NFC East Notebook, Nov. 8: Vikings down Redskins on TNF

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

News and notes from Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington

Will this be the week the NFC East gets more jumbled, or will the Cowboys maybe separate a bit from the pack? Already Washington fell to the Vikings, meaning with a win over the Oakland Raiders the New York Giants could tie the 'Skins for third place.

The Cowboys will play in prime time against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in what has the makings of a shootout. Dallas has won three of its last four contests, but it's not easy task traveling to the Superdome, especially for a nighttime game. The Eagles face a Packers squad without Aaron Rodgers, but will have some players returning on the defensive side. The questions Philly fans are asking is which Nick Foles is going to show up this week?

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas defense will likely see its leader back on Sunday against the Saints, as DeMarcus Ware is expected to return. Saints quarterback Drew Brees called Ware "a stud" -- someone that needs to be identified on each and every play. And Ware had similar praise for his counterpart.

Ware has missed three straight games since being injured Oct. 13 against Washington. He's listed as questionable for Sunday Night Football.

Ware's defensive teammate, Jason Hatchermissed his second day of practice Thursday, though the tackle said he's getting better. He, too, is questionable for the game.

Having both Ware and Hatcher will be a much-needed bonus for the Boys' defense, which has allowed 400 yards passing four times already this season. But actually, according to the team's EPA (expected points added), Dallas is 16th in the league, 10 spots better than the team was ranked in 2012 under former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who will engineer the Saints' defense Sunday.

Wide receiver Dez Bryant returned to practice but only a limited basis. Bryant is expected to play through his back issue, but there are reports the injury is more serious than we've been let on to believe. According to the report, Bryant may have a disc issue and the "measures being taken to treat the ailment go far beyond" precautionary.

The Eagles won't have to face Aaron Rodgers come Sunday, but the Green Bay Packers will return one superstar. Linebacker Clay Matthews is reportedly on track to return to the field for the first time in a month.

Prior to injuring his hand, Matthews had tallied three sacks, three tackles and two forced fumbles. He'll look to wreak havoc on Nick Foles and the suddenly surging Eagles offense.

Health-wise, the Eagles expect defensive end Cedric Thornton (knee) to suit up Sunday after practicing on Thursday. Michael Vick and cornerback Bradley Fletcher practiced, too, but on a limited basis.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins lost a heartbreaker on Thursday Night Football, falling to 3-6 on the season. Washington allowed the Minnesota Vikings and the combination of Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel to score 20 unanswered points in the second half. Ponder was forced from the game at the start of the fourth quarter, but Cassel -- not Josh Freeman -- stepped in and pioneered the Vikes on two scoring drives.

So the 'Skins allowed the Vikings to win just their first game on American soil this season. At 3-6, the question is whether the team is able to finish the strong as last season to repeat at NFC East champions. My two factors are the following: 1) Do the 'Skins have to win 10 games to even win the division? and 2) Is this team as good as the one from a season ago?

Follow Sam on Twitter @SamSpiegs

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