Cowboys lone winner in NFC East, but Giants, Commanders still in playoff field – Trending News

Cowboys lone winner in NFC East, but Giants, Commanders still in playoff field

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The NFC East still has a chance to get all four teams into the playoffs. But after a bit of a setback on Saturday, there’s still a bit of work to do.

Most of that will fall on the Washington Commanders, who lost 37-20 in San Francisco, blowing a chance to put some distance between them and their two closest competitors for the last NFC wild-card spot. The Giants blew their chance to clinch, too, with a 27-24 loss in Minnesota, though they will have a great chance to clinch at home next week 

As it was entering Week 16, two teams are in with two teams possibly to go. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles were unable to lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC when they lost 40-34 to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. And while the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will still almost certainly run through Philadelphia, they’ll have to play their starters another week before they can rest up for their postseason run.

Here’s a look at the wild day of action in the best division in football:

Philadephia Eagles (13-2)

Saturday result: Lost to the Cowboys in Dallas, 40-34

What happened: Minshew Mania was exactly as exciting as the Eagles remembered — at least at first. With Jalen Hurts out with an injured shoulder, Gardner Minshew completed 24 of 40 passes for 355 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He even threw a touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith that put Philly up 34-27 with 10 minutes to play.

But he was picked off by Cowboys CB DaRon Bland with 4:19 left in the game, leading to a Brett Maher field goal that gave the Cowboys the lead. RB Miles Sanders fumbled on the first play of the next drive, leading to another Maher field goal. The Eagles, in fact, turned the ball over on three of their final five drives.

“We’ll correct our mistakes — and we made plenty of them,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “That’s what I love about this team. We learn from our mistakes.”

Actually, they almost overcame them on Saturday. Minshew had one last bit of magic in him, getting the Eagles all the way to the Dallas 19 with 33 seconds remaining. But his final three passes fell incomplete.

Where they stand: The Eagles are still two games ahead of the Vikings (including the tie-breaker) and Cowboys in the race for the top seed. With one win or one loss by Dallas, Philly clinches the NFC East, and with another win, or losses by both Dallas and Minnesota, it clinches the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye.

What’s next: The good news for the Eagles is they finish the season with two home games, against the New Orleans Saints (6-9) and the Giants (8-6-1). The bad news is they can’t rest their starters, including Hurts, just yet. According to FoxSports’ Jay Glazer, the Eagles planned to rest Hurts next week if they had won on Saturday. Instead, they’ll likely play him so they can sew up home-field advantage.

Dallas Cowboys (11-4)

Saturday result: Defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Dallas, 40-34

What happened: The Cowboys’ defense just could not stop Minshew and ended up getting shredded for 442 total yards. But they did come up with two huge turnovers in the final five minutes — the interception by Bland and a forced fumble recovered by LB Anthony Barr. They turned both turnovers into two field goals, which broke a 34-34 tie and gave them the win.

Dak Prescott was outstanding, completing 27 of 35 passes for 347 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He did most of his damage with his No. 1 receiver, CeeDee Lamb, who had 10 catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys’ ground game was surprisingly ineffective against a vulnerable Eagles run defense, however. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — arguably the best 1-2 running back punch in football — combined for only 74 yards on 25 carries.

This may not be the last time these two teams play. If chalk holds, they are currently on track for a third meeting in the NFC divisional round.

“I think both teams probably hope we see each other again,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “Because we know what that means.”

Where they stand: The Cowboys still have an outside shot at the NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the NFC, but it would require the Eagles to lose their last two games as the Cowboys win out and the Vikings lose at least once. It’s still much more likely the Cowboys are going to make the playoffs as a wild card. They cannot be lower than the fifth seed, which means a first-round trip to play the winner of the NFC South — an opponent almost certain to finish the regular season with a losing record.

What’s next: The Cowboys are on the road for the next two games, both against teams that are in desperation mode down the stretch. They first have a quick turnaround for a Thursday night game in Tennessee against the Titans (7-8), who are tied for the lead in the AFC South. They then finish the season in Washington against the Commanders (7-7-1) who are barely clinging to the NFC’s last wild-card spot.

New York Giants (8-6-1)

Saturday result: Lost to the Vikings in Minnesota, 27-24

What happened: Despite a huge game from QB Daniel Jones (30 of 42, 334 yards), the Giants were undone by some uncharacteristic fourth-quarter mistakes and an amazing, 61-yard field goal by Vikings kicker Greg Joseph as time expired.

The Giants gave themselves every opportunity to win this game, but they unraveled after taking a 13-10 lead into the fourth quarter. Jones threw an interception early in the final frame. WR Richie James had an awful, third-down drop one drive later. New York even had a punt blocked that set up a 17-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Justin Jefferson, putting the Vikings up 24-18 with three minutes to play.

“You’ve got to be able to make the big play at the critical point in the game,” Jones said. “And we didn’t do that today.”

Still, Jones rallied the Giants, and quickly led them down field to set up a 17-yard Saquon Barkley touchdown run, and he hit TE Daniel Bellinger in the back of the end zone for a game-tying two-point conversion with 2:01 left. But their defense got caught in a blitz that allowed Cousins to hit Jefferson with a 17-yard gain to the Giants’ 42, setting up Joseph’s dramatic kick.

Where they stand: The good news for the Giants is they still stand on the brink of that long-awaited playoff berth, because they got all the help they needed. The Lions (7-8) lost in Carolina 37-23, and the Seahawks (7-8) lost in Kansas City 24-10. So the Giants still hold the sixth seed in the NFC and they have a 1.5-game cushion with two games left to play.

What’s next: The Giants return home to face the Indianapolis Colts (4-9-1), who have lost seven of eight, including that historic collapse against the Vikings last weekend. The Giants will clinch a playoff berth with a win. And if they can’t do it next Sunday, they’ll finish the season in Philadelphia against an Eagles team that will probably be resting everybody important.

Washington Commanders (7-7-1)

Saturday result: Lost to the 49ers in San Francisco, 37-20

What happened: This game was a total meltdown for their defense, but that won’t be the headline. The headline will be how Ron Rivera benched starting QB Taylor Heinicke for Carson Wentz for the final 10 minutes of the game.

Wentz wasn’t bad. He completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel with 5:25 remaining to pull the Commanders within 10. But overall, he was only marginally better than Heinicke, who was 13 of 18 for 166 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Heinicke’s final two drives in the fourth quarter ended with a fumble and an interception, and the 49ers scored field goals off both of them. Rivera had already clearly been tiring of Heinicke’s high-risk style of play, and at that point he decided he had seen enough.

“I get it,” Heinicke said. “I was pretty banged up there and the last two drives were two turnovers. I get it. And Carson did a good job.”

So, who will be Washington’s starting QB in its must-win game next Sunday?

“We’re going to evaluate the tape, we’ll talk about those things, and I’ll make a decision next week,” Rivera said. “And I’ll make it early, too, because whoever’s going to start is going to get the chance to work.”

Where they stand: Thanks to those losses by the Lions and the Seahawks, the Commanders were guaranteed to remain in seventh place in the conference and in control of the last wild-card spot no matter what. But their lead is down to a half-game with two to play.

What’s next: Lucky for them, they finish the season with two games at home. They first play a Cleveland Browns team that is 6-9 and has scored a total of 33 points in its last three games. They wrap up the season against the Cowboys, who could be in position to rest all of their starters.

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Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.


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