It’s been obvious since September that the NFC East was going to be bad this year. It’s been obvious since a few weeks into the season that this was going to be an all-time bad division. But it took until today’s games, Week 16 of the NFL season, for me to realize what was really obvious: Someone is actually going to win this division and host a playoff game.
Incredibly, 75 percent of the division is still alive. The Cowboys, the Giants, and Washington could all still win the NFC East. Only the Eagles, who lost to the Cowboys today, are eliminated. Today’s loss actually puts the Eagles in position for a top-five pick. If they’d won today, the Eagles would’ve been playing for the division title next week!
Here’s how it shakes out with one week to go: The Giants host the Cowboys next week; Washington plays on the road against the Eagles. WASTEAM, currently 6-9, are in the best position. If they win next week, they take the division and likely host the top wild card team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the first round of the playoffs. If Washington loses next week, then the winner of Cowboys-Giants gets the No. 4 seed in the NFC. So if Washington or Dallas takes the division, they’ll do it with only seven wins.
Here’s what led to this nightmare today: In an early game, the Giants got rocked by the Ravens so badly the headline on ESPN’s game recap was “New York Giants’ blowout loss to Ravens a big reality check.” Jordan Raanan wrote that the game was “an eye-opener to just how far the Giants (5-10) are from being a real playoff contender.” And yet the Giants are still one win away—against a losing team—from reaching the actual playoffs! In the 27-13 Baltimore win, Giants QB Daniel Jones did throw his first touchdown pass since November 8—something to build on for the playoff push.
Washington also lost today, 20-13, to a Carolina Panthers team that came into the game 4-10. With Alex Smith still injured, WASTEAM turned back to 2019 first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins—who, after last week’s loss to the Seahawks, was out partying maskless.
He looked better in the party photos from last week. Haskins completed half his passes and turned it over three times before being benched for Taylor Heinicke—who you undoubtedly remember from his stint earlier this year as the backup QB for the XFL’s St. Louis BattleHawks. He did not attempt a pass before the league folded, but he did throw a late TD today to make things look a little more respectable in Washington.
Not that the quarterback spot was the only problem for Washington. Carolina grabbed an early lead after Steven Sims muffed a punt and the Panthers’ Brandon Zylstra recovered in the end zone. After biffing the extra point, the Panthers scored touchdowns on their next two possessions to pretty much put the game away by halftime, even though they didn’t score again.
Then there was the Eagles-Cowboys game. The Eagles, typical of their 2020 season, at times looked absolutely incredible and also like the worst team in football history. Philly was up 14-3 early after a long touchdown drive to open the game and an 81-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson. That was the only time Jalen Hurts targeted Jackson all game, and he led the team in receiving yards. Hurts threw two interceptions and lost a fumble, though he did appear to have both knees down on that one.
Meanwhile, Andy Dalton threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns as the Cowboys eventually pulled away from the Eagles in a 37-17 win. Per Pro Football Reference, Dalton now has as many 350-yard, three-touchdown games as Johnny Unitas. Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb each had two scores (one of Lamb’s was on the ground). Also, this weird thing happened on the broadcast when Lamb scored his second touchdown of the game. The situation is so dire that reality, or maybe just the broadcasters showing it, have started to glitch.
So four teams in the worst division in football have all made it to Week 16 of this season, and somehow three of them are still alive for the playoffs. No matter who grabs the division next week, we all lose.