Dallas 24 - New Orleans 17
That is why they play the games and don't listen to all of the talking heads on TV and the sports talk show host on the radio or actually read a online blogs from an idiot user on CBS. Because no one, including me, gave Dallas a chance to beat the Saints on Saturday Night. And then they did it.
Was it a must-win game for Dallas? No, but it was pretty close in my opinion knowing their playoff tiebreakers. The Cowboys were swept by the Giants this season, meaning if they finished tied with the G-Men, they're playing golf in January while the Giants travel on the road for a Divisional Playoff game. It is even more likely now that the Eagles-Cowboys Week 17 game will not only decide the NFC East, but the playoff fate for Dallas and the New York Football Giants.
And speaking of those Giants, did you see that beatdown they put on the Redskins last night? Sure the Redskins looked lost and Jim Zorn probably lost his job last night if he hadn't already secured a pink slip, but that was the Giants team that I remember from years past and earlier this September. I wrote in my breakdown last Saturday that Eli wasn't playing all that well, and I was very wrong. User TuckYou correctly pointed out that Eli is having one of his best statistical season, which he is. But I was stuck on a three game stretch in late October-Early November where the Giants lost three in a row (four total the next week to SD, but Eli was good in that game) to New Orleans, Arizona and Philly. Eli threw 6 INTs to 3 TDs in that stretch and completed around 50% of his passes. Most of the Giants wins, Eli has been completeing 60% or better and perhaps I focused too much on his injury and the Giants dismal defense, which by the way showed up big against Washington.
The Eagles took care of business against the 49ers last Sunday and still control their destiny for the playoffs. They have clinched a berth and also have a shot at the #2 seed in the NFC after the Vikings didn't show up against Carolina. More on the Vikes in a minute. But the Eagles desperately need to get healthy. Brain Westbrook is eyeing a return soon and would help take the pressure off rookie McCoy and fullback Weaver in the running game. WR Maclin also missed last Sunday's game and QB Mike Vick left the game with a thigh bruise. The Eagles need to be operating on all cylinders going into the playoffs, especially if the Eagles D continues to be gashed through the air. The Eagles are on a 5-game winning streak and have won 9 games straight in December. If the Vikings lose a game and the Eagles finished tied in overall record with them, they would have the tiebreaker based on conference record.
So how did last week's games affect the rest of the season? Well, it puts a lot of emphasis on the Week 17 games for the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants. But we can't look ahead just yet. Week 16 is still on the slate and for all of this to come down to the final week, each of the three East contenders need to take care of business this weekend too. Brian Dawkins makes his return to The Linc as the Broncos come to Philly. Both teams are in the hunt for the playoffs and while the Eagles have clinched a berth, they aren't resting on their laurels and niether will Denver in the muddled AFC Wild Card race. The Cowboys head to Washington to play the suddenly inept Redskins. Normally I trust the 'Skins to show up for their rivalry game like they did in a Week 11 loss, 7-6. But after last weeks preformance and the Cowboys thrashing of the Saints, there are only two potential outcomes here: blowout win or letdown game for Dallas. The Giants welcome Carolina, led by QB Matt Moore, to the Meadowlands. Carolina has looked better of late, beating the Vikes last week, but there are still questions about the Panthers. The Giants will have to be wary about this game and not let the Panthers' Steve Smith run through their secondary.
But the real fun begins Week 17, because if all goes well and the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants all win, well there's going to be a lot of scoreboard watching on Sunday. As of now, these games are slated for 1 PM EST, but that might change with the NBC Flex Sunday Night game. First, New York heads to Minnesota to play the Vikes. New York needs the game to still have a shot at the playoffs and the Vikings need it to hold on to the 2nd seed in the NFC and a first round bye. Minnesota also plays Chicago on MNF this week. Then the Eagles and Cowboys meet in Dallas to, in all likelyhood, decide the NFC East Divisional crown. The last time these two met it was a sluggish affair and I expect more of a shootout style in a couple of weeks. The Eagles secondary has been gashed through the air and two of the best young receivers in the game, DeSean Jackson and Miles Austin, will be on display with their big-play talents. Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo should both put on passing clinics and the defense will need to make plays to decide this game.
Overall, it's going to be a fun couple of weeks to end the season.