First half recap:
The New York Giants lead the division at the midpoint of the season despite a less than stellar record of 5-4. Eli Manning has had a dynamite year, but there have been plenty of concerns around him. The offensive line has struggled, Victor Cruz has not seen the field yet this season, and the injuries have been astronomical, particularly on defense. Unlike Giants teams of previous years these guys get no pressure on the quarterback, and Jason Pierre-Paul, with a club on his hand, may be the only hope of that defense. The two games they blew at the start of the season against the Cowboys and Falcons will likely come back to haunt them in the end. They also likely should have found a way to beat the Saints with Manning throwing six touchdowns. They should be 7-2 right now, maybe even 8-1. The offense is that good, but the defense is that bad.
The Philadelphia Eagles sit at 4-4, but have won four of their last six after starting 0-2. They have finally gotten their running game in gear after DeMarco Murray really struggled at the start of the season. Along with Murray Ryan Mathews has been a quality addition to the backfield, which already included Darren Sproles. Sam Bradford may be just good enough to win in this offense. Their front seven on defense is very good, but their corners leave something to be desired. It is one of the few weak spots on the defense and on the team.
The Washington Redskins looked like they would be a contender early on, but they have fallen apart in recent weeks. Kirk Cousins is inconsistent, the running game has been up and down as well. The front seven is actually alright, but the secondary has been bad for years and still is. If they do not fix that area they will be hard pressed to contend for the playoffs. DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed’s injuries have really hampered the offense, but they have still found ways to get it done in some games.
The Dallas Cowboys were the favorites to win the division coming into this season, but injuries to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant have stopped the offense in its tracks. The defense is better than it was, but they don’t cause any turnovers. Greg Hardy has actually been a fairly good addition to the defensive line, but is making headlines for the wrong reasons still. The running game has not been anywhere close to it was last season, and the offense has sputtered.
Second half outlook:
The Giants will face a tough second half slate. They host the Patriots next week, have their bye before traveling to Washington, then host the Jets, go to Miami, host Carolina, go to Minnesota and close the season at home against Philadelphia. Five of those teams are .500 or better and all have more than three wins currently. Games 2-4 all seem like must wins. It seems likely that the finale against the Eagles will determine who wins the NFC East. Perhaps they can pull an upset of either the Patriots, Panthers or Vikings, but either way they need to be 8-7 at the very worst heading into the finale to have a chance at the playoffs.
The Eagles face a very forgiving schedule in the second half. They get the Dolphins and Buccaneers at home the next two weeks before going to Detroit to face the hapless Lions. They could easily be 7-4 before going to New England. That starts a string of three tough games—followed by games against the Bills and Cardinals at home. They have five home games left, and with their schedule I think they are the team to beat in the second half of the season. They should be no worse than 9-6 heading into the finale. But the defense will have to address the void left by the season ending injury to linebacker Jordan Hicks, who was a possible defensive rookie of the year candidate.
The Redskins surprised some people early on, but the memory of the start seems to be fading. Kirk Cousins has been good at times, horrible at others. He’s nothing more than a stopgap option at quarterback. It’s not out of the question for them to climb back into the NFC East race, with games against the Saints, Giants and Cowboys at home coming up followed by a trip to Chicago. In between the Saints and Giants they travel to Charlotte to take on the undefeated Panthers. If they win four of those five, which is possible, they would suddenly be 7-6 with games against the Bills then in Philadelphia and Dallas to close the season. They aren’t out of it, but they are a longshot to contend.
The Cowboys will just consider 2015 a lost season. Romo seems determined to play against the Dolphins in two weeks, but if they lose to Tampa Bay and are 2-7 heading into that one it’s just a moot point and they should just shut Romo down for the season. They already have six losses, and every team left on their schedule has a better record than they do. They go to Tampa Bay and Miami the next two weeks, then host Carolina on Thanksgiving, go to Washington and Green Bay, host the Jets, go to Buffalo and finish the year against the Redskins. Against that slate, even if Romo were 100%, they might be able to go 6-2 and finish 8-8; which still would not get them to the postseason. Unfortunately those are far from the present circumstances.
1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New York Giants
3. Washington Redskins
4. Dallas Cowboys