Week 10 brought no more clarity for the jumble that is the NFC East playoff race. The Cowboys were dismantled on Sunday Night Football compliments of the New Orleans Saints, while the Skins fell a few nights earlier by the lowly Minnesota Vikings.
On the other side, the New York Giants reeled off a third straight win with an outstanding defensive effort against the Oakland Raiders, while the Eagles -- behind Nick Foles -- won their second in a row against a Green Bay Packers squad without Aaron Rodgers.
This week, Dallas is on a bye, while Washington and Philly square off in a pivotal divisional showdown. A loss for either squad could perhaps end their hopes of winning the NFC East.
One of the reasons the Cowboys were unable to go toe-to-toe with the high-flying Saints Sunday night was the fact that Dez Bryant was MIA. The Cowboys' best offensive player, Bryant was targeted just two times in the loss.
Whether it's getting Bryant in motion before the snap, trying out different formations or lining him up in the slot, Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan need to find a way to get Bryant more targets, especially since defenses are going to consistently game-plan to double to Pro Bowler.
The loss dropped Dallas to 5-5, and one person who didn't expect such a mediocre club was owner Jerry Jones. Who is the scapegoat? Well, perhaps Monte Kiffin, who was hired to replace Rob Ryan who helped resurrect a game plan to stifle the Cowboys offense.
"We thought it was best for us to go in the direction we are, and it doesn’t look good right now," Jones said. "Hopefully we can make it look good, but I have all the feelings you have any time you look back at a decision, and I realize when some of them work you have to have a few things go along with it."
Even though Foles threw for seven touchdown passes two weeks ago, he wasn't even guaranteed the start last Sunday against the Packers. Foles did of course get the nod and ran away with it, helping Philly to a second straight win. And now it appears the second-year quarterback has locked up the job for the remainder of the year.
According to reports, Kelly named Foles the Eagles' starting signal-caller for the rest of the season. Foles has engineered the Eagles to 16 touchdowns and two wins in the past two weeks, so why make a change, Kelly explained.
One nuance to the Eagles offense and special teams unit is former New York Jets and Buffalo Bills jack-of-all-trades Brad Smith. Smith was signed by the Eagles earlier this week and can contribute in numerous areas on the field. Smith could help fill the void left by Demaris Johnson on offense and perhaps provide a boost of the Eagles' kick return unit, which ranks 23rd in the NFL.
The Redskins fell back down to Earth with a loss to Minnesota Thursday night, setting up a critical showdown with the Eagles in Week 11 which could have the playoffs on the line.
Obviously, the Redskins reeled off seven straight wins a year ago to finish 10-6 and win the division. But will the winner of the NFC East even finish with 10 wins? And are the 2013 'Skins capable of a seven-game win streak?
In order to rally, Washington would need Robert Griffin III at full strength, a capable defense and have the element of surprise, and at no point this year has all of those elements been in effect at the same time.
One lingering question is whether RGIII is healthy, in the midst of a sophomore slump, or is it a product of Kyle Shanahan's play-calling that has led to the quarterback's struggles? Defensively, as we saw against Minnesota, the defense has failed to prove it can play a high level for four quarters. They allowed Matt Cassel to lead the Vikings to a second-half rally last Thursday.
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