(CBS DFW) — Only one team from the NFC East seems to have improved over last season. And that’s the Dallas Cowboys, who sit atop the division at 5-1. Prior to last week’s bye, they scored at least 35 points in four straight games. And the defense has stepped up as well. The New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Football Team are each 2-5, with little evidence to suggest that they can climb back into the division race.
In Week 8, the Cowboys face a Minnesota Vikings team that is fresh off of a bye as well. The Eagles hope to not be the team that finally loses to the Detroit Lions. Washington tries to turn things around in Denver against the Broncos. And the Giants face the unenviable task of playing the Kansas City Chiefs, who are in search of a bit of redemption.READ MORE: No. 17 UConn Holds Off Maryland-Eastern Shore 72-63
All times listed are Eastern.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions, Sunday, October 31, 1:00 p.m.
The Lions remain winless going into their Week 8 matchup with the Eagles. But they have played well at times. The Baltimore Ravens needed a game-winning 66-yard field goal to prevail in Week 3. The Vikings beat them on a last-second 54-yard field goal a couple weeks later. And the Lions played well in last week’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
The Eagles matchup could be an opportunity for the Lions to find that elusive first win. Philadelphia has just two wins of their own and has dropped five of their last six games. They were dominated in their recent loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Derek Carr completed over 91 percent of his passes, the second best completion percentage ever for a quarterback who threw at least 30 passes in a game. Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense struggled to move the ball after their opening possession.
“The Eagles were basically a no-show in Las Vegas, and Nick Sirianni definitely getting a lot of heat,” Hartstein said. “But if this Eagles offense cannot attack and exploit this Lions secondary, then I think we will have some talk that this could be a one and done for this Eagles coaching staff. Because this is a horrific Lions secondary. They give up nine yards per attempt, easily the worst in the NFL.”
Detroit allows 383 yards and 28.6 points per game, both among the worst in the NFL. That presents an opportunity for an Eagles offense that’s still figuring things out behind their young quarterback. Jalen Hurts is averaging just 245.1 yards passing per game. But he has most of his weapons available.
“With DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins and Reagor, even without Miles Sanders, who’s out this week, Boston Scott and Gainwell are very good fill-ins,” according to Hartstein. “This is a game that the Eagles should respond. And I think the Lions have been on this cycle of playing very well one week, competitive, and then getting blown out the next. I think the Eagles take this one. I think they cover.”
Washington Football Team @ Denver Broncos, Sunday, October 31, 4:25 p.m.
The Washington Football Team is probably better than their 2-5 record indicates. They won the NFC East last season, albeit with a 7-9 record, and boasted one of the NFL’s best defenses. That defense, with four first-round draft picks along the line, is currently among the league’s worst. They give up 406 yards and 30 points per game.
“They didn’t really play badly at Green Bay,” Hartstein notes. “They did control the line of scrimmage early. They only gave up 24 points to a very high-powered offense. But the Washington offense, six trips inside the Green Bay 27, and they came away with three points. That is almost impossible to do. Taylor Heinicke, what is he doing? Walk right into the end zone. You don’t dive at the one, and then they don’t get in. So this team is better than its record. Terry MacLaurin missed practice on Wednesday. He’s been banged up all year, has not missed a game. Antonio Gibson missed time. They are banged up.”READ MORE: Orioles Sign INF Odor, Reach Agreements With Santander, López & Fry
The Broncos are also not living up to expectations. They started off the season with three wins over the Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars, and New York Jets. Wins over those teams probably shouldn’t boost confidence levels and, sure enough, losses over better teams soon followed. Injuries have been an issue, as they are across much of the NFL.
“They should get Jerry Jeudy back, which will help Teddy Bridgewater,” Hartstein noted. “But Broncos have lost four straight since they’re 3-0 start. Teddy Bridgewater is not 100 percent healthy. Getting a full field goal with a very talented Washington team. I think this is a week where they do finally show up.”
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, October 31, 8:20 p.m.
The Cowboys, having won five straight, are starting to run away with the division. Coming off their bye week, they’ll look to continue that streak in Minnesota. Dak Prescott has been stellar, averaging 302.2 yards passing per game. Those yards, along with a steady dose of Ezekiel Elliott on the ground, have translated to an NFL-best 34.2 points per game.
“Everybody is piling on the Cowboys, and you can’t blame them,” Hartstein said. “The Cowboys are a legitimate 5-1 and 6-0 against this bread. They’re number one in net success rate. That is one of the most important metrics. That tells you if it’s third and five do you get the five that you need? It’s not just yards per play. It’s are you accomplishing your goal on a play-per-play basis. They are number one in the NFL.”
The Vikings also enjoyed a bye in Week 7, which means their defense should be well rested. While Dallas has excelled in pass protection, only allowing nine sacks so far, Minnesota leads the NFL with 21 sacks. And the secondary has been able to limit opposing quarterbacks. Something will have to give, unless the Cowboys rely more on Elliott.
And then there’s another important factor. “You go to Minnesota and you put Mike Zimmer as a home dog, where he’s 19-6-1 against the number in this spot,” Hartstein pointed out. “They’re rested as well. This is the game I’m just going to enjoy and probably not have any action. But if the line got to three, I would definitely look at Minnesota.”
New York Giants @ Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, November 1, 8:15 p.m.
The Giants picked up their second win in Week 7, putting down the Carolina Panthers. The Chiefs lost another to the Tennessee Titans, leaving them with a losing record. Kansas City has faced a difficult schedule and lost a couple of close ones earlier in the season. But their last two losses weren’t close at all, suggesting maybe something more is happening. They’ll be looking to improve on their last-place standing in the AFC West.
According to Hartstein, “it sure looks like the Chiefs are in a great bounceback spot against the Giants defense that just lost one of its captains, Jabrill Peppers, for the season with a torn ACL. Another tough blow to a team that’s been decimated by injuries. But how can you trust Kansas City to lay this many points?”
The Chiefs were favored over the Giants by 9.5 points as of Thursday. They rely on Patrick Mahomes and company running up the score and the opposing offense being unable to keep up. But they managed just three points against the Titans. Their defense, meanwhile, allows 404.6 yards and 29 points per game, both terrible. Suddenly a bounceback game is looking a little less likely.
“Daniel Jones, we know his story,” Hartstein said. “He’s usually great on the road. In fact, the Giants are 22-7 against the number in their last 29 times as road dogs, getting double-digits against the Kansas City Chiefs offense that really is completely out of sync right now. If you give me double-digits, I’ll take the Giants and expect them to lose by like a touchdown.”MORE NEWS: 'Georgia's Defense Is Just So Good': CBS Sports’ Houston Nutt Previews SEC And Conference USA Championships
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