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The Sideline Observer

Sports and Culture Commentary

Dumpster Fire: NFC East

Heading into the 2018 season, there was a lot of optimism across the NFC East. The Giants drafted freak athlete Saquon Barkley who many said was one of the best running back prospects ever. They signed LT Nate Solder and drafted G Will Hernandez to beef up their abysmal offensive line, and got their star WR Odell Beckham Jr. back from injury. After all these moves, many saw the Giants as a dark horse NFC team.

The Cowboys still had Ezekiel Elliott, and an offensive line that alone could give any franchise hope. The Redskins brought in veteran QB Alex Smith, burner Paul Richardson, rookie Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson (after Guice went down with a season-ending injury) and built an Alabama wall up front with first-round picks Da’Ron Payne and Jonathan Allen.

And the Eagles, well, won the Super Bowl last year.

But the first five weeks of the season have been disastrous for the NFC East. Not one team boasts a winning record, and the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have failed to take over this division with a slow 2-3 start. So what do we make of this division? Let us see where every team stands at this point in the season.

Washington Redskins (2-2)

On Monday night, the Redskins had a glorious opportunity. They had a chance to prove they were a different Redskins team that belonged among the NFL elites, and take an early two-game lead in the division. Having two weeks to prepare, I expected them to come out ready to play, to be disciplined, and to compete with the talented Saints.

What ensued was a classic, embarrassing Redskins Monday night loss.

Put this 43-19 loss to the Saints up there with the 59-28 “Monday Night Massacre” loss to the Eagles back in 2010 as one of the most pathetic performances in team history. Washington was undisciplined, uninterested, and out-coached. It was the type of loss that makes you forget you it was only one game.

However, the entire Redskins organization and their fans need to turn the page from Monday night and realize the season is not over. They are still in first place in this weak division. Even after the horrific performance Monday night, the Redskins defense still ranks fifth in total defense, and tenth in points per game allowed.

The offense is a different story. The offense has been very hit or miss, relying heavily on the run game while Alex Smith struggles to move the ball through the air. If the Redskins are too be taken seriously as playoff contenders, the offense needs to find a rhythm. A way to jumpstart this offense is to target Jordan Reed more. He is easily the Redskins most talented weapon, yet only had one catch for 21 yards on Monday night. For the sake of their offense, Reed needs to be more involved.

The Redskins season is still very much alive despite how they looked Monday night. While they shouldn’t be favored in this division, it’s not crazy to think that they could win it; especially when you consider that nine or ten wins could be enough to win the division.

Dallas Cowboys (2-3)

The Cowboys are a tough team to judge through five weeks. They currently sit at 2-3 despite only playing one team that has a winning record. Yet the Cowboys running game and much-improved defense gives them the formula to win any game they play.

Dak and the Cowboys have struggled throwing the football this year as a result of the lackluster weapons they have on the outside and Dak’s inability to push the ball down the field. It’s looking more and more like Dak Prescott’s sensational rookie year was a fluke, but it doesn’t help that he has absolutely no one to throw the ball to. Despite Ezekiel Elliott leading the league in rushing, the Cowboys rank 30th in points per game.

The Cowboys currently boast a top 10 defense. A huge improvement than where they have been the past few years. With Jacksonville coming into town, the Cowboys desperately need a win, especially because falling to 2-4 would make Jason Garrett’s scorching hot seat that much hotter.

Philadelphia Eagles (2-3)

Let me make this clear; the Eagles are and should be the favorites to win this division. They are the defending Super Bowl champions, and this is their division until another team proves they are good enough to take it from them. To say the Eagles have problems would be a massive understatement. The only thing separating them from being 0-5 is two late goal-line stands by their defense.

The differences between the 2017 and 2018 Eagles have been night and day so far. It’s too soon to call it a Super Bowl hangover, but this could be the start to one. After the Super Bowl, RT Lane Johnson said he’d “much rather have fun and win a Super Bowl than be miserable and win five Super Bowls,” and we could be seeing the result of that.

Since returning from his ACL injury in week three, Carson Wentz has failed to return to his MVP form. As a result, the Eagles offense has struggled, ranking 20th in total offense and 25th in points per game. The Eagles have also looked out of sync on both sides of the ball. Just last week we saw DT Fletcher Cox and CB Jalen Mills get into a shoving match on the field.

The Eagles will turn their season around; they’re too talented not to. However, with RB Jay Ajayi heading to IR, and a daunting next few opponents with the Panthers, Jaguars, and Saints in three of the next five weeks, the Eagles need to stop sleepwalking and figure it out fast.

New York Giants (1-4)

The once hyped up season for the Giants is on the brink, sitting at 1-4 with the Eagles coming into town on Thursday night. If they don’t win, the Giants season could very much be over. Win this game and they are 2-4, sharing the same record as the Eagles and putting themselves right back in the thick of the NFC East race.

Last week was chaotic for the Giants; Odell Beckham called out everyone in the organization from Eli Manning to head coach Pat Schumer. Then, the Giants got their hearts ripped out by former Redskins “great”: Graham Gano.

This week has been different, as they have already improved their roster by cutting bust lineman Ereck Flowers. This was definitely the right call, as Flowers served as a human-turnstile on the New York offensive line.

This season, the Giants have learned that it isn’t a great idea to put an immobile QB behind an abysmal offensive line. At times this season, the ultra-talented, ultra-flashy offense has been hard to watch. In fact, I’ve seen more highlights of Giants receivers dancing pregame than in the endzone. The Giants really need to thank the Browns from distracting the public from the fact that they are 4-17 the last two seasons.

For the Giants, it’s pretty simple: win Thursday night and remain somewhat relevant, or lose and kiss their season goodbye.

Overall, there’s a lot of questions to still be answered in the NFC East, but for now let’s just hope the play of these four teams becomes a little less embarrassing.

-Sean

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