by Blake Krantz
Believe it or not, the Dallas Cowboys and quarterback Matt Cassel are just one game out of the playoffs after a 19-16 victory over the Washington Redskins during Monday Night Football.
The two teams traded field goals throughout the first half in a game which only serves as further evidence of the fact that the NFC East is the worst division in the NFL. And it’s not even close.
Nonetheless, another NFC East team in the Philadelphia Eagles delivered a convincing win in Foxboro in Gillette Stadium on Sunday in Week 13, a place where teams traditionally suffer demoralizing defeats.
The Eagles defeated the beat-up Patriots team 35-28, although the final score is slightly misleading. After scoring touchdowns on a blocked punt, a 99-yard interception, and an 83-yard punt return, the Eagles were winning 35-14 in Foxboro.
The Patriots initially went up 14-0, before attempting a drop kick that left fans and sports analysts everywhere shaking their heads while questioning Bill Belichick’s decision. The Eagles then went on to score 35 unanswered points, capped off by a touchdown for Jordan Matthews.
New England’s comeback came up short, and the NFC East suddenly has three 5-7 teams tied at the top, in addition to the 4-8 Dallas Cowboys looking for a miraculous playoff birth in a season marred by injuries and poor offensive play.
In Week 14, there are several games between playoff hopefuls and division leaders. Without doubt, Sunday’s games will have a heavy influence on the AFC playoff picture.
The AFC North leading Cincinnati Bengals will host the Pittsburgh Steelers, who, although potentially the hottest team in the NFL, are currently behind Kansas City and New York for a wild card spot.
Although Pittsburgh is playing for its playoff lives and may have more on the line than the Bengals, I see Cincinnati winning at home in a game that is played in the 30s on the scoreboard, solidifying the Bengals as a legitimate contender to finish first in the conference.
In addition, the Oakland Raiders will travel to Denver to face the Broncos. Led by the emergence of quarterback Brock Osweiler, the Broncos have a firm hold on the AFC West, and although the Raiders may not be a threat for the division, Oakland will be playing to keep their wild card hopes alive on Sunday.
At 5-7, the Raiders desperately need a win in this game in order to compete with teams such as Pittsburgh, New York, and Kansas City in the playoff run. Unfortunately for them, Osweiler and the Denver defense seems ready to roll again at home, and Oakland will fall to 5-8 on the year.
On Sunday Night Football, Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots will look to avoid losing three straight, something which they haven’t done since 2002, when they face off with the Houston Texans. Superstar Rob Gronkowski is questionable for New England in this one, and his status on gameday may be a decisive factor.
For the opposing Texans, defensive star J.J. Watt broke his hand in practice earlier this week, although it appears that he will play through the injury. For Houston, the pass rush is a necessity, as Brady’s battered receiving core then has less time to get open and subsequently make plays.
Texans receiver Deandre Hopkins will likely pose a challenge to the Patriots due to his dynamic play-making ability, and I see Hopkins catching the game-winning touchdown as New England falls to 10-3 and remains third in the conference.