NFC East Race Approaches Chaotic Finish in Week 17

Posted on December 30, 2020

While 2020 formally ends at the stroke of midnight on Friday, remember that the chaos it has brought unfortunately doesn’t. The best example of this might be the NFC East race, which will mercifully conclude on Sunday.

Three teams remain in the hunt for the division crown and automatic home playoff game. Whoever wins will finish with no better than a 7-9 record. 

Race For NFC East Championship

The NFL’s decision to keep Week 17 for divisional match-ups means there will be a division winner and that team will likely have won their season finale. If Washington wins, they’re champs.

If they lose, the winner of the Dallas-New York game is the champs. Dallas benefits if they tie and Washington loses. If the Sunday night game ends in a tie, Washington wins the title if Dallas loses or the earlier game ends in a tie. 

Seems fairly simple for the WFT. Go to Philly, win at night against the only team eliminated from the postseason in the division who’s looking to lock up a high draft pick, head back down 95. NJ sports betting apps say Washington takes the title.

Despite losing the last two weeks in ghastly fashion at home, Washington remains the morning-line favorites to close out the deal. They’re -125 to -134, followed by Dallas and the Giants.

These lines remain despite the big news out of Ashburn (WFT’s facility) Monday. The 1st round pick last year, local guy Dwayne Haskins, was released by the team. Even by 2020 standards, that is alarming to release the Week 1 starter outright while he remains on a rookie deal.

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Injury reports this week will tell if Alex Smith (has to be 2020 comeback player of the year) will start against the Eagles or if Taylor Heinicke, a fourth-year pro with 77 career passing attempts, goes under center.

Washington enters as slight road favorites currently. According to BetMGM’s VP of Trading Jason Scott, the early sharp money moved the line from the Eagles -1 to Washington -1.5. Don’t be surprised if the lines move three or more points, in either direction, once we get a better idea of who will start at QB. 

The Eagles decimated defense suffered a season-killing loss as Andy Dalton and his dynamic receivers ran roughshod. The matchup would favor Smith, while Heinicke might struggle if Fletcher Cox and the Eagles front four can rush with abandon. Scott expects Smith to start for Washington Sunday night. 

The early game will set the table for the nightcap and provides some interesting match-ups. Dallas has looked sharper in December and has won their last three. However, they only have two road wins, at Minnesota and Cincinnati.

Mike McCarthy’s experience in Green Bay can only help a Dallas roster that doesn’t fare well in colder games. Look at their Thursday night loss last year in Chicago that kept Philly in contention, allowing the Eagles to draw even with Dallas at the Linc in Week 16. 

The Giants have been a fascinating study. Losing Saquon Barkley early in the season certainly threw plans askew but they have managed to win five games with second-year QB Daniel Jones. Neither side of the ball is consistent but has shown the ability to rise to the occasion at times. Sunday at MetLife against a potent Dallas offense and talented defense will be an excellent final exam.

Winning the division, even with a losing record, should be considered an accomplishment. None of these franchises have been awash in glory over the past few seasons. However, what is the real benefit of earning the NFC East title? Currently, the three teams behind Washington hold three of the first 11 picks in the draft. All three would be in a position to solve positional deficiencies with those selections. 

The wild-card round matchup would be against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, a balanced team that will cause problems for any NFC East defense. Whoever, they play, expect the Bucs to be at least four-point road favorites.  

“Regardless of which NFC East team reaches the postseason, we’re expecting a quick exit from the playoffs,” Scott said.

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