Don’t look now, but the New York Giants (4-3) are suddenly second behind the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East.
Thanks to a tie between the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins in London, and a game-winning Dak Prescott-to-Jason Witten TD pass to sink the Philadelphia Eagles in overtime, the Giants find themselves right in the thick of things. They’re tied with the Eagles (who they’ll meet in Week 9) for second, and two games behind the Dallas Cowboys. An Eagles victory over the Cowboys would’ve done more to even out the division race, but the Giants would’ve remained in third place — albeit one game out of first.
Problems abound -- a broken offense, poor blocking, Odell Beckham Jr, Josh Brown -- the Giants have been able to hold on in the NFL’s second-best division. The NFC East’s .620 winning percentage (18-10-1) trails only the AFC West’s .650 (20-11), and it’s the only division in football where every team has a winning record.
Big Blue took a two-game winning streak into their Week 8 bye. As fortune would have it, they covered more ground in the East sitting at home.
Let’s break down the division.
1. Dallas Cowboys (6-1), Next: @ Cleveland Browns
The Cowboys got the job done on Sunday Night Football, albeit in different fashion. Their win against the Eagles was of the comeback variety, marking the first time they’ve been challenged since Week 4.
It was a well-played, hard fought matchup between the top two teams in the NFC East, and after some uncertainty, Dallas proved why they’re the early favorites. They’ve got a perceived ‘gimme’ against the Browns next week. Expect them to hold ground.
2. Philadephia Eagles (4-3), Next: @ New York Giants
If the Cowboys proved they were number one in the division, then the Eagles would be 1a. Though they weren’t able to close the show, Philly jumped out to a commanding lead early and dictated the game to Dallas in a way no one had this season.
They held the Cowboys’ weapons in check for most of the night. But not all night. That Prescott, Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliot were able to get going in the fourth quarter is more a credit to the Cowboys than a knock against Philly. When it was time to win, Dallas’ big guns made plays.
The Giants won’t get to rest on their laurels after a one-week break. They’ll be getting a very good, and highly motivated Eagles team next Sunday, who’re looking to get on the board in the division (0-2). Protecting Eli Manning against the Eagles 3rd-ranked pass rush (23 sacks) is their top priority. Philly eats clock at the highest rate in the NFL (32:24 T.O.P. according to Team Rankings). If Eli doesn’t have time, Big Blue is in for a long day. Literally.
The Giants need to move the ball at a sustained pace in order to give their defense a blow, something they haven’t been good at in 2016. Thus far, it’s been all-or-nothing; quick-hitters downfield or 3-and-out. Whatever adjustments HC Ben McAdoo and staff made over the bye will be tested right out of the gate.
3. Washington Redskins (4-3-1), Next: Bye
The Redskins have been as hot-and-cold as anyone. They started the season with consecutive losses. Then they mounted a comeback against the Giants in Week 3 which started a four-game winning streak. They’ve now limped into their bye with a loss to the Detroit Lions and a tie with the Bengals.
The ties on their record drops them just behind in the Giants and Eagles in percentage points (.571 to .563). They’re very much alive in the race still, but have a lot to think about before returning to host the Minnesota Vikings (5-1) in Week 10.
They had the Bengals game in the bag until placekicker Dustin Hopkins missed a 34-yard field goal in overtime.
A win would’ve sat them directly under Dallas, with some cushion against New York and Philadelphia. Instead, a three-team battle figures to wage on throughout the season.