LLANO, Texas – We all should have Carolina on our mind. But as much as I’d like to join Cam Newton and his coach, Ron Rivera, in a celebration dance for the only undefeated team left in the National Football League, I can’t help thinking about the other side of the world, the NFC East.
While nothing can be finer than Carolina, or more fun to watch, I’m constantly subjected to viewing the Least division of the NFL. My television offering usually includes the sociopathic Dallas Cowboys, who all too often are playing their divisional buddies, these being the foggy-headed Giants, the thoroughly insane Eagles and the current Flavor of the Month and the most politically incorrect name in sports – the Redskins.
The only compelling reason to watch these stumblers is to cheer for something unprecedented: The eventual winner of this division could be 6-10. Remember this time last year when the NFL was fretting about the winner of the NFC South being under .500?
Now we’re talking .375.
I know that sounds preposterous, but consider the scenarios possible with the co-leaders, New York and Washington being 5-6.
If the consensus of NFL power rankings is valid, the Giants are a better team than Washington. But the Giants have a much more demanding schedule. They’re underdogs Sunday in the Battle of New Jersey. They face a Jets defense far more daunting than what Washington showed them while thrashing them last Sunday.
It’s also ridiculous to expect these shrinking Giants to beat the Vikings in Minnesota (Dec. 27) or Carolina anywhere (Dec. 20 in the Meadow).
So it should be easy for them to pick up at least three of the four losses they need for my roadmap to 6-10.
I’m assuming the Giants should win at home against the deadest team in the league, Philadephia. So that means they must lose at Miami. But is that so far fetched? It happened to Houston, which ESPN ranks as the 11th best team in the league.
When Eli Manning is your quarterback, you can get Super Bowl quality. Or you can get someone who forgets what down it is or what a zone defense looks like. When television analyst Boomer Esiason, former NFL quarterback, was asked for one word to describe Eli, he replied, “Goofy.”
I don’t know the Vegas odds on the Giants cruising to 6-10, but I see it as about a 40 percent probability.
Now let’s look at Washington.
In my blueprint for their 6-10, Washington loses to the very hot Chicago Bears (Soldier Field, Dec. 13) and the very talented, if erratic, Buffalo Bills, the following Sunday at FedEx, the only NFL venue that doesn’t unnerve Kirk Cousins.
Granted, the Skins probably will be favored, by about a field goal, to beat Buffalo. But I would bet on Rex Ryan concocting enough pass rush to make the jittery Cousins feel not so much at home. At the end, Rex will shout to Cousins: “You like that?” Keep in mind the Bills came very close to beating Tom Brady a week ago in his home arena. This will be a lot easier than that.
I can hardly wait for LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams probing for holes in the Washington front seven. This is a defense that gives up 126 rushing yards a game, at 4.7 per carry. So because of the matchups, a loss to the Bills seems to me at least 50-50.
If the Skins lose to Chicago and Buffalo, they would need two losses out of their three remaining divisional games, Dallas (twice) and Philadelphia.
I know it’s asking a lot of any team to lose twice to this year’s Cowboys. But here’s how it can happen: When Greg Hardy feels passionate – I mean, just short of homicidal — he can make life miserable if not impossible for a quarterback. Ask Tom Brady and Eli Manning.
Are you telling me Kirk Cousins won’t be vulnerable if Hardy comes out, as he likes to put it, “guns blazing”?
And consider the mismatch of the Dallas offensive line against the aforementioned flimsy run defense of Washington.
So much for Dallas. I don’t have much faith in anybody losing even once to Philadelphia, where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of brotherly love. Or coachly love.
I can’t expect the Eagles, playing at home the night after Christmas, being in the mood to work hard for their endlessly annoying coach, Chip Kelly. They haven’t put up anything resembling a fight during the past two weeks, in which they’ve been outscored 90-31.
Still, as tired as Philadelphia is of terrible teams, whether football, baseball, basketball or hockey, you never know when one of those excoriated teams will play like their houses might be burned down if they lose.
Just kidding about that.
But in the NFC Least, just about any bad thing can happen.
It’s hardly inconceivable that Washington, 4-12 last season, still coached by Jay-the-wrong Gruden, could regress at any moment from mediocre to wretched. Can this team really be certain of winning two of its next five games? Everything considered, I think 6-10 for the Skins and Giants seems reasonable.