We are almost at the halfway point of the season in the NFL (with there now being 18 weeks in a year we have an official break point), and plenty of teams have already played eight games which is just under half of the new 17. Three teams with eight contests under their belt reside in the NFC East and they don’t even have eight wins between them. While the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Football Team, and New York Giants all continue to flounder, the Dallas Cowboys are riding a six-game winning streak.
As we do every week Bleeding Green Nation’s Brandon Gowton and I discussed the state of the division on the latest episode of the NFC East Mixtape. This is a unique podcast at SB Nation as it is accessible on both BGN’s and BTB’s podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network wherever you get your podcasts. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here. As you can see by this post’s headline Brandon’s confidence in the Cowboys this season is rather high!
The division is obviously lacking in success when it comes to wins this season, but there is going to be a lot of heavy draft capital belonging to Cowboys rivals in 2022. At present time six of the top 11 picks in next year’s draft belong to the three teams by way of their own standings and the standings of teams who’s picks they own.
At least they have that going for them.
Philadelphia Eagles (3-5)
Many believed that the Detroit Lions would get their first taste of victory against Philadelphia this past week, but credit the Eagles for having their way with one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Things aren’t exactly going well for the Eagles at the moment, but they are a bit more stable than both Washington and New York. This season was never going to be one of serious success for them as it was all about the future.
Much of whatever the Eagles will be in 2022 and beyond will have to do with their upcoming draft capital, but it will also have to do with wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Plenty of Eagles fans thought that Smith would be the star wide receiver of this class, Brandon Gowton likened him to Justin Jefferson in terms of how teams maybe overlooked them in the draft process, but Ja’Marr Chase has clearly been superior.
Expectations for DeVonta Smith were higher than they have been for any Eagles rookie since at least Carson Wentz in 2016. The 10th overall pick was coming off a Heisman campaign, national championship and arguably one of the best wide receiver seasons in college history. He came to the team as, basically, the surefire number one receiver with every single fan, player and coach anticipating an immediate impact on what has been an underperforming and undynamic passing game.
The bar that was set in spring and summer has not been met. Not even DeVonta Smith would say he has lived up to lofty goals and expectations. The rookie receiver has not been a consistent, week to week threat in the passing game and he has had many moments where he had costly drops and losses against physical coverage. Eight games in, and it is obvious that Smith is not the rookie of the year candidate and instant game-changer everyone wanted him to be: Especially when you contrast his career start with rookie peer Ja’Marr Chase, who has transformed the Bengals passing game and given hope to a young, rebuilding franchise.
However, and this is a big however, DeVonta Smith is still clearly the future of the Eagles passing game. Despite his inability to have a Ja’Marr Chase/Justin Jefferson/Odell Beckham type rookie season, DeVonta Smith is still clearly a talented player who is producing in the Eagles offense. For one, he leads the team in receptions and receiving yards. He has surpassed Jalen Reagor’s sixteen game rookie yardage total in half as many games and, when he’s at his best, looks like the best receiver the Eagles have had in a decade. His route running is already advanced and he has shown a lot more after the catch then anyone could’ve asked for. DeVonta Smith is still very much a good player at this early stage in his career, and there is plenty of reason to be hopeful for the rest of his rookie season and beyond.
There was a sector of Eagles fans who also desperately wanted CeeDee Lamb a year ago (funny how that worked out!) only for the team to actually pass on the aforementioned Justin Jefferson in favor of Jalen Reagor. Smith certainly looks more promising than him, but in a perfect Eagles world he would have shown more by this point.
Ultimately the reason for Smith’s lack of offensive explosion might be quarterback Jalen Hurts. Philadelphia winning last week likely bought him more time, but it doesn’t seem out of the question for the Eagles to potentially start Gardner Minshew at a certain point this year. If 2021 is all about evaluating the state of things for the sake of future knowledge, why not see what Minshew can do with their staff?
It was amazing that anybody picked Washington to win the NFC East in full seriousness this past offseason. Forget the fact that it has been over a decade and a half since any team won this division in consecutive seasons, but Washington was the primary benefit of a number of things in 2020.
Obviously the NFC East as a whole was terrible, but their primary competitor (Dallas) was devastated by injuries. The Football Team strung together wins against backup-level teams (that started a lot of backup quarterbacks) and really thought they had something because they won a division with a 7-9 record (partly thanks to their seventh and final win coming from a team that threw the game to them!).
It seems that reality is starting to catch up with those who had this line of thought.
I’m tempted to say that Mayhew, Hurney, Rivera and the coaching staff need to go, and that the rebranding should take place with a new, young, dynamic coaching staff, but, honestly, I have no idea how the Snyders could hope to attract that person (a young, dynamic head coach) to Washington. There are worse places to be (Houston), but not many. The ownership problem that has been apparent for fifteen years or more can’t be solved, and that prevents the organization from being able to solve other problems.
That probably makes Ron Rivera untouchable for another season or two, at least. Probably all we can look forward to at the end of this season is the ritual sacrifice of a coordinator or two as the coaching staff ‘refresh’ that will accompany the rebrand, and we may not even get that. Even if it takes place, it’s unlikely to lead to any meaningful change.
It’s frustrating as hell to know that we’re about to undertake a once-in-a-century rebrand of the franchise, and to realize that because we’re cursed with a horrid owner, it will turn out to be an opportunity wasted.
I had been extremely stoked for what this rebranding opportunity would mean for Washington when I believed in Jason Wright and Ron Rivera enough to believe that they could make it all work in spite of the Snyders.
However, having seen the dog’s breakfast that Jason Wright’s team made of the Sean Taylor number retirement, and the absolute wasteland that seems to be Ron Rivera’s plan for turning this talented roster into a talented football team, I’ve lost all the belief that I had been filled with until a month ago.
The game in Denver was the final straw for me.
I’ve given up on the 2021 season; I no longer believe that the current executives and coaches can manage the massive opportunity before us with the rebrand. We are in the Snyder purgatory, and there is no way out.
While the name ‘The Washington Football Team’ is one that some people think works for the franchise their official rebrand is in fact slated for 2022. There is definitely logic to the organization fully hitting the restart then with a new staff and front office, but as Hogs Haven notes, it isn’t exactly going to be easy to convince the most sought-after candidates in the world to tie themselves to a place that has been filled with almost nothing but controversy recently.
How the Football Team lost to Denver despite breaking the Broncos 35-yard line a number of different times is a feat that only they could pull off. Well, maybe the Giants could as well.
Up Next: BYE
New York Giants (2-6)
Speaking of! Joe Judge did everything he could to lose Monday night’s game for New York. The Kansas City Chiefs are not the powerhouse we have known them to be for the last several years, but the Giants were on the road on Monday and had an opportunity to steal a win, one that would have been significant for their organization. Nevertheless, Joe Judge acted supremely conservative and let the Chiefs get back to .500 while his team continues to flounder.
What’s more is that Judge (who’s team continues to rack up personal fouls despite an apparent commitment to playing the game in an extremely tight way) is now deflecting blame for his franchise’s ineptitude. Judge noted after his team’s latest loss that they have apparently been dealing with headset issues – for two months – and that he hopes things are resolved quickly. Alrighty.
Where Washington is coming off of a division title and Philadelphia won an actual title a few years ago, the Giants are stuck right in the middle of a world of pain. They have yet to have three wins through eight games in each of the last five seasons and reality is starting to set in.
It would be easy to feel good about the Giants’ performance Monday. They nearly defeated a team that was in the Super Bowl the past two seasons, winning it two years ago. They denied Kansas City the dominant sort of “reset” victory many Chiefs fans might have hoped for.
I’m certain that Judge’s post-game press conference was filled with comments about week-to-week improvement and how the game provided a lot to build on. I don’t have the transcripts yet, but I don’t really need them to know what he’ll say.
Reality is, though, the Giants are 2-6. Monday night was yet another Giants’ loss that should have been a Giants’ victory.
There really isn’t anything to feel good about.
Unfortunately we will be treated to another Giants game on primetime in a couple of weeks as they will play on Monday night again, this time against the team that defeated the Chiefs in the most recent Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Canada and the U.S. dominated in their second game of the tournament while Czechia and Finland went toe-to-toe and needed a shootout to determine a winner on Day 3 of the World Junior Hockey Championship.
The Canadian team rebounded from a sluggish performance with an 11-1 win over Slovakia, a game in which captain Mason McTavish added his name to the country’s record books.
Against Switzerland, the United States took their game to another gear that their opponent could not match as they cruised to a 7-1 victory to improve to 2-0 at the tournament.
Finland dropped a crucial point as they had to overcome a 2-0 deficit but were able to pick up the shootout win over their rival Czechia.
Here is a look at the top performances from Day 3 of the world juniors.
3rd Star: Luke Hughes, USA
Coming from a great hockey family, Luke Hughes is making most of his opportunity as one of the top defencemen for the U.S.
The younger brother of Quinn and Jack displayed his mobility and vision against Switzerland with a three-point effort. He now has five points in his first two games of the tournament — more than either of his brothers ever achieved at this event in fewer games.
Hughes leads all defenceman in scoring so far in the tournament and is tied for fourth overall.
The 18-year-old played 21:18 against the Swiss to lead the U.S. in ice time playing on the top pairing with Brock Faber. His play from this point will be a crucial part of his team’s success given the creativity he displayed, especially on Matt Coronato’s goal in the second period.
Those tips have now turned Mazur into a scoring machine as he accounted for two of the team’s seven goals and was also named the player of the game as the top line of Mazur, Landon Slaggert, and Thomas Bordeleau had an impressive performance against Switzerland
After a scoreless first period, Mazur wasn’t going to make any mistake on a point-blank chance in front of the net with Mackie Samoskevich making a great pass from behind the net.
He added another assist on Slaggert’s goal later in the period for his third point of the game. Through his first two games at the world juniors, Mazur has four points and is tied for sixth in scoring.
1st Star: Mason McTavish, Canada
On a night where Canada dominated from start to finish, Mason McTavish joined some elite company with a night he’ll certainly remember for a long time.
The 19-year-old joined Mario Lemieux, Simon Gagné, Brayden Schenn, Taylor Raddysh, Maxime Comtois and teammate Connor Bedard as the only players to score four goals in a single world junior game for Canada. The tournament record for goals in a single game is held by Sweden’s Ola Rosander who had six back in 1987.
With his performance against Slovakia in a dominant win for Canada, McTavish now sits atop the scoring lead with eight points in two games after registering six points in this game.
McTavish scored his first goal of the game on a breakaway — with Canada already leading 5-0 midway through the second — making no mistake to beat Tomas Bolo, who came into the game after starter Simon Latkoczy was pulled going into the second period.
His second goal came off a great play by Joshua Roy who flipped the puck in the air to Brennan Othmann who then set up McTavish as he finished with a backhander to put Canada up 7-1. McTavish would complete the second-period hat trick, a day after Alexander Blank did the same for Germany, after a selfless pass from Roy on a 2-on-0 break.
Canada would capitalize on a turnover on McTavish’s fourth goal as Othmann set him up alone in front of the net and he made no mistake.
There was some doubt about whether McTavish would suit up for Canada after playing a fair amount of hockey last season. Making his NHL debut with the Anaheim Ducks, the third overall pick from the 2021 NHL Draft played in a total of 72 games between the NHL, AHL, OHL, Memorial Cup and the Olympics.
Instead, McTavish decided to join the team in Edmonton and take on the role as captain where he has excelled centring Canada’s top line with Bedard and and a rotation of Roy and Othmann.
Canada will now look forward to a matchup against Czechia with a chance to improve to 3-0.
The No. 21 is now synonymous with the longest winning streaks in NFL regular and preseason history. the 2003-04 Patriots won 21 consecutive games, an NFL record. On Thursday night, the Ravens won their 21st consecutive preseason game after securing a 23-10 decision against the Tennessee Titans.
Baltimore has not lost a preseason game since 2016. Joe Flacco was their starting quarterback when the streak began, while Steve Smith Jr., who this past year was eligible for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame for the first time, was heading into his final NFL season. Baltimore’s roster also included Terrell Suggs, who was entering his second-to-last season with the franchise.
Along with not losing preseason games, another constant in Baltimore over the past six years has been kicker Justin Tucker, who is entering his 11th season with the Ravens. Tucker’s field goals of 47, 25 and 47 yards on Thursday night helped Baltimore pull out the win after falling behind midway through the second quarter.
The Ravens won Thursday’s game by winning the turnover margin while holding the Titans to 1 of 3 red zone efficiency. One of those turnovers was scooped up by Kyle Hamilton, the Ravens’ first-round pick in this past year’s draft.
Baltimore won despite the efforts of Malik Willis, the Titans’ rookie quarterback who overcame a slow start to score his first NFL touchdown, a 7-yard run early in the second quarter. Speaking of quarterbacks, the Ravens received a strong night from Tyler Huntley, who completed all but two of his 18 pass attempts that included his game-winning touchdown pass to Shemar Bridges.