The 2020 version of the NFC East is on monitor to be one of many worst divisions in NFL historical past.
The New York Giants and Washington are tied on the prime of the division at 5-7, the 4 groups have a mixed 16-31 document, and the division as an entire has a point-differential of -209. Solely the 2010 NFC West and 2014 NFC South come near that stage of collective ineptitude.
And but, as a result of workings of the NFL’s playoff system, the eventual winner of the NFC East will host a postseason recreation in a bit of over a month’s time.
Do any of the groups have a shot at stringing collectively a mini postseason run, or at the least taking part in the function of playoff spoiler?
New York Giants (5-7)
The Giants are (form of) good! Throw out the document. Throw out the NFC East stigma. Take a look at the workforce’s latest efficiency: the Giants are 5-2 of their final seven video games, and the 2 defeats got here by a mixed three factors.
Three of these 5 wins got here in opposition to NFC East groups and one other in opposition to the equally football-challenged Cincinnati Bengals however head coach Joe Decide has, as they are saying within the enterprise, full buy-in from his workforce. A workforce that is filled with younger, proficient items – the Giants began 13 rookies of their upset win over the Seahawks in Seattle on Sunday.
It’s not too way back that issues may have gone haywire in New York. Decide fired the workforce’s offensive line coach, Marc Colombo, after the 2 received right into a “verbal altercation” after Decide turned extra hands-on with the place group and he introduced in a brand new offensive line guide.
For the reason that melodrama, the Giants’ offensive line has seemed sturdy. Every little thing is constructed across the run recreation and play-action, earlier than issues get a bit of funky on third downs, with the workforce sticking the ball within the quarterback’s palms and asking him to make a play, whether or not together with his legs or arm. It’s an old-school components, however it suits Decide’s rah-rah type and his younger group.
Add that to a gifted, quick protection and you’ve got all of the makings of a facet that may upset an excellent workforce within the playoffs. The win over the Seahawks final weekend ought to function a warning to any playoff workforce: the Giants can run the ball, are sprightly on protection, and when Daniel Jones returns from damage, they are going to have a wildcard on third downs: even he appears uncertain what he’s going to do earlier than he does it.
Possibilities of successful a playoff recreation: If Jones performs mistake free and the protection continues to carry up, they’re able to springing a shock.
Washington Soccer Staff (5-7)
The Soccer Staff are (form of) good, too! Since Ron Rivera moved on from Dwayne Haskins and put Alex Smith in as beginning quarterback, Washington have been downright frisky. Rivera’s workforce rolled the Bengals and Dallas Cowboys in back-to-back weeks earlier than upsetting the undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday afternoon.
Just like the Giants, the components is straightforward: management the ball on offense (utilizing the quick passing recreation as an extension of the run-game), hope that yards-after-the-catch from the workforce’s playmakers could make up for an absence of a downfield passing assault, and wager on the protection to create turnovers.
Down-to-down, Washington’s protection is a matter. It’s common in opposition to the run (14th in adjusted line yards – how far the group is knocked off the ball) and poor at pressuring opposing quarterbacks (26th in adjusted sack fee), an oddity for a gaggle with as a lot particular person expertise in its front-seven as anybody within the league.
Nonetheless: issues have began to take form. The protection has pressured 5 turnovers previously three video games after struggling to generate takeaways within the previous 5 weeks. If Washington make the playoffs – the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks stay on the schedule – any hope of progressing will come right down to the front-seven persevering with their latest type.
Possibilities of successful a playoff recreation: If the front-seven retains up their latest three-week stretch – and given the expertise, they need to – they’re one of many few teams within the league that may fully dominate a playoff recreation. It’s match-up dependent … however the Bucs must be apprehensive.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1)
There’s a slim likelihood the Eagles make the playoffs. However of their remaining 4 video games, all are at the least winnable: the New Orleans Saints quarterbacked by Taysom Hill, the Arizona Cardinals, the Cowboys and Washington. A 7-8-1 document is fanciful however not unimaginable.
Successful these video games will come right down to what sort of affect Jalen Hurts could make now that he has been named the beginning quarterback. Hurts introduced a jolt of power to the Eagles’ languid offense in Inexperienced Bay on Sunday – the form of affect that asks why Doug Pederson endured with a shell-of-himself Carson Wentz for therefore lengthy.
Hurts has some obtrusive deficiencies. He’s not a rhythm-based thrower, and he will be sloppy on intermediate passing progressions, the sort that often defines whether or not a quarterback is sweet sufficient to play on the pro-level. However he’s additionally a spark plug, the form of cell quarterback that makes stuff occur on essential downs, be it shifting to throw or taking off together with his legs.
Most of Hurts’ finest works comes outdoors of the development of the offense. And given what a multitude Pederson’s offense has been this season, that’s simply what the Eagles want.
Possibilities of successful a playoff recreation: Hurts must steer the workforce unbeaten via the remainder of the common season after which choose aside a playoff-caliber protection. That’s an enormous ask for any quarterback; it’s a near-impossible job for a rookie.
Dallas Cowboys (3-9)
Season one underneath Mike McCarthy has been a classic year-from-hell. The workforce’s star quarterback knocked out by a grotesque damage; leaks from gamers criticizing the brand new employees; embarrassing losses. The Prescott damage will probably forestall McCarthy from being a one-and-done coach (and, regardless of his status, Jerry Jones shouldn’t be a quick-trigger proprietor), however it most likely shouldn’t.
Of all of the disappointing points of the Cowboys season, the worst is that this: the elements of the workforce which are imagined to shine – or on the very least be competent – have been a number of the worst.
Ezekiel Elliott has a $10.9m cap hit this season. For a operating again to soak up that a lot of the cap within the fashionable recreation, they have to be undisputedly one of many 5 finest offensive weapons within the league – serving as a prime runner, receiver, and third-down pass-blocker. Elliott has been common: 30th in DVOA, 14th in run-down success fee, and 31st amongst operating backs as a pass-catcher.
It’s the identical on protection. The once-promising, future best-in-the-league, linebacker duo of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, are actually unrecognizable. They’ve change into symptomatic of the problems which have plagued the workforce. As an entire, the Cowboys protection is an ill-disciplined, unimaginative unit missing in expertise and energy. Fundamental, elementary elements of the sport – lining up in the precise spot, attacking the run match, taking part in inside the design of the protection – have vanished.
The one manner Dallas can compete as presently constructed is to have a gifted quarterback unfold the ball round to playmakers to be able to outscore the workforce’s defensive frailties. And with out Prescott, that’s not going to occur.
Possibilities of successful a playoff recreation: No likelihood, and the coaches and gamers are teaching and taking part in like they comprehend it.