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NFC East Notebook: Washington looks for upset, Philly is making moves and Dallas is focused on Dak

Let’s check out the headlines from around the division from this past week

NFL: Washington Football Team at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday night’s game between the Washington Football Team and Philadelphia Eagles feels like a long time ago after what has been an incredibly tumultuous week. What happened in that game will not soon be forgotten though.

A quick recap of the points of interest in the game: Trailing 17-14 at 2:01 in the third quarter, the Eagles elected to go for it on fourth-and-four on the Washington four-yard line instead of kicking what should have been a guaranteed field goal to tie the game.

Then, in the fourth quarter, the Eagles sent in third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld to replace Jalen Hurts. Hurts had not been having a great game, finishing seven of 20 for 72 yards and one interception for a 25.4 rating - by far, the worst single-game stats of his young career.

So, the Eagles sent in Sudfeld with the game largely in reach as they only trailed by three points. Of course, Philly was already eliminated from the playoffs but the decision to send in Sudfeld led many to believe that the Eagles were choosing to throw the game.

By losing the game, Philly solidified the No. 6 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft - as opposed to No. 11 if they had won. The media speculates that if the Eagles plan to draft a quarterback in an attempt to replace Carson Wentz, who had the worst season in his five-year career, picking at No. 6 gives them a better chance to do so.

The decision by the Eagles to not play to win drew outrage from around the league. New York Giants head coach Joe Judge chimed in earlier this week.

The Giants, of course, feel personally targeted because an Eagles win would have led to a playoff berth. For what it’s worth, next season’s matchups between Philly and New York are sure to be entertaining.

But the story of what the Eagles did Sunday night largely dominated what the Washington Football Team managed to accomplish in the 2020 season.

“You play who’s out there,” head coach Ron Rivera said Monday. “I’m not apologizing for winning.”

And he shouldn’t. After winning just three games last season, Washington managed to come back and finish 7-9, and earn their first playoff berth since 2015. After a turbulent offseason in which Washington retired its 87-year-old nickname and faced assault allegations from former female employees of the team, the Football Team appeared poised for a hectic, inconsistent season. But amidst Rivera’s battle with cancer and Alex Smith’s heroic return to the field, Washington managed to pull of a feat few would have expected. The Week 17 game against the Eagles does not take away from that.

Now, let’s dive into the headlines from around the league from this past week.

Washington Football Team

We’ll stick with Washington to start because they remain the only team left standing in the NFC East. The Football Team will take on Tom Brady’s Buccaneers Saturday night at FedExField.

The Bucs’ offensive line will have their work cut out for them as they try to hold off Washington’s defense, which is ranked second in the league overall in yards allowed per game with 304.6. Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Young has already made clear how he feels about facing the six-time Super Bowl champion.

“Tom Brady!” Young shouted while leaving the field after Sunday’s win. “Tom Brady, I’m coming! I want Tom! I want Tom.”

Brady’s reaction?

“Went to Ohio State, so naturally, I think the Ohio State-Michigan thing wears off on him a little bit,” Brady said earlier this week. “I understand that. We’re prepared for a tough challenge. Should be a fun game.”

Both players are performing at the top of their game heading into Saturday’s matchup. Young recorded 15 tackles, four quarterback hits, two sacks, two tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and a touchdown in, four games during the month of December. Brady, meanwhile, boosted his passer rating from 96.2 in Weeks 1-9 to 110 in Weeks 10-17 and has thrown for more passing yards per game in that latter span than he ever has in his career in the second half of a season, according to NFL Research.

Washington is in search of its first playoff win since 2005...when they defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Philadelphia Eagles

Philly wasted no time making coaching changes after a 4-11-1 season that looked farther and farther removed from the 2018 team that won the Super Bowl.

The team will reportedly not be brining back offensive assistant Rich Scangarello for the 2021 season. The Eagles finished the season ranked 27th in offensive points per game and tied for 28th in yards per play.

The Eagles reportedly also will not renew the contract of senior offensive consultant Marty Mornhinweg, who rejoined the team last year.

The Eagles are, however, reportedly interested in hiring an actual offensive coordinator for the upcoming season.

As Jeff McClane notes, defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz announced his leave from the team this past week, too. The move was not entirely surprising as it was reported that Schwartz would let his current contract expire. At 54 years old, he plans to take a year off from coaching to contemplate retirement.

Heading into the 2020 season, the Eagles had allowed the sixth-fewest points per game since Schwartz’s time in Philadelphia began back in 2016.

Lots of open position up for grabs in Philly.

Dallas Cowboys

For the Cowboys, attention immediately shifts in the offseason to reaching a deal with quarterback Dak Prescott.

Stephen Jones said the following Monday on 105.3. The Fan.

“Certainly at the top. Certainly right there at the top in terms of contracts, obviously,” Jones said. “One of the things we’re going to have to see is where we are [with the salary cap] and that will affect everybody. It will affect all 32. It will affect our team. It’s just the consequence the virus has had on our cap situation going forward and where is that salary cap going to be? What kind of cap are we going to manage into? So, all of those things will play a role in terms of players that we keep that are under contract, what potentially we can sign. Obviously, Dak being at the top of that list, and then going from there.”

The complication with the salary cap will making reach a deal more difficult. Because the 2020 season curtailed revenues, the salary cap is expected to decrease. In 2020, an agreement was reached for a floor of $175 million on the salary cap. Over The Cap estimates that number to be $176 million in 2021. Based on that number, the Cowboys would have a salary cap cushion of $21 million. A contract with Prescott would eat up a lot of that money.

But signing Prescott to a franchise tag a second time would cost the Cowboys around $37 million in 2021. The signal-caller signed his franchise tag for $31.4 million for the 2020 season.

The Cowboys are already looking to find consistency on their offense as they have re-signed Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator. Bringing a healthy Prescott back would certainly help Dallas find its footing on the offensive side of the ball after a season in which the Cowboys were 14th overall in yards per game with 371.8 - better than all three of their division rivals. Prescott would only help those numbers, but like last season, these contract negotiations will likely prove to be much easier said than done.