CALL THE CIRCUS: It’s The NFC “LEAST”
Source: AP Photo/Derik Hamilton
For only the 3rd time in NFL history, a team won a division title without a winning record. This being the most out of the ordinary season ever, the Washington Football Team won the division with a record of 7-9 and the division was almost won by a New York Football Giants team that went 6-10. The team that probably should have won based on the fact they were the only team that had any capabilities of being anywhere respectable, the Dallas Cowboys also finished at 6-10, while defending NFC East Champions the Philadelphia Eagles ended with a record of 4-11-1.
Words such as terrible, horrible, awful, pathetic or trash is still not good enough to describe what was just plain flat out bad football between 4 franchises that have had winning traditions in the past and have a combined 13 Super Bowl titles between them.
Having only 1 of the 4 teams make the playoffs via winning the division with no chance for any other one to make it as a Wild Card team is nothing new; there have been plenty of times in recent years where one team gets in with a record around 10-6 or 9-7 with the 2nd place team finishing just below them once eliminated by that eventual division champion in Week 17. But this year, not only was there no team with a winning record, it seemed from week to week all season long that nobody wanted to win the division despite several opportunities.
How bad was this circus? Consider with these win-lost records how many of the wins these teams had were against each other, with very little wins against teams outside of the division. All season long the 1st place team had a win total with no business making the playoffs, and it ended very fittingly like the way it started.
Heading into Week 17, 3 of the 4 teams were still alive. The Philadelphia Eagles were the only team mathematically eliminated, after getting trounced the week before in a “loser goes home” at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys by a score of 37-17. The Washington Football Team had a chance to clinch the division with a win, but ended up losing 20-13 to a Carolina Panthers team that finished only 5-11 themselves. As for the New York Football Giants, they lost 27-13 to a team they had no business even competing with, the Baltimore Ravens.
This would set the stage to a wild but very embarrassing Week 17 in this division and it was only fitting that something like this would happen.
The Cowboys and Giants would play in Dallas at 1PM with both teams needing to win and hoping for a Washington loss when they played in Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. Meaning that the Dallas-New York winner would stay alive and the other gets eliminated. New York won a close, low-scoring classic NFC East division battle 23-19.
This eliminated the Cowboys and now the Giants are hoping for a Washington loss to make it in and win the NFC East with a 6-10 record. Washington was 6-9, but lost both games to the Giants head to head giving New York the tiebreaker should they finish tied.
Due to the stakes of the game, the league decided to schedule this Washington-Philly game Sunday night in prime time, despite the fact there were at least 3 other games to choose from where it had playoff implications for both teams. Was this a mistake? Probably, since the team hosting this game did not seem to care what stakes were on the line.
First of all, Carson Wentz should have been starting this game for the Eagles. A few weeks back after having bad game after bad game including leading the league in sacks, he was lifted for Jalen Hurts who was taken in the 2nd Round – 53rd overall in the 2020 draft. I don’t think he was drafted to potentially take over for Wentz, figured must have been because of how injury-prone Wentz is and to cover themselves that way.
So now that the season is over being eliminated the week before, you would think they would put Wentz back in for this game given the fact they have invested so much in him, but not only did head coach Doug Pederson start Hurts again, he made Wentz a healthy scratch and dressed 3rd stringer Nate Sudfeld instead.
Being down only by 6 points after the 3rd quarter, Pederson pulled Hurts in favor of Sudfeld for no rhyme or reason. Most believe it was an act of “tanking”, as they would go on to lose the game and are now picking 6th overall in the 2021 draft as opposed to 9th had they won. This decision was not only disrespectful, it was embarrassing, despicable, and Pederson made a mockery of the situation.
If your playing in the playoffs the next week and resting starters to avoid injury, fine; if you are in this situation and have guys that were already playing through injuries and are not at 100%, fine; but this is the NFL – you have a responsibility to put the best healthy players you have out on the field – I have no respect whatsoever for Doug Pederson or the Philadelphia Eagles with this classless act.
Yes I was pulling for Washington to win the game and make it in, but that’s besides the point!
As for my Dallas Cowboys, it was an up and down year – losing starting QB Dak Prescott, almost the entire offensive line, starting Tight End, a less than 100% Ezekiel Elliott and various losses and injuries on defense which proved to be one of the worst if not the worst case scenario in the NFL. It was very frustrating to watch given the fact that 4 of their 10 losses were by 1 score, similar to last year when they lost a bunch of close games which made the difference in the season.
I lost all confidence after Week 1 losing to the LA Rams 20-17, when our new experienced former Super Bowl winning head coach Mike McCarthy made a bonehead decision to go for it on 4th down at the Rams 20 halfway through the 4th quarter only down by 3. They then missed the conversion when they easily could have just tied the game at that point.
We thought bad decisions and play calls were behind us when we fired former head coach Jason Garrett after last season, so after Week 1 it felt like the same old thing and it was all downhill from there. Of course, it is fair to note that who knows how this season would have gone for every team in the NFL under normal circumstances and a normal season with full OTA’s and pre-season.
As for 2021, if we can get Dak, the injured offensive linemen back from injury, get a good center for that line either through an acquisition or through the draft and fill a few holes on defense, my Cowboys should be able to win the NFC East again next year – and with a much more respectable record than anyone in the NFC “Least” was able to muster up this year..