Washington at risk of fading in NFC East standings originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Another week of the 2021 NFL season is in the books, and the Cowboys are starting to pull away in the NFC East standings.
Dallas recorded its fourth-straight win in Week 5 to improve to 4-1, while Washington stumbled in a winnable game against the Jameis Winston-led Saints. It's still too early to make any sweeping declarations about how this division is going to shake out, but with the way Washington's schedule looks over the next two months, the Cowboys could have the division wrapped up by December.
Washington Football Team (2-3 T-2nd)
Of Washington's first three losses of the season, Week 5's defeat at the hands of the Saints probably stings the most. Winston threw for four touchdowns and was able to create big plays throughout the game, Taylor Heinicke followed up his best game of the year in Week 4 with a dud at home, and the defense continues to struggle to get consistent stops.
Only the Chiefs are giving up more points per game than Washington's defense, and opposing offenses are averaging over 400 yards per game against Jack Del Rio's group. With games against the Chiefs, Packers and Buccaneers over the next month, Washington has to figure something out and figure it out fast if they want to keep up with Dallas in the standings.
Dallas Cowboys (4-1, 1st)
The Cowboys were dominant once again facing an NFC East rival, downing the Giants 44-20 at home in Week 5. This offense was expected to be great as long as Dak Prescott stayed healthy enough to get the ball in his playmakers' hands, but the defense has been the real story this season.
They're still giving up plenty of yards, but they're keeping opponents off the scoreboard with a bend-but-don't-break style and a serious influx of turnovers. The Cowboys have 12 takeaways in five games (2nd in NFL) with 10 interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Of the 10 interceptions, six of them belong to cornerback Trevon Diggs, who's making an early case for Defensive Player of the Year.
If the Cowboys can continue to play defense like this, it changes their ceiling from playoff hopeful to Super Bowl contender.
Philadelphia Eagles (2-3 T-2nd)
The Eagles looked well on their way to a 1-4 start before the Panthers basically handed them the game on a silver platter. After a blocked punt in Carolina territory and a few bad interceptions by Sam Darnold, Jalen Hurts punched in two second-half rushing touchdowns to give the Eagles a narrow 21-18 win on the road.
The result doesn't fully excuse Hurts' poor play in the passing game or this team's troubling tendency to take touchdowns off the board with dumb penalties, but a win is a win. It's also worth mentioning that the Philadelphia defense may not be as bad as the last two weeks would've suggested. Sure, they got shredded by the Cowboys and Chiefs, but those are two great offenses. They were stout in Carolina and finally forced a few turnovers after getting only two through the first four games of the year.
New York Giants (1-4, 4th)
If you know any Giants fans, give them a hug today if you can. New York suffered its fourth loss of the year in Week 5 against the Cowboys, where it was pretty clear early on in the game that Dallas was the much better team. To make matters worse, Daniel Jones had to exit early with a concussion and Saquon Barkley could miss multiple games with an ankle sprain.
The Giants are normally a good target for a quip or two about their poor play or overly conservative game management, but these fans had to watch two quarters of Mike Glennon at quarterback this week. Let's all just leave them be for now.