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NFC East coming down to Eagles and Cowboys

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Jimmy Johnson

Jimmy Johnson was the architect of the Dallas Cowboys' dynasty in the mid-1990s. His team celebrated two consecutive Super Bowl victories with Johnson at the helm. He joined "FOX NFL Sunday" in 2010. Follow him on Twitter.

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The Eagles were fortunate to beat the Redskins and stay in the NFC East race. Philadelphia's approach right off the bat with the onside kick I thought was uncalled for. It gave a marginal offensive team life and also important field position and a touchdown. The Eagles seemed to be fighting uphill throughout the entire game.
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I just always believed when you are playing a team that isn't as good as you are, why take chances and give them field position? When I coached, I liked taking chances against teams that were better than we were. My thinking was we may need those types of plays to win. But as it turned out, Philadelphia won, and with its schedule is going to be in a battle with the Cowboys to win the division. The Cowboys' schedule gets brutal from here on out with the Chargers and the Saints before Christmas. I was riding the Giants in this division because of how they opened the season. But New Orleans exposed them in their pass defense, and they have been torched ever since, including the game they won against Atlanta. They gave up 31 points in that win. So, with their loss in Denver, in a game they had to have, I have written off the Giants. Maybe I shouldn't, but that's how I feel. I think some credit does have to go to Jason Campbell with the Redskins. I think you have to consider the coaches, coordinators and play-callers that he has had. And it's also been very tough for him, knowing he has been an unwanted player. I mean, they have tried to replace him two or three times. For him to hang with it and keep the right kind of attitude and improve his play is a credit to him. And it's also a credit to Jim Zorn, who is actually the guy coaching him.

Monday showdown

If New England were playing New Orleans on a neutral field or in Foxborough, I would probably give the Patriots the edge. But I think the city of New Orleans will be in a frenzy Monday. I think that Superdome will be electric, and that to me will give the Saints the edge in what should be a great game. The one thing that I still think is suspect with New Orleans is its defense. The Saints have survived by getting a lot of take-aways (NFL-high 29). They have survived by blitzing. And New England's style of attack of spreading defenses and throwing the football can really hurt a blitzing defense. If Tom Brady is sharp and is able to release the ball before he gets hit, the Patriots are going to put some points on the board. This is going to be a high-scoring game. A real shootout, with the adrenaline of playing at home giving the unbeaten Saints the edge. They have been a well-balanced offensive team all season.

Colts will be caught

You watch the first two quarters when the Colts play and you say to yourself, "This is the week they are losing." Then all of a sudden Peyton Manning gets hot and their defense starts forcing some turnovers and they pull out another win at the end. With a quarterback like Manning, you are always in the ballgame, even down 17 points like they were in Houston. And their defense under Larry Coyer has been impressive. It has changed quite a bit since Tony Dungy retired. But they seem to be improving every week. They have been forcing the action and making plays. I like their style of defense and what they are doing. Coyer has had to replace three secondary players, and there have been games when he has been without Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis. He has been forced to play some games with two rookie corners and also without safety Bob Sanders, and yet they are holding up. That is a credit to Colts general manager Bill Polian. He seems to have the players there to restock that lineup. I think the way the Colts have been playing the past month it's definitely going to catch up with them. One of these days, Peyton is going to be playing outside in bad weather and he's going to be just off a little and they are not going to be able to come back. As much as I like them and as well as they have been playing, I don't think they can match up with a couple of the top teams in the NFC right now.

Saints or Vikings in Super Bowl?

I hate to predict that it is definitely going to happen, because we know how crazy this league is. Some other team can get hot in the last month of the season and change everything, but it's still looking to me like a dome playoff series. The Saints and the Vikings will be in control. Their records are going to be so good it will dictate that teams will have to come to them. That gives them a huge advantage. In the past, ever since we've had dome teams, they have struggled at the end when they have to go on the road in the playoffs. But the Saints and the Vikings aren't going to have to worry about going and playing in bad weather in January. For the NFC teams that have to play in the Metrodome, for example, it won't be just playing in the dome. It will be the traveling. If I'm from Dallas, for example, and I have to go up to Minnesota and it's 10 below, even though I am playing inside, I have to go up there on Friday and be there on Saturday and be there Sunday morning in that kind of cold weather and snow and ice. All I know is that's depressing. Being from the Florida Keys, I get depressed when I have to go to the snow. I can't wait to get out of there. Well, that has an effect on these players, even though they will be playing in the dome. So, it's an advantage. It's a horrible feeling. The wind blowing and you can't wait to get to your bus because you are slipping and sliding on the snow. A lot of players are not accustomed to that. It's distracting for a visitor. I give the Vikings the edge over the Saints right now because of their defense. I think their defense is steadier right now. I think they can make more plays right now with the pass rush without a lot of blitzing. I have been impressed with how well Minnesota's secondary has held up, too, without Antoine Winfield, their best cornerback, these past five games.
Tagged: Cowboys, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Eagles, Redskins, Chargers, Antoine Winfield, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Dwight Freeney, Robert Mathis, Bob Sanders, Jason Campbell

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