With the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles officially out of the playoff race, and the Washington Redskins officially secured as the fourth seed in the NFC, on paper, each game is meaningless when it comes to the playoff race.
But each team will still find a way to use their final regular season game as an advantage. Cowboys players are essentially playing for roster spot considerations for the 2016 season. The Eagles and Giants are letting their head coaches throw out one final showcase before a final decision is made in their futures. And the Redskins are simply looking to carry their momentum into the playoff race.
Who will be the Redskins’ playoff opponent?
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When the Redskins take the field against their archrival Cowboys, they will have a decision to make: Do they opt to rest their starters, or keep the ball rolling in hopes of gaining momentum for the playoffs?
Either decision will prove to be beneficial for the Redskins. Playing them could potentially allow Kirk Cousins and the rest of the team to continue on with that confidence and swagger that has worked so well for them over the last three games. But allowing Cousins and several other notable starters a week’s worth of rest will allow the core players to heal up their aches and pains, and further prepare for their first playoff matchup since 2012.
The problem is, who are the Redskins going to face?
Other cross-country matchups in the NFC will determine that fate.
It’s either going to be the Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers (who play each other), or the Seattle Seahawks. If the Vikings beat the Packers, Washington will play Green Bay, regardless of the Seahawks-Arizona Cardinals outcome. If both Seattle and Minnesota lose, the Redskins would face the Vikings. But, if Seattle wins, and Minnesota loses, Washington will face the Seahawks.
Jerry Jones goes quiet
After an utterly embarrassing 16-6 loss to the Buffalo Bills, the Cowboys’ most vocal representative, Jerry Jones, chose not to say a word.
You would think that’s relatively normal. Most owners/presidents/general managers don’t say anything following a regular season matchup. But Jones has notoriously made himself available to the media following a game, regardless of whether his beloved Cowboys won or lost.
He didn’t say a single thing to the media following the game. How could he? His offense managed to gain just 186 yards of total passing offense, the fourth-time in Dallas’ last five games they failed to pass for 200 yards. His defense gave up 408 yards of total offense. And his team secured their worst record since 2002 (with a loss to the Redskins, it’ll be Dallas’ worst record in this millennium).
If this year wasn’t a wakeup call for Jones and his team, it absolutely needs to be. Head coach Jason Garrett signed a five-year, $30 million contract extension with Dallas earlier this year. Firing him could cost Jones and the Cowboys $24 million. So if it’s not exactly easy to change the coaching staff, maybe making some changes at multiple different positions is the easy answer.
Jones recognizes that. And each player that suits up against the Redskins may be trying out for a spot on that 2016 Cowboys team.
Hot (seat) matchup
The Eagles and the Giants would normally be a must-watch matchup, but after the season these two teams have been having, no one would blame you if you avoided it at all costs.
Instead of featuring key matchups on both sides of the ball, the game will feature two coaches whose futures with their respective football programs seem to be very much in jeopardy.
Both Tom Coughlin of the Giants and Chip Kelly of the Eagles have been scrutinized the last month or so. Both have had analysts state why they are no longer a fit for their teams. Both have publicly stated their lack of concern regarding their future with their teams.
Coughlin’s demise may very well be his defense. His defense has surrendered 419.3 yards per game, which ranks dead last in the NFL. They’ve allowed 407 total points, the third-most in the NFL. And with the third-consecutive season with a losing record, the Giants, who have had Tom Coughlin as their head coach since 2004, may need a new face to shake the team a bit.
That’s like the total opposite of Kelly’s situation. He’s only in his third season with the Eagles, but Philadelphia has quickly grown tired with Kelly’s experimentations. Within the last couple of seasons, Kelly has orchestrated moves that have sent Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson out in favor of players who better fit Kelly’s system. Problem is, his system isn’t working.
Bringing in DeMarco Murray, who finished as the NFL’s top rusher just the season prior, and giving him a minimal role seems odd. New quarterback Sam Bradford has seemed uncomfortable at times. No one is still quite sure why the Eagles traded McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, a player with a severe history of knee injuries.
It may not even matter if either team wins: The coaching decision for both of these franchises has likely already been made.