NFL 2019 Season - Off
 

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Plugged
by Dennis Ranahan

The National Football Conference East Division has a proud and rich history. The defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles reside in the NFC East, and the other three teams in that division, the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Washington Redskins, all have multiple Super Bowl wins.

Today, an argument can be made that the NFC East is the weakest of the eight divisions, and with a victory in Dallas on Sunday the Eagles could take over first place with a 7 and 6 won/loss record.

So, what happened to this once dominate division?

First, the Washington Redskins held first place among the four teams until their quarterback, Alex Smith, was lost for the season with a broken leg a couple weeks ago. In his place, the Redskins turned to veteran backup Colt McCoy, who failed to produce a win on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas and then himself was injured in last Monday night’s loss in Philadelphia.

While McCoy still offered the Redskins a chance, what they have now is the least awful choice of backups that were sitting on their couch a month ago. They selected from a field of five veteran quarterbacks they tired out Mark Sanchez, who proved against the Eagles why he was on his couch a few weeks ago. In the second half, Sanchez guided the Redskins to less total yards than Drew Brees gains on a single drive.

Quarterback injuries is not the only reason the Redskins are dropping like a drone without power. Their entire starting offensive line is now watching from the sidelines and head coach Jay Gruden is left with only a skeleton of the team he had perched atop the NFC East a few weeks ago.

The Eagles cashed the Redskins injuries for a victory that puts them in position to catch the Cowboys in the win/loss column this week while taking over first place based on a better division record.

For much of this season the Cowboys didn’t appear to be a serious challenger in this weak division, but the Oakland Raiders plugged their missing piece, a breakaway wideout. Since unloading the baggage of wide receiver Dez Bryant last spring, the Cowboys offense was grounded by questionable talent on the offensive line and the running of Ezekiel Elliott and the elusive quarterback Dak Prescott.

But, once the Raiders sent Amari Cooper to the Cowboys in a midseason trade, Dallas has an offense that can strike both through the air and on the ground. Their defense is above average, and in this division above average is all you have to be to take first place.

So, the Eagles come to town in position to steal the top spot based on a come-from-behind home win over the last place Giants two weeks ago, and a gift from the injured Redskins last Monday.

You like their chances?

I don’t.

Not only is Dallas the better team, at home, but they are also in a much more likely season-to-season flow pattern to succeed.

The Eagles won their first ever Super Bowl last year, no team has bounced off that fact historically with another good year. Most often, teams in this slot miss the playoffs while hoping to defend their title.

The Cowboys had the best record in the NFC two years ago, a breakout season for a team that was only 4-12 in 2015. Last year, they struggled and missed the playoffs, a likely outcome for a team on the other side of a breakout campaign.

This season, based on this chart, the Cowboys stood to have a very good year and win this division. It looked rather iffy for the first half of the season with the Redskins soaring and the Cowboys owning a losing record of 3-4 before acquiring Cooper.

Now, the Cowboys ride into this showdown in Texas with a four game winning streak and a chance to solidify their hold on first place with a win over the Eagles. The entire season has pointed to a victory for the Cowboys here, and they are not going to miss this opportunity.

Qoxhi Picks: Dallas Cowboys (-3½) over Philadelphia Eagles