At one point in Sunday’s Week 4 action, the Cowboys held an 11-point lead on the road while the Eagles and Redskins trailed, and the Giants had already finished losing in lopsided fashion.
What a difference an hour or two makes.
Dallas looked destined to grab a stranglehold on the NFC East. Instead, they fell to 2-2 while the Redskins rebounded to win their first game. The Cowboys remain in first place in the NFC East, but that lead looks tenuous with the high-flying Denver Broncos coming to town in six days.
As has been the case repeatedly to this point in the season, there are some silver linings if you look around the division. After a month of football, it’s becoming safer and safer to call the NFC East the worst division in the NFL.
Starting from the bottom, it’s probably safe to say the New York Giants are just bad at football, and not just playing through a rough patch. The Giants are 0-4 for the first time since 1987, after suffering their third-straight blowout loss.
New York gave it an honest effort through three quarters, before an 89-yard punt return by Chiefs receiver Dexter McCluster blew things open. Kansas City owned the fourth quarter, racking up 31 total points and nearly reaching 400 yards of total offense.
It didn’t even matter that the Chiefs coughed up three turnovers – their first of the season. Eli Manning failed to complete 50 percent of his passes, and he topped out at just 217 passing yards. He was sacked three times for good measure, giving the Giants 14 allowed sacks this season.
The Giants go on the road to play Chicago in 10 days for Thursday Night Football. If they can’t beat the hapless Eagles at home this weekend, they could be staring at an 0-6 start.
Speaking of Philadelphia, the Eagles dropped their third straight game Sunday, as they were the latest sacrificial lamb in Peyton Manning’s crusade against defense this season. With Washington’s defense actually making a respectable showing in Oakland, the Eagles took top spot as the NFL’s worst defense in allowing 472 total yards to Denver.
Manning’s 327-yard, four-touchdown demolition of the Eagles’ secondary might have been even more impressive than Phillip Rivers’ explosion against Dallas – because Manning didn’t even take the field for the fourth quarter of the 52-20 win.
It’s hard to blame Chip Kelly’s quick-strike offense, either. The Eagles gained 450 yards on 69 plays, and they only went three-and-out twice on the afternoon. They even managed to maintain their running game, with 166 yards on the day. But Manning and Co. simply torched the Philadelphia defense every time they stepped foot on the field.
Manning led the Denver offense on seven possessions, and the Broncos hit paydirt on five of them. Factor in a 105-yard kickoff return touchdown and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, and you have the makings of a blowout.
If there is a winner in this division after Week 4, it has to be Washington. Twenty-four short hours ago, the Redskins were 0-3 and facing insurmountable odds. Today, they’re going into a bye week while Dallas hosts the best team in the NFL.
Robert Griffin III, who played his cleanest game of the season in the win at Oakland, will have an extra week to get in sync, and that putrid Redskins defense will have extra time to prep for the Cowboys’ offense.
Granted, the Raiders aren’t good. But it has to be a boost of confidence for the Washington defense, which was putrid through three weeks, to hold an opponent below 300 yards of offense. That all comes with the caveat that Terrelle Pryor missed the game and Darren McFadden left early, of course. But a win’s a win’s a win.
Griffin’s completion percentage of 58 percent and his 227 passing yards aren’t going to be remembered with any great reverence. But it was his first game of 2013 without a turnover, and he now has 13 days to work without having to take any game reps.
It’s entirely possible that when the 1-3 Redskins come to AT&T Stadium for Sunday Night Football on Oct. 13, they could be playing the 2-3 Cowboys for a share of the division lead.
That’s the beauty (and the tragedy) of football. Early on Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys looked locked into first place in the NFC East, while the rest of the division once again struggled. Just a few short hours later, that’s all been turned upside down.