including a near-flawless Eli Manning (3 TDs, 0 turnovers), a potent running game (147 yards, 2 TDs) and a potent defense (2 TOs and 5 sacks to limit the Pack to its lowest point total since Week 17 of the 2010 season).
Stat of the week: The Giants defense has picked off 18 passes, second-most in the league, and has forced 29 TOs overall. New York will face a team in Washington that has turned the ball over itself just 10 times - with four of those TOs coming in one game, the Giants’ last-minute 27-23 win over the ‘Skins in Week 7.
- Did the Redskins learn anything from the Week 7 loss?
After a back-and-forth game, Washington appeared poised to upset New York at the Meadowlands on Oct. 21. But Eli Manning and Victor Cruz spoiled those plans by hooking up on a 77-yard scoring play with 1:23 remaining in the game.
Had the Redskins held on to win that game, they would have entered Week 8 tied with the Giants at 4-3. Instead, Mike Shanahan’s team lost the next two as well, to drop to 3-6 heading into the bye week. Washington has rebounded to win its past two, but if the ‘Skins miss the postseason, they may look back at that heartbreaking loss to the G-men as the turning point.
Washington’s potent offense, led by rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, showed in Week 7 that it can move the ball against the Giants. What is unclear is if the defense has improved enough to be able to stop Manning, Cruz & Co., especially if the game is close late in the fourth quarter.
The Redskins had their best defensive showing of the year in a Week 11, 31-6, stomping of Philadelphia, holding the Eagles to 257 yards. The D struggled in a 38-31 win against Dallas a week ago, allowing 458 yards (the second-most it has allowed in 2012).
What Washington did well in both games - and what they'll likely need to do against the Giants to pull off a win - is collect turnovers; the Eagles and the Cowboys coughed up the ball a combined 6 times.
- Any sign of life for Eagles?
Philadelphia has dropped seven straight games – and could surpass TampaBay’s 2011 “accomplishment” of finishing the season with 10 straight losses. All five remaining games for the Eagles, including the Sunday night contest in Dallas, are eminently losable.
The big question is whether the players that are still healthy and able to get onto the field can show some sort of pulse in the final weeks of this disastrous season.
Even though the Eagles are 14th in YPG, they are 30th in points scored (averaging 16.7 PPG) due to all their turnovers; Philadelphia is second-worst in the league with 27 turnovers, including 15 fumbles lost. Surprisingly, Dallas is just behind Philly in TOs with 23 (with 15 INTs).
Rookie Nick Foles, who will make his third start, has generally looked over-matched. Foles is completing 59.6 percent of his passes, but his Y/A is an anemic 5.5. With big-play wideout DeSean Jackson now gone for the year, Foles’ job only gets harder.
The one bright spot for Andy Reid’s club is the play of RB Bryce Brown, who gashed Carolina for 178 yards (9.4 YPC) last week. The seventh-round draft pick out of Kansas State may have a chance to continue to shine if LeSean McCoy misses more injury time.
- Can Dallas take care of the ball?
It’s difficult to win when your quarterback continues to throw INTs. While Tony Romo has had moments of great play this season, his turnovers may wind up costing the Cowboys any chance of making something of this 2012 campaign.
Dallas has fumbled the ball away eight times, which is just a tick more than the league average per team of 7.4. It’s Romo’s interceptions that have just killed the offense.
Romo has already thrown 15 INTs, just four shy of his career high in a season – but in that 2007 season, Romo also tossed a career-high 36 TD passes; so far in 2012, Romo has just 16 TDs.
When Romo starts throwing INTs, they usually come in bunches:
- Week 4 – Five INTs in 34-18 L to Chicago
- Week 7 – Four INTs in 29-24 L to NY Giants
- Week 11 – Two INTs in 38-31 L to Washington
Dallas should be able to execute a victory against a demoralized team that has the worst record in the NFC – but then again, the Cowboys should have also beaten Baltimore (Week 5) and New York (Week 7) in games that got away. A 7-4 record instead of 5-6 would look a whole lot different heading into Week 13.
The Giants appear to have the toughest remaining schedule among the East teams, facing one potential, and two sure-fire playoff teams in the next three weeks, before closing out the regular season by hosting Philadelphia. New York next hosts New Orleans (5-6), before playing back-to-back road games at Atlanta (10-1) and Baltimore (9-2).
If Washington moves within one game of the division lead (with a win on MNF), the Redskins should look at their favorable schedule down the stretch to boost their hopes of catching the Giants. After hosting a Baltimore team next week whose biggest defensive weakness this season seems to be stopping the run, Washington finishes at Cleveland (3-8), at Philadelphia (3-8) and at home against Dallas.
Dallas finishes with a heavy does of the AFC North, traveling to Cincinnati (6-5) and hosting Pittsburgh (6-5), before facing a New Orleans team that will also likely be challenging for a playoff spot, and the finale at Washington.