By Kevin Cooney
Special to FOX Sports
There are certain undeniable facts about the NFC East that will be recorded in the history books when New Year’s weekend is over.
It was one of the worst divisions in the 101-year history of the National Football League. And one of its teams will be crowned champion and advance to host an NFC playoff game next week.
When the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants meet up on Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., FOX) at MetLife Stadium, both teams will still be alive for that magic ticket from the division. By the time the sun sets on the Meadowlands, only one will be a Washington Football Team loss at the Philadelphia Eagles (more on that game below) away from a title.
The other will likely carry a top 10 pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
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The sports betting information
On FOXBet.com Sportsbook, Dallas is a 2.5 point road favorite in this one with a money line of -138. (A $138 bet would be needed to win $100.) The Giants are +120 – a $100 bet would win $120. The over-under is 44.5.
Dallas is 5-10 against the spread but has covered in three straight games. The Giants are 8-7.
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Dallas has won seven straight in this series and leads it overall 69-46-2. This season’s first game between the two back on Oct. 11 turned out to be a momentous day in the divisional race, as Dallas’ 37-34 win was overshadowed by Dak Prescott’s broken leg that ended his season. The Cowboys lost six of the next seven and fell to 3-9 overall, before rallying with three straight wins to stay alive in the NFC East race.
The storylines to watch
New York seemed to firmly control its destiny on Dec. 6 when it traveled to the Pacific Northwest and edged the Seattle Seahawks to improve to 5-7. They held a tiebreaker over Washington because of two head-to-head wins, and felt like they were gaining momentum. The problem is the offense has stalled since that point, with the Giants being held to 26 points over the next three games (8.3 per game) and not breaking the 300-yard mark in total offense in losses to the Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns and at the Baltimore Ravens.
Daniel Jones did play in the 27-13 loss to Baltimore last week, completing 24-of-41 passes for 252 yards. But he’s been a sitting duck in the pocket with his leg issues, as he was sacked six times in games against the Ravens and Cardinals.
Meanwhile, Dallas’ offense pretty much has been what it was all year — explosive with the right combination at quarterback. With Andy Dalton or Prescott at quarterback, the Cowboys are able to get the ball in space to Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper or CeeDee Lamb.
In the last three weeks, the Cowboys have scored 108 points (36 points per game). One trick has been the Dallas defense has taken advantage of two bad offenses — the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers – and one decent one in Baltimore, to clean up what was a nagging spot all year long.
They’ve held those three teams to just 19 points per game – 11 points below the Cowboy’s season average of 30.0 per contest.
Whether or not Dallas makes the playoffs, the best part of this late-season run for head coach Mike McCarthy could be building something moving forward for when Prescott returns next year.
EAGLES VS. WASHINGTON
Washington’s first round pick of a quarterback was benched and eventually released. The front office is a constant sea of questions about infighting among the owners and ugly reports about off-field behavior. All this at the end of a year that saw everything about Washington change, from head coach and player personnel executives, to the franchise’s long-standing nickname.
A lot of things have happened to the Washington Football Team through 2020. And that’s what makes it somewhat remarkable that they can begin 2021 with the most unexpected thing of all: an NFC East championship.
Washington (6-9) has a second crack at the division title on Sunday night (8:20 p.m., NBC) when it travels to Philadelphia to face the 4-10-1 Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. A loss would mean that the winner of the Giants/Cowboys game will take home the crown and a ticket to the NFC playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
The sports betting information
On FOXBet.com Sportsbook, Washington is a two-point favorite and -125 on the money line. (A $125 bet will win $100.) The Eagles are +105 (a $100 bet will pay off in $105.) The over/under is 44 points.
Washington has been one of the best teams in the NFL against the spread, going 9-6 this year. The Eagles are tied for worst in the league with Dallas and Houston at 5-10.
There are plenty of CustomBets, PropBets and other wagers available at FOXBet.com to suit any betters wishes. Check it out today and find the special offers that are in play for this holiday weekend.
The first game of the year between the two teams on Opening Day proved to be a harbinger of what was to come for the entire season for the Eagles, who took a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and then allowed 27 straight points to fall 27-17 to Washington at FedEx Field. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw two interceptions, lost one fumble, and was sacked eight times in the loss.
Washington leads the overall series 87-80-6 dating back to 1934. However, Philadelphia has won six of the past seven.
One other quirky note to watch in this one: The winner of the first game of the season series matchup has won the rematch five straight years and eight of the last nine seasons.
The storylines to watch
The biggest question for Ron Rivera this week is simple: Who is your quarterback?
Dwayne Haskins was released by Washington on Monday, one day after being pulled for Taylor Heinicke during a 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, and one week after being spotted at a topless nightclub without a mask on following a loss to Seattle. Heinicke will get the start if the veteran Alex Smith can’t go because of a calf injury. Smith was a game-time decision last week against Carolina, so it is conceivable that Washington may be in the same mindset again this week with a division title on the line. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin could also miss this week because of an ankle injury that forced him to miss the loss against Carolina.
Washington will not find any sympathy, however, from the Eagles. Philadelphia’s fall from Super Bowl champion in 2017 to potential top five pick in the NFL Draft has been stunningly steep, borne out of bad contracts and awful draft picks. Wentz’s opener proved to be the beginning of a season-long struggle that saw him benched in Week 12 for rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts, who had two solid, if not spectacular, games against the New Orleans Saints and Arizona before taking a step back in a 37-17 loss to Dallas last week.
The Eagles offense was shut out in the second half by a Cowboys defense considered one of the worst in the NFL. The questions about head coach Doug Pederson and general manager Howie Roseman’s status are in the air in Philadelphia, as an era of major changes and decisions could be on the horizon.
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