Philly making late playoff push behind Foles, Cowboys clinch division and the Redskins gonna Redskins
Nick. Blankin. Foles.
Four touchdowns. 471 yards. 35-of-49 passing.
Philadelphia Eagles 32, AFC South-leading Houston Texans 30.
And he just might bring the Eagles back to the postseason after Wentz again went down with a late-season injury.
Welcome to the season-finale edition of the NFC East Roundup.
The Eagles are 4-1 since the Saints embarrassed them, 48-7, last month. They are 2-0 since Foles again became the starter and 3-1 this season with him.
The defending champs once seemed fractured, and their playoff hopes dead. Yet they’re one Minnesota Vikings (8-6-1) slip-up from a playoff return. The Eagles need a road victory over Washington, and a Vikings loss and they’re in.
And yes, Foles will start again Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Dallas Cowboys (9-6) clinched the NFC East and a home playoff game with a victory over Tampa Bay.
And the Washington Redskins (7-8)? Well, they just cannot help themselves, can they?
They’re ending the season on a very Redskins-like note, releasing safety and team leader D.J. Swearinger on Christmas Eve after he ripped the playcalling of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky in the loss to the Blaine Gabbert-led Tennessee Titans.
At best, the organization’s handling of the situation is curious: Releasing a popular veteran in Week 17 after an inappropriate, but emotional postgame critique of a coach.
Granted, Swearinger’s outspokenness has been an issue at times in his previous stops in Houston, Tampa Bay and Arizona. And Swearinger had been warned multiple times about his public criticism of the team.
In that light, the Redskins’ decision is defensible and possibly even justified.
But there’s more to this story.
This is the same organization that claimed Reuben Foster just 72 hours after his most recent domestic violence arrest led to his release in San Francisco. And it’s the same organization that kept LB — and captain! — Mason Foster after he or someone using his Instagram account ripped the team and the fanbase via social media.
In that light, an alleged serial abuser? OK. Player critical of the team, teammates and the fans? All right. Player rips coordinator? GET. OUT.
Worse, some Redskins publicly supported Swearinger, including LT Trent Williams and CB Quinton Dunbar. And worse still, Swearinger was claimed on waivers by Arizona and other teams submitted claims.
Even if Washington planned to cut him in the off-season, it is difficult to explain releasing him while picking up Reuben Foster (certainly not his first offense) and retaining Mason Foster.
So in summary: The Cowboys are division champs. The Eagles are very much alive for a Wild Card berth in the regular season’s final week. And the Redskins can’t get out of their own way.
Here are some of the other big stories around the NFC East this week:
The transformation from fire Jason Garrett, bench Dak Prescott and bury 2018 to division champs and playoff team is complete, ugly win or not.
Certainly, this Cowboys team is hard to figure out as the postseason nears, writes Blogging the Boys’ Tom Ryle.
Whether this is the beginning of a rising Cowboys, or they are merely the beneficiary of a down division remains to be seen.
But the development of linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith coupled with the offensive foundation of Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott — who has eclipsed 2,000 yards from scrimmage and probably will again lead the NFL in rushing — provides hope for a bright future.
I mean, you know things are good when even your kicker is being honored.
Brett Maher earned the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award after hitting both field goal attempts — including a 59-yarder — and all three extra points. He owns the two longest field goals in Cowboys’ history after drilling a franchise record 62-yard field goal earlier this month against the Eagles.
With a meaningless game on tap Sunday against the Giants, the Cowboys are concentrating on the Wild Card playoff game and a probable matchup with Seattle (9-6; 5-1 in their past six).
Meanwhile, DE Randy Gregory’s comeback story continues, Connor Livesay tells us, after posting a sack, forced fumble and three quarterbacks hits against the Bucs.
The 2015 second-round pick out of Nebraska has battled drug suspensions and injuries in his four pro seasons. But he has been indispensable off the bench, providing a Dallas pass rush. He has recorded six sacks, 19 tackles, six tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hits in 13 games. And in the past seven games, he has registered five sacks, four tackles for loss, 10 QB hits and two forced fumbles.
Doug Pederson’s sons gave him a new hunting bow for Christmas, Bleeding Green Nation’s Alexis Chassen informs us.
That can’t be a coincidence, right? Not with the Eagles headed to FedExField on Sunday to take on the Hogs with the season at stake?
Speaking of which, the Eagles are going all-in. They activated Mike Wallace (broken fibula) from injured reserve, with the idea of him serving as the downfield threat they have been missing.
He still may not be ready for this weekend, but could return in time for the Wild Card game, if Philadelphia gets that far.
BTW, Foles was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Oh, where to start?
The continuing investigation into S Montae Nicholson, who was arrested in Virginia last week for misdemeanor assault and public intoxication?
Or maybe the latest unfortunate news in Washington, the firings and resignation of business-side executives who were hired earlier this year?
Departing the organization are Brian Lafemina, president of business operations and chief operating officer; Steven Ziff, chief marketing officer; Jake Bye, senior vice president for consumer sales and marketing; and chief commercial officer Todd Kline.
Each incident points to deeper issues within the organization. Some arose in the wake of Swearinger’s release, such as the alleged lackadaisical practices, as highlighted by Hogs Haven’s Mark Tyler.
It has not just been Swearinger, Mason Foster or the ousting of the business leadership. Zach Brown had said “the writing is on the wall.” Last month, Norman called out the fans.
And NFL observers have long derided the organization’s hierarchy.
It will be an interesting off-season, and that is not even including the unknown surrounding Alex Smith’s recovery and rehab from a horrific broken leg.