The Cowboys had a chance to avoid turning the NFC East division into a messy finger painting, pity party. A win over the Saints on Sunday night would put them at 6-4 and sole possession of first-place in a division where no team produces a Van Gogh or Rembrandt on any given Sunday.
The NFC East’s paint brush strokes a picture of parity. Dallas talks about the beautiful creation it will make with its new-age tools; a celebrity QB, prima donna wide receivers, big-name coaches, mega-star owners, and overconfident defenders.
But halfway through the season, all that’s been produced is a shaky work of art, executed over a canvas of confusion. After the 49-17 ass-shellacking at the hands of Drew Brees (who at one point completed 19 passes in a row) and the Saints, the Cowboys are a mediocre 5-5 and tied atop the standings with a Philly team that after losing Mike Vick early in the season, was expected to be a cellar dweller.
On NBC Sunday Night Football Tony Dungy said, “Dallas has the most talent,” and he expects the Cowboys and Eagles to be scrapping it out for the division title. In an unexpected turn of events, Vick getting injured was the best thing that could have happened to Philly. Chip Kelly has proved that his explosive college system translates to the NFL, and most impressively to less mobile QBS with varying skills sets. When Kelly was forced to thrust second-year QB Nick Fowles into action, Philly discovered that life after Vick will be smooth sailing in the pocket. In 7 games Fowles has 16 TDs, 0 picks and a 132.5 passer rating.
Kelly has the offense on lock, but the Eagles 31st-ranked D is the problem. It’s an opportunistic D and flosses the second most picks in the NFL with 12, but cats like Romo, RG3 and Eli love to sling the rock against soft, greedy pass defenses.
Every squad is flawed and still working out kinks. Sunday night’s results have officially made the NFC East Beirut in the 80s.
Astute football heads know that Dungy’s logical prediction would be too obvious an outcome for a game that thrives off the unexpected. Currently Philly and Dallas lead a division that craves the high of losing big and keeping everybody close. These teams are a bunch of sheep in a pasture, with nobody truly interested in leading the herd. Dallas owner Jerry Jones has more money than an Iranian Sheik, but can’t buy the cut-n-dry results he craves. Plus, Dallas is rolling into the season’s dog days with a litany of injuries on the defensive end, most notably a hobbled DeMarcus Ware. With the entire division nipping at its heels, Dallas could end up in the bottom half of the division and out of the playoffs at season’s end.
The Saints (7-2) had an NFL-record 40 first downs and a franchise-record 625 total yards against the Cowboys. The Cowboys’ pass defense entered the game already having set an NFL record by allowing four quarterbacks to throw for more than 400 yards this season. New Orleans also pounded out 242 yards rushing, its highest total since 1990. Dallas’ offense was equally inept as the lethal combination of Tony Romo, Jason Whitten and Dez Bryant were rendered non-factors.
One and half games separate the Giants (3-6) and struggling Redskins (3-6) from the top two teams. The way these fools are roller-coaster riding, it’s safe to say that a record of 9-7 or 8-8 will win the division. You can forget a wild card coming out of that traffic jam. There are plenty of head-to-head matchups still to be played within the division and before it’s a wrap, don’t be surprised if each team gets a chance to grope that NFC title belt like a stripper in stilettos, before somebody takes it home.
Looking forward, the Giants are actually playing the best football and have won three straight games after stringing off a horrible six losses to pop off the season. NY has solidified their bend-but don’t-break defense a bit. Jason Tuck and JPP are starting to flex those pass-rushing skills, and the return of running back Andre Brown (career-high 30 carries for 115 yards ) who broke his leg in the preseason, makes their 30th-ranked rushing offense exponentially better. Most importantly Eli Manning‘s destined to have a much better second half because of it.
The Redskins dropped a stinker to Minnesota on Thursday night, but when you have RG3—even at 85 percent—victory is always possible. After a slow start to the season he’s getting some of that old swag back and the Redskins offense is Top 5 in the NFL. If Shanahan can get that 27 th-ranked D together nine wins is not out of the question, and with four more division games left to play, the Redskins literally control their own fate.
The key to enjoying this NFC East mess, is finding beauty in ugliness. The greatest pieces of art work in history have resembled junk to the untrained artistic eye. Rather than loathe the losses, NFC East fans should brace for a division battle for the ages. This band of mediocrity could generate a masterpiece of a playoff run.