We have reached the final week of the NFL regular season and the drama that has surrounded the NFC East for the past three seasons as far as winning the division title has given way to a pair of basically meaningless games to close-out 2014. The Cowboys have been able to avoid the Week 17 winner-take-all scenario that cost them the past three NFC East crowns with a solid 11-4 record through their first 15 games. The Eagle's loss to Washington last Saturday officially ended their playoff hopes and both the Redskins and the Giants' race to the postseason never even got out of the gate.
Before the season began, I predicted that Philadelphia would go 11-5 this season to win a second-straight division title. The Eagles still have a decent shot of matching last season's record of 10-6, but I never expected that 10 wins would not be good enough to earn a spot in the NFC playoffs. I never saw Detroit coming and Arizona exceeded my expectations as well.
The biggest surprise has been the Cowboys' ability to win the games down the stretch that they would consistently lose in the past. As much as I hate to admit it, this could be a very dangerous team once the playoffs start next weekend. While I will be rooting hard to see the Boys get blown out of the water against whichever team(s) they will face in the postseason, if they can continue to run the ball behind DeMarco Murray and if Tony Romo continues to manage the game well without turning the ball over, I could easily see Dallas going all the way to either Seattle or Green Bay in the NFC Championship and making a game out of it.
As for our beloved and beleaguered Birds, I have to hope that this step backwards will go a long way towards taking a positive step forward towards a future run at a Super Bowl title. I believe Chip Kelly is wired just right for a long and productive career as a head coach in the NFL, but until he has a legitimate franchise quarterback in place to run his offense, this team will only get so far. I was one of the biggest Nick Foles' fans out there at the end of last season, but his regression this year is some serious cause for concern. Mark Sanchez is certainly not the answer and if Kelly saw something in Matt Barkley, he would have already had him in the starting lineup.
Another area of concern is the Eagles' running game. LeSean McCoy took a major step backwards this season as compared to his stellar campaign in 2013, but he did still run for over 1,200 yards heading into the season finale. The concern is that the wear and tear of being a running back in the NFL is starting to take its toll. Fortunately, the college draft is always filled with some fresh legs that can quickly fill the void. It is just a matter of the team's scouts finding the right pair of legs as Shady's heir apparent.
The Eagles made some decent strides this season on the other side of the ball with a defense that knew how to get after the quarterback and create opportunities through turnovers. On the flip side, this unit still gave up way too many big plays and it had a hard time getting off the field against some of the better offenses it faced.
We will obviously have all the time in the world to thoroughly dissect the good, the bad and the ugly of the Eagles' 2014 season now that they are just one of 20 other NFL teams that will get an early jump on the offseason. So for now, lets turn our immediate attention to a final week of football in the NFC East.
The following is a link to my complete preview and NFC East "pick of the week" for Sunday that was part of an ongoing series for Doc's Sports. My year-to-date record for these picks coming into Week 17 is 9-7 and I am looking to go out with a bang with a big win this Sunday. Unfortunately, it would be at the expense of our home-town team!
Expert NFL Betting Picks: Weekly NFC East Predictions Week 17