NFC East Week 12: Cowboys Split Wishbones With Redskins
by Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC East Beat Writer/Wants WWE Survivor Series Back on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving, the festival of oven pilot lights, is a holiday that consists of many traditions: a metric ton of food. Televised parades with saccharine-laden commentary. Catching up with relatives. Figuring out which retail chain you're going to plop your sleeping bags down at that night.
And, of course, there's football.
Once you've watched your high school alma mater play that morning, it's off to your sofas and easy chairs to partake in the NFL offerings, kicking off the return to 16-game weeks.
And really, what better way to celebrate the excess of Thanksgiving than with a line-up that shows the shortcomings of the NFL's "Glamour Division"?
Thursday afternoon features the annual Turkey Day battle in Big D, as the Dallas Cowboys host the Washington Redskins. At least one, or both, teams will come out 2 games out of the wild card slots, a killer in this crucial stretch.
Sunday night, the New York Giants play host to the Packers. Good game in theory, but since it's still November, and the Giants couldn't beat eggs during this month, NBC's taking a chance having this on their schedule.
And Monday night, the Philadelphia Eagles will look to avoid 7 in a row in-season for the first time since 1994 when they take on the Panthers. The "FIRE ANDY" chants will be the most interesting story there.
Sorry if this is all depressing. Enjoy your turkey.
1. Why the Cowboys will Beat the Redskins
Simply put, Robert Griffin III won't bring his "perfect passer rating" streak to 2 in this one.
While Philadelphia's defense has all the organization of an anarchist riot, with none of the punch outside of DeMeco Ryans, Fletcher Cox, and Cullen Jenkins, Dallas demonstrates much more general discipline and veracity on the defensive side of the ball.
While RG3 was able to pick up first downs and big plays at will on Sunday, he'll have less luck with a defense that's fifth in the league in third down stops. Teams average a 34.65 percent chance of making those all-important conversions.
That's just as well, considering that the Redskins are third worst in the league on third downs; a 30.08 percent average.
And if Washington is going to make any headway with their running game (5.22 YPA, second best in the NFL), Griffin and Alfred Morris have to negotiate through DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, the emerging Bruce Carter, and other defenders responsible for the Cowboys' respectable allowance of 4.01 YPA rushing.
While Dallas doesn't pick up many picks (just 4 for the season thus far), they can hold their own in shutting down opposing receivers. Only 3 wideouts have had 100-yard days against them this season, with Brandon Marshall maxing out the list at 138.
And hey, history is on the Cowboys side. The Redskins have visited Big D six times on Thanksgiving Day, and have yet to enjoy their sweet potatoes with a victory. Sadly for them, they've never had Leon Lett bungle a game on their behalf.
2. Why the Redskins will Beat the Cowboys
Then again, who's to say RG3 won't have another banner performance, especially as extended families have their pumpkin pie in front of the TV? In six of his ten games this year, he's topped a 90.0 passer rating, and has never once thrown more picks than touchdowns.
And despite the 4.01 YPA average rushing that Dallas' defense holds opponents to, 5 running backs have averaged 4+ yards per carry against them this season on 13 or more carries: Marshawn Lynch (122 yards, 4.69 YPA), Michael Turner (102 yards, 5.10 YPA), Ahmad Bradshaw (78 yards, 4.59 YPA), LeSean McCoy (82 yards, 5.13 YPA), and Matt Forte (52 yards, 4.00 YPA)
With a double threat like Morris, plus Griffin's effectiveness in open space, don't think that Dallas' average against the run won't take a hit.
Dallas also has to beware of the home run: 4 times in 10 games have the Redskins scored on a pass play of 60 or more yards. Amazingly, 3 separate players make up that quartet (Santana Moss twice), so that underlines the variety of ways that Griffin can hurt an opponent.
The Redskins also average 25.7 PPG, and Dallas has given up 27+ points 4 times this season. That stems from a combination of general defensive caving, and Dallas' offensive turnovers. Tony Romo may have quieted down on the interceptions, but he still has 13, and they've proven costly at times.
3. Giants Begin Rough Final Stretch with Streaking Packers
Giants, November, not good, tend to suck, yada yada yada.
Eli Manning has been breaking down entrophy-style over the past 4 games, throwing 1 touchdown against 6 INTs, and the Giants dropped 2 straight before the bye. Before that point, New York had a realistic chance to put distance between themselves and the rest of the East.
Blowing a 10-point lead against Pittsburgh, even though they're a quality team, stung badly, but not as bad as letting Andy Dalton and AJ Green destroy them a week later. Cincinnati hadn't won in a month and a half until they suffocated New York with an all-out air assault.
After a bye, the harsh reality speaks loudly: the road to the playoffs doesn't get any easier.
But forget about Drew Brees and Haloti Ngata and RG3 and Roddy White down the line; right now, they've got Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, who haven't lost since October 7.
In that 5-game winning streak, Aaron Rodgers has thrown 17 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions. To say he's got a hotter hand than Eli Manning at the moment is to state the obvious clearer than Gabby Johnson ever could.
New York gives up a concern-worthy 7.02 yards per pass attempt, so Rodgers will be looking to uncork some missiles to his various targets, namely Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. New York can't cover everyone they see, especially with Green Bay playing their best.
And let's not forget, this is a revenge game from last year's Divisional Round of the playoffs. And there's no Mario Manningham to leap up and pull in that dagger before halftime this time around.
4. Eagles Death Knell Continues Before Possible Next Coach
Pay close attention to Jon Gruden's "THIS GUY" platitudes during Monday night's game between the Eagles and Panthers. While "Chucky" gushes about anyone that can speak 2-syllable words, certain Eagles may earn extra special praise from the former, and soon to be again, head coach.
As the "FIRE ANDY" chants ring out through the chilly night at The Linc, a choice replacement stands beside Mike Tirico up in ESPN's commentary booth.
Yep, it's gotten that bad for the 3-7 Eagles (The Birds Formerly Known as the 3-1 Eagles), who start rookies at quarterback and running back to do battle with a 2-8 Carolina team that has at least won more recently.
There are many Philly fans who'd love to see their men in green get hammered at home, if it shoves Andy Reid, Marty Morninhweg, and others out the door.
But if they're hoping for an Eagles loss on Monday, which would drop the team to the 3-8 threshold that Jeffrey Lurie said "wasn't going to cut it", they may need to wait another week.
For as inept as the Eagles have been on offense, Carolina is even worse. Philly actually ranks ahead of them in yards per run attempt (4.39 to 4.04), lower percentage of sacks/picks (10.54 percent to 10.91 percent), and third down success (38.62 percent to 36.07 percent).
But then again, the thought was that the powerful arm of Nick Foles would light up the Redskins' putrid secondary, and that didn't happen.
The Eagles find new ways to lose, and it's a crap shoot in thinking that they'll do it again Monday night.
5. Mini Power Rankings
1. New York Giants (6-4)
Remember when the Giants stifled the 49ers en route to a 26-3 victory? Since that day, here's the point totals that New York has given up: 23, 24, 24, 31. If the pattern continues, don't be surprised if Aaron Rodgers humbles them with 3 or 4 touchdown throws.
2. Dallas (5-5)
In 2011, post-Thanksgiving, Dallas went 1-4 to fall to 8-8. In 2008, the Cowboys lost 3 out of 4 to go from 8-4 to 9-7, and lose a chance at a wild card on the season's final day. Playing on a holiday to get 11 days rest doesn't always set a course for greatness.
3. Washington (4-6)
I don't want to jinx anyone here, but the Redskins have not turned the ball over since October 21, when fumblitis cost them a game against the Giants. Since then, the Steelers, Panthers, and Eagles have been unable to wrest the rock from RG3 and company.
4. Philadelphia (3-7)
The last time that the Eagles lost 7 straight in any one season, it was 1994, and they went from 7-2 to 7-9. That led to owner Jeffrey Lurie making his first firing, that of head coach Rich Kotite. If anyone's afraid that Reid keeps his job, there's your precedent.