The NFC (L)East: The Worst Competitive Division Ever

By Saransh Sharma, Rohan Krishnan, and Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC East’s current leader, the Philadelphia Eagles, has a half-game lead over the other 3 teams in the division, who are in a 3-way tie for second place in the division. These teams must be good, right? Well, they certainly are competitive, and they have had their fair share of injuries, unlucky losses, roster changes, blowouts, coaching turmoil, and everything in between. All of these teams have 3 wins, with the Eagles only having a half-game lead over the rest of the division due to the tie they had with the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. This week has some big division games coming, with the Cowboys hosting Washington on Thanksgiving Day, the Giants playing the Bengals, and the Eagles hosting the Seahawks on Monday Night Football. Here are our predictions for who wins the NFC East:

Current NFC East Standings:

  1. Philadelphia Eagles (3-6-1), Division Record: (2-2)
  2. New York Giants (3-7), Division Record: (3-2)
  3. Washington Football Team (3-7), Division Record (2-2)
  4. Dallas Cowboys (3-7), Division Record (1-2)

Saransh’s NFC East Winner: Washington Football Team

Washington Remaining Schedule: @ Cowboys (3-7), @ Steelers (10-0), @ 49ers (4-6) vs. Seahawks (7-3), vs. Panthers (4-7), @ Eagles (3-6-1)

Yes, I am a Washington fan, but no, I am not saying this in a biased sense. Right now, of the 4 starting quarterbacks in the NFC East, the one quarterback that I trust most to not turn the football over and make poor decisions, win games, and use their experience to their advantage, is none other than Alex Smith. For New York, Daniel Jones has shown improvement over a 2-game stretch, where they played Washington and Philadelphia, but is still a turnover machine. For Dallas, Andy Dalton is still shaky and does not have the best chemistry with all of the Cowboys’ WRs, although he has a very nice connection with CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz. And lastly, for Philadephia, Carson Wentz has the clock ticking on him as the starter in Philadelphia. Alex Smith is a born winner, and when he had come into Washington, he was at the time in the top-5 in terms of winningest active QBs at the time (2018). Then, of course, the gruesome leg injury happened which nearly ended his career and his ability to ever walk again, yet he is here on a football field, inspiring the young Washington Football Team to be in winning situations and even win games, something that has not been seen in Washington for years. Alex Smith may never be even half of what he was as a QB before his injury, but he is still a winner and a leader, and the other quarterbacks in the division are not showing that right now. On top of that, Terry McLaurin has been unreal and is easily the most underrated wide receiver in the entire league, but most of all has been another great leader on the field and in the locker room.

The defense, who are middle-of-the-pack against the run, is ranked #1 in the NFL against the pass and 3rd in sacks. Having guys like rookie sensation Chase Young be double and even triple-teamed at times, has allowed the rest of the front seven, like Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, and Ryan Kerrigan, to get constant pressure along with Young. Then there is the secondary, led by cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, who have quietly led the #1 pass defense in the entire NFL. To be fair, the stats are misleading, as this defense has had some big games, such as their 7-sack performance in Week 1 against the Eagles, but also poor games, like giving up 30 points to a Lions offense without Kenny Golladay. If they can find even the slightest bit of consistency, as the offense is beginning to show now under Alex Smith, this team can win the games they should win, and do enough to win the division.

Washington should beat Dallas on Thanksgiving and should beat the Eagles to complete the season sweep to finish 4-2 in the NFC East overall. Outside of that, Carolina should be a win, and a sneaky win could come against the 49ers, who will be without George Kittle and most likely also Jimmy Garoppolo. Without the 49ers win, they would finish 6-10, and they would finish 7-9 with it. Either way, I do not think any other NFC East team finishes with more than 5 wins. The Giants, who are the biggest competition to Washington for the division title, have all but two of their remaining games against teams with winning records, and I do not see the Giants doing enough to get past Washington. HC Ron Rivera has battled through cancer this season, and Alex Smith, while being nothing more than an average QB, has still made one of the greatest comebacks from an injury in the history of sports. This team not only could end up being the best in the NFC East when it is all said and done, but also the most inspiring. Whatever happens in this wild division, it will be intriguing (and ugly) to watch, and all of these teams will have their work cut out for them this offseason.

Pranav’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

Let me start by saying I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. ‘Go Birds’ and all that stuff, but this year? The Eagles stink, and no single person can be blamed. Sure, Carson Wentz and his disgusting attempt at being a marginally good quarterback, or Doug Pederson and his awful play-calling, have failed miserably, but this is a team problem that is not a one-week fix. Let us face reality here, the Eagles have tried to fix these problems every week, yet nothing has changed. Fans and critics thought it might be because half the team is injured but the truth is the Eagles are not the best in the NFC East, regardless of their place in the division presently. At the beginning of the season, Dallas and Philadelphia split the predictions for winners of the NFC East, but after the injury to Dak Prescott, Dallas doesn’t have a shot. The Philadelphia Eagles, for the last few weeks, have been too quick to crown themselves as the division winners, but now everyone can see that they might have called it too early. They have probably the hardest remaining schedule in the NFC East, playing four Super Bowl contenders in a row: Seattle, Green Bay, New Orleans, and Arizona. 

On the other hand, the dark horse team in the NFC East, the New York Giants, are riding on a few wins. The New York Giants and I hate to say this, are the best team in the division. No one expected them to be anywhere outside of the last place in the division to start the season, and even more after Saquon Barkley’s season-ending injury, but things change. For starters, the Giants have the easiest remaining schedule, and being tied for second is a big help for them because one win already puts them in the driver seat for the East. The Giants are better than the Washington Football Team, having the series sweep. The Giants are also better than the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite having split the season series, the Giants have dominated both matchups with ball control, as they lost their first matchup with Philly due to avoidable penalties. And lastly, the Giants are better than the Dallas Cowboys, and I do not even have to explain. I know I should have no bias as an Eagles fan, but I will never give the Cowboys any love unless they have 1:1 odds to win something.

That being said, the Giants are in the position to take the NFC East, but this is still a division too early to call. We don’t know what is going to happen, or what more (or less) to expect, and to be honest with you, it is not good. All I can say is that none of these teams are going anywhere this season and will be undergoing major changes this offseason. 

Rohan’s NFC East Winner: New York Giants

New York’s Remaining Schedule: @ Bengals (2-7-1), @ Seahawks (7-3), vs. Cardinals (6-4), vs. Browns (7-3), @ Ravens (6-4), vs. Cowboys (3-7)

I am also a Washington fan like Saransh, yet I believe the Giants will come out on top and take the NFC East crown. Joe Judge is doing a solid job in his first year as head coach of the Giants, and the team is making incremental progress game after game. Daniel Jones is starting to pull it together with consecutive no turnover performances, and I trust the Giants defense the most in this division. The Giants defense is ranked 12th in the NFL in scoring average this season, with several standout players, including lockdown cornerback James Bradberry, Blake Martinez, and Leonard Williams. Also, over the last 6 games, the Giants are 3-3 and those three losses are just by 6 points. One of those losses includes the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are viewed by many as Super Bowl contenders. The Giants were playing the best football of any team in the NFC East before their bye, and I think they will get 3 more wins (CIN, CLE, DAL) to win the division. I view Dallas as the biggest competition to the Giants. They have the easiest road as they still get to play each of the East teams once and have opponents like the 49ers and Bengals on their schedule. They have also been very competitive, nearly beating the undefeated Steelers at home and knocking off the Vikings recently on the road. The offense looked solid with Andy Dalton back and Zeke had his best game in a while, totaling over 100 rushing yards for the first time this season. Tony Pollard has also been a nice touch, as he added some quality carries and a TD against the Vikings. They also have a special talent in CeeDee Lamb who is looking like the best rookie receiver in the draft class. However, the Cowboys defense needs to improve, especially their poor secondary. Their run defense is atrocious as well, allowing a whopping 153.8 yards on the ground per game to opposing offenses. 

The Cowboys hopes for winning the NFC East division will likely disappear if their defense is not up for the task. Washington, meanwhile, has a solid chance but a few problems of their own. Let us start with the defense, who was supposed to be one of the best units in the league under DC Jack Del Rio but has not lived up to the hype. By looking at the numbers, you might think that Washington has an above-average defense, however, it’s the complete opposite. Their defensive line has plenty of talent like Chase Young, Montez Sweat, and Daron Payne, but have failed to take advantage of poor offensive lines, which proved to be critical in getting swept by the New York Giants. These losses hurt Washington big time as the Giants now have the tiebreaker. The linebacker core and secondary are both very weak and it showed when they played average offenses like the Lions. However, I also think a better offense would have a positive impact on the defense. The offense is badly underperforming overall, ranked 29th in the league, and Alex Smith is nothing more than an average quarterback. Washington has a bright future with star receiver Terry McLaurin and rookie running back Antonio Gibson, and their offensive line is looking better than expected, but aren’t going to go far with the style and play of this offense. The Thanksgiving game between Washington and Dallas will be very critical, as Washington can take the tiebreaker over Dallas with a win. 

Finally, Philadelphia is terrible, starting with QB Carson Wentz. He currently leads the league in interceptions and is making head-scratching mistakes game after game. Ever since that ACL injury, Wentz has been trending downward and could crash down to the point of no return. Carson is not the only one to blame, though. The coaching staff has regressed, and Head Coach Doug Pederson should be fired this offseason. Veterans like Jason Peters, Alshon Jeffery, and Jalen Mills are on the decline. The Eagles are a dumpster fire and could very well lose out and only win 3 games this season, as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the division. 

This division is all-around terrible, and we might see the worst division winner of all time. The worst record that a playoff team has ever recorded is 7-9 (Seahawks, 2010), and it is hard for me to envision an NFC East team even getting to 7 wins. It is crazy to think that one of these teams is going to host a playoff game. I do see this division coming down to the very last game, however, and that game would be Week 17: Cowboys @ Giants, a winner-take-all game to decide the division. One thing we can all agree on is that the team that makes the playoffs will not go far, and all of these teams have to make major changes this offseason. 

Should the NBA Continue, Relocate the Bubble, Or Cancel the Season?

By Saransh Sharma, Nikhil Pradeep, and Anish Dhondi

The NBA is in a weird spot right now. They have already a plan in place to have their season, in their ‘bubble’ return, with 22 teams being invited to Orlando, and even the entire 88-game seeding games schedule released, but with the large spikes of the Coronavirus in Florida, doubt is beginning to creep in, leaving the players, coaching staffs, and front offices of teams tense, and all the pressure in the world on the shoulders of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. As great as Silver has been as a Commissioner, this pressure is almost insurmountable, as the health of the teams and future of the NBA depends on his decision. If the NBA is cancelled this season, then there would be no basketball until October 2021 at the earliest, as the NBA would not have enough money to hold a 2020-21 season, putting them in a lockout. If the NBA resumes in Orlando, the rates at which players, staff, front office, etc., contracts the Coronavirus, would be very high, and even if it is moved from Orlando, the chances of catching the Coronavirus are still high. All in all, there is not much that Adam Silver can do, as really the fate of the NBA rests in the hands of others, mostly outside the ‘bubble’ and whether or not they social distance and decide to try to be as safe as possible, as that is the only way the Coronavirus will being to slow down. Here is our take on each option, and what the result of each option being chosen would be:

The Doomsday Scenario(s)’ by Saransh Sharma

The NBA is having their players get tested for the Coronavirus, and with the first wave of testing having now concluded, players such as Nikola Jokic, Malcolm Brogdon, Buddy Hield, Alex Len, and Jabari Parker (all Sacramento Kings players), and 2 unnamed Phoenix Suns players have already announced that they have tested positive for Coronavirus. On top of that, guys like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley have announced that they are sitting out, and guys like Carmelo Anthony are reluctant to go due to the risks. This leads to the first ‘doomsday scenario’, which is that not enough NBA players or coaching staff members agree to go to Orlando (or wherever the bubble ends up being, if it moves). If this happens, the NBA will not have enough money to the players to get a fair amount of pay for the season and have a full season due to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and already the season will be shortened due to when this current season would be ending, and the Olympics being at the end of July. This would lead to a lockout.

Next comes the second ‘doomsday scenario’, which is that the NBA has enough players and coaching staff members agree to go to the bubble, but the spread of Coronavirus between players and teams is so much that it causes for the NBA to have to halt the season and suspend it for good. This brings forth a lot of questions for the 2021 Olympics, because the NBA would have ended the 2019-20 season, have the 2020-21 season cancelled due to a lockout, but the NBA season most likely would not be shortened if it went into a lockout due to the Olympics being in July, and the NBA season would maybe be 30 games. This being said, this does affect the Olympics. Will countries even send their NBA players to the Olympics when they have not played in over a year, or will they send their college prospects or other players from other leagues that have been playing and get them the experience? The NBA has a lot of pressure on them because Team USA and other countries will rely on their players having had some professional playing time before going to play internationally, meaning that if there is no season next year, Olympic basketball could be in the balance in terms of the talent sent there. The NBA having this season cancelled could turn out to be a turning point not just for the future of the NBA, but international basketball as well.

New York, New York, It’s A Heck of a Town‘ by Nikhil Pradeep

The legendary Stephen A. Smith went on ESPN’s First Take recently, stating that the NBA should relocate the league’s “bubble” restart to New York City rather than playing in Orlando. In short, his reasoning is that New York is clearly the bigger city and has much more available space to work with when considering how far hotels and facilities should be from each other. He then follows up by saying that Governor Andrew Cuomo has led the city, as well as the state, back from the crisis much better than Florida and its population has, and that since the city has shifted to Phase 2 as of June 22, 2020, it is “what it’s all about right now”. 

Folks I love Stephen A. Smith as much as anyone, but this is a FREEZING cold take.

Jay Williams and Marcus Spears, the other two analysts on the show, quickly shot down this theory for two different reasons, however they both agreed that Florida should not be the place where the restart should happen, and frankly I agree with them. The fact of the matter is that COVID-19 is still a national health emergency, whether or not the federal government chooses to acknowledge it or not. In all honesty, the way that America has handled this pandemic pales in comparison to places like Germany, Spain, and England, all of which have restarted their top-tier soccer leagues with flying colors. The disease doesn’t infect people based on their social rank, it doesn’t discriminate in who it infects, and it is STILL everywhere within America. By placing NBA players, staff, and officials in Florida (which statistically has been one of the worst states to attempt to contain the disease), you effectively expose them to the virus simply for the sake of entertainment. And by relocating the restart to NYC, the same sort of exposure WILL STILL happen, simply based on how dense the city is. It does not matter how spread apart facilities are, this virus has spread across the entire globe with no problem, so what’s stopping it from travelling down a block or two? There is simply too big a risk to take, and players like Davis Bertans and Avery Bradley are examples of athletes who care about their health and safety more than the need to play. Frankly, I firmly believe the NBA should not restart the season in July simply based on how the country is handling the pandemic, and how easily things can go wrong.

You’re Never Too Old For Disney World by Anish Dhondi

As the NBA released its schedule for the reopening on July 30th, it looks like a push towards reopening the season with no setbacks. Currently 16 of the 302 NBA players planning to play in the season have tested positive for Coronavirus. Although this isn’t good news, it’s relieving that the number isn’t higher and therefore may have the NBA continuing with their plans. The original plan was to have a bubble for the NBA to play inside of Disney World where they’d have little to no interaction with the outside world other than players and staff. However, Florida has appeared recently as one of the Coronavirus hotspots in this second wave of cases and fear across the United States. While there are many people talking about a potential move for the bubble to another city with less cases, the chances are more unlikely than you’d expect. Disney has been preparing the scenario for these players to live fairly decent lives while playing in this quarantined season. Players will have access to exclusive Disney interactions to keep them entertained throughout the season and playoffs. There’s risk in if one player inside the bubble gets Coronavirus it could cause the whole NBA to shut down again. The NBA is taking strict measures to maintain the safety of the players by having them wear a ring that monitors temperature and other factors that could show signs of the virus, along with weekly testing for safety. As much as this coronavirus has been ignored in our country and cases continue to grow worse and worse, I still think the NBA should reopen strictly in this bubble. The reason for this is that it gives people a reason to stay in and watch NBA which is a change from the daily routine of quarantine that can get excessively repetitive and cause people to leave their homes and put everyone’s lives at risk. Obviously if cases continue to grow exponentially then the NBA should also shut down but at this rate I can see the NBA opening on time near July and it will be interesting to see the impact that these last couple months have had on the players.

Links you can use to help educate yourself, donate, sign petitions, and much more for Black Lives Matter and Ending Racism and Social Injustice, as well as everything else going on. With so much going on, it is very hard to keep up with it all, but it is still important to educate yourself, so please feel free to use all of these resources to help you out:

https://www.adhoc.fm/post/black-lives-matter-resources-and-funds/

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/

https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-black-lives-matter-organizations-you-can-donate-money-to-right-now-22948855

https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

http://issuesintheworld.carrd.co/