December 23, 2022
The holidays are here and the NFC East is still in place to be the first division ever to send all four teams to the postseason. What a difference two years make. Before the Christmas Eve NFL festivities, let's take stock of the most rabid division in football:
The state of things:
Yet again, all four NFC East squads are in the playoff picture. These would be the NFC playoff matchups if the season ended today (it obviously does not):
No 1. Eagles: first-round bye
No. 7 Commanders at No. 2 Vikings
No. 6 Giants at No. 3 49ers
No. 5 Cowboys at No. 4 Buccaneers
I am dialing up a moneyline bet on whatever team plays Minnesota in the Wild Card round. Tom Brady, improbably, is displaying signs of aging, but it would still be hilarious if that craptastic Tampa Bay team beat Dallas in early January (I'd imagine Dallas would road favorites in that game).
Saturday, 1:00 p.m., Giants (+4) at Vikings
Saturday, 4:05 p.m., Commanders (+6.5) at 49ers
Saturday, 4:25 p.m., Eagles (+4.5) at Cowboys
Minnesota had a wild finish and emotional comeback last weekend, rallying after a 33-0 deficit to beat the Colts. You'd think that they'd ride this momentum in the playoffs. However... haven't we seen the Vikings have an incredible, heartening home win only to fall off a cliff the next week? I'm smelling a letdown performance. The Giants might be able to slop this one up. Vegas doesn't really give Minny respect (rightfully so). They're fraudulent.
Commanders-49ers is a potential playoff matchup. I know San Francisco would smoke them in January and I anticipate the same happening on Saturday.
As for the big game down in Arlington, you'll be shocked to know that I'm picking Gardner Minshew and the Birds to "upset" (Eagles are a much better team regardless of what this line says) to take down Dallas.
• The big one: Can Minshew go on the road and clinch the NFC East for the Birds? Jalen Hurts has had an MVP-worthy season, but this roster is stacked enough and this coaching staff is smart enough to put Minshew in a position to win. Earlier in the week, I discussed how the gameplan could look for a Minshew-led offense. Miles Sanders and Dallas Goedert should be heavily featured, replicating the formula that had Minshew win against the Jets for an injured Hurts in 2021.
Minshew will be looking to channel Jeff Garcia vibes. During the 2006 season, franchise QB Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending injury. Garcia came in, played sound West Coast football and gave the Eagles a 23-7 win over the Cowboys down in Texas on Christmas Day to put them in the path to clinch the NFC East. 16 years later (how has it been 16 years?), Minshew is in a position to do the same and put his mark on what could be a Super season for the Birds.
Minshew has 41 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions in his career. He's more than capable of playing smart, mistake-free football while relying on all the stars around him to grab this W and the NFC East crown.
• Will Daniel Jones be the Giants' starting quarterback come 2023? If Jones leads them to the franchise's first postseason appearance since 2016, I expect him to be back, which I'm sure would thrill Eagles fans everywhere. Jones may ultimately be mediocre, but new head coach Brian Daboll has unlocked some level of competency in him in 2022 for a playoff berth.
A win in Minnesota will do wonders for their postseason odds. As of right now, FiveThirtyEight gives New York an 86 percent chance of making the playoffs. A Week 16 win would put those odds over 99 percent.
1. NYG win + WAS loss + DET loss OR
2. NYG win + WAS loss + SEA loss OR
3. NYG win + DET loss + SEA loss
With Washington having a tough draw against the Niners and Seattle playing the Chiefs in Kansas City, I could see it happening!
• For all the officiant complaints after the Commanders' loss to New York last Sunday night, not enough is being made of that pitiful run to the end zone from Taylor Heinicke on the possible game-tying drive:
How does Heinicke not score here pic.twitter.com/2JfakfiaQZ— Jamual (@LetMualTellit) December 19, 2022
This isn't quite a do-or-die game for the Commanders, but a loss to the Niners drops their playoff odds to 22 percent with a rising team like the Lions ready to pounce and take their postseason spot. Can Heinicke go on the road and beat the best defense in football? I have some severe doubts.
Missing the postseason once more will have Washington continuing their 21st-century QB carousel into 2023. No pressure, Taylor!
• Jason Peters may see time at right tackle for the Cowboys on Saturday, as part of a somewhat strange RT rotation with former All-Pro Tyron Smith. Peters, the Eagles' best offensive tackle of all time and a future Hall of Famer, will be 41 next month and has not been his peak self for years. Here's how old Peters is: he started for the Birds on the road against Dallas in a 2009 Wild Card playoff game. This was the starting offensive line that night:
LG: Todd Herremans
C: Nick Cole
RG: Max Jean-Gilles
RT: Winston Justice
Max Jean-Gilles? Now that's a name I haven't heard in a long, long time.
• 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young will make his season debut for the Commanders against the 49ers. He hasn't played since tearing his ACL in Week 10 last year. That's a boost for sure. Brock Purdy isn't going to be happy to see him lining up across the line of scrimmage!
• Eagles quarterback Ian Book, age 24, will be active Saturday. It'll be the first time he dresses for the team. Book had 72 touchdowns against 20 interceptions in four years at Notre Dame.
• New Cowboys wideout T.Y. Hilton will make his Dallas debut against the Birds. Jerry Jones said, "He should impact us immediately. I expect him to be involved and counted on.” Hilton, at age 34, is a former four-time Pro Bowl receiver, but has not been that player for a while. A past-his-prime skill position player that ol' Jerry is gassing up? How surprising!
Happy holidays and enjoy a rare Saturday edition of RedZone!
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