NFC East: Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, Commanders fight for playoff berths

Comment

The Philadelphia Eagles lowered their magic number to clinch the NFC’s top spot and a first-round bye to one with a win at Chicago, but the victory came at a cost. Quarterback Jalen Hurts sprained his right shoulder in the third quarter, and while Eagles Coach Nick Sirianni doesn’t expect the injury will sideline the MVP front-runner long termhis status for Saturday’s game at Dallas is in doubt.

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys clinched a playoff spot Sunday, but it was hardly worth celebrating. One week after needing a late touchdown to avoid a loss at home to the league-worst Houston Texans, Dallas blew a 17-point second-half lead in a 40-34 overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. And in a prime-time showdown featuring the largest playoff probability swing of any game this year, the New York Giants defeated the Washington Commanders at FedEx Field.

All four NFC East teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today. Luckily for Hurts and the Eagles, it doesn’t. Here’s a look at where things stand with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

What to know from NFL Week 15: Trevor Lawrence arrives, and Bill Belichick is faltering

Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)

Hurts made up for his two first-half interceptions with 17 carries for 61 yards and three rushing touchdowns. AJ Brown (nine catches for 181 yards) and DeVonta Smith (five catches for 126 yards) both had huge games, as Hurts didn’t miss a snap after his shoulder injury and still managed to throw for 315 yards. Gardner Minshew will start at quarterback if Hurts can’t play Saturday.

Haason Reddick, Jason Hargrave and Josh Sweat had two sacks apiece, as the Eagles limited Chicago to 4.3 yards per play. Assuming Hurts is close to 100 percent by the time the playoffs begin, Philadelphia looks like the team to beat the NFC, but the San Francisco 49ers could present a serious challenge.

Remaining schedule (records in parentheses): at Dallas (10-4), vs. New Orleans (5-9), vs. NY Giants (8-5-1)

Playoff outlook: The Eagles can clinch a first-round bye with a win or a Cowboys loss over the final three weeks of the regular season.

Prescott threw two interceptions Sunday, including one in overtime that bounced off wide receiver Noah Brown’s hands and was returned for the game-winning touchdown. He’s thrown seven interceptions over his last four games and 11 this season, which is two shy of his career high set in 2017.

The Cowboys, who took a 27-10 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the third quarter, sacked Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence only once and allowed Jacksonville to convert eight of its 12 third downs. Jaguars running back Travis Etienne rushed for 103 yards and wide receiver Zay Jones scored three touchdowns.

Remaining schedule: vs. Philadelphia (13-1), at Tennessee (7-7), at Washington (7-6-1)

Playoff outlook: The Cowboys will most likely finish as the fifth seed, which would mean a first-round matchup with the NFC South champion. Entering Week 16, that’s the Tom Brady-led, sub-.500 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who at 6-8 are a game up on the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons.

The Giants shook off a rout by the Eagles last week to pull off a gutsy prime time win behind a steady performance by quarterback Daniel Jones and a defense that forced two key turnovers. Rookie edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux had a game-high 12 tackles, including three for a loss. He gave the Giants the lead for good in the second quarter by forcing a fumble on a sack of Taylor Heinicke and returning it for a touchdown.

Jones was 21 of 32 for 160 yards. Saquon Barkley had his best game in weeks, with 18 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown. Despite being limited offensively — Richie James and Isaiah Hodgins led the team with 42 and 37 receiving yards, respectively, against Washington — first-year Coach Brian Daboll has the Giants closing in on their first playoff berth since 2016.

Remaining schedule: at Minnesota (11-3), vs. Indianapolis (4-9-1), at Philadelphia (13-1)

Playoff outlook: The Giants’ playoff chances increased to roughly 90 percent after Sunday night’s win. New York can clinch a playoff spot as early as Saturday with a win over the Minnesota Vikings and any combination of two losses by the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and Commanders.

Hail or Fail: Officiating didn’t help, but Commanders beat themselves

Washington Commanders (7-6-1)

Washington wasted a golden opportunity to increase its odds of clinching a playoff berth for the second time in three years. Heinicke struggled, particularly in the first half. He was under pressure throughout the game and lost his second fumble in the red zone with Washington driving for the potential go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. The Commanders were 1 of 10 on third down and scored on only one of their three red zone trips.

Rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. was effective, finishing with 89 yards, but he had only four carries after halftime. Ron Rivera said Heinicke will start against the 49ers on Saturday, but acknowledged that making a move to Carson Wentz is something he will “have to think about at some point.”

Remaining schedule: at San Francisco (10-4), vs. Cleveland (6-8), Dallas (10-4)

Playoff outlook: Washington is clinging to the NFC’s seventh and final playoff spot and still controls its own destiny. The Commanders will have a roughly 80 percent chance to make the playoffs if they go 2-1 over their final games. If they go 1-2, they’ll need some serious help.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *