- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 16, 2021

The winner of Thursday night’s Washington-New York game will still be sitting in second place in the NFC East come Friday, behind the surprising Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles were the only team in the division to win in Week 1 and, since they don’t play until Sunday, when Philadelphia takes on the San Francisco 49ers, first place is theirs. Maybe the standings will look different in a matter of days, but for now, the Eagles are on top.

Is it too soon to ask if the Eagles are, as CBS analyst Tony Romo insists, a real threat to win the NFC East?

Overreactions based on one week of play are common, but one of the more popular takes after last weekend’s games was that the Eagles could be contenders to win the division following a 32-6 trumping of the Atlanta Falcons.

After all, few predicted Washington’s playoff berth last year. Perhaps the Eagles, considered to be rebuilding, could follow a similar path.

The Eagles did impress in Atlanta, albeit against a rebuilding Falcons team. The Philadelphia offense looked much better than expected, putting up 434 yards in coach Nick Sirianni’s debut.

With quarterback Jalen Hurts under center, the Eagles gave the second-year passer plenty of weapons to work with. Rookie DeVonta Smith led with six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown, while tight end Dallas Goedert and wideout Jalen Reagor also scored.

And Philadelphia’s defense did its job, limiting the Falcons to 260 yards. Both units should face a much tougher test in San Francisco.

Is Hurts legit? For the Eagles to have a shot at winning the East, they’ll need Hurts to perform as well as did he against the Falcons. A second-round pick in 2020, Hurts showed a good command of the offense with 264 yards on 25 of 37 passing. That 77% completion percentage was far better than his rookie year of 52%. The 23-year-old also impressed as a dual-threat, rushing for 62 yards on seven attempts.

Before the year, the Eagles seemed like a team very much in transition. After a promising win, this is Hurts’ chance to show he can be The Guy in Philadelphia.

And what about Dak Prescott, who looked impressive in a close Dallas Cowboys’ loss to the reigning Super Bowl champs? Could Prescott and the Dallas offense be enough to win the East?

Don’t discount the Cowboys. Despite losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Prescott orchestrated a lethal passing attack. By the end of the year, the Cowboys could have three legitimate 1,000-yard receivers in CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

Defenses will likely have a hard time stopping the Cowboys, even if they get to be too predictable with a pass-heavy attack. 
As long as Prescott stays healthy, the Cowboys should be in games on the strength of the offense alone. 

DeMarcus Lawrence’s injury, though, is going to hurt. 

With an offense that strong, the Cowboys need a just-good-enough defense to keep them in games — something they didn’t have in 2020. And unfortunately for Dallas, the Cowboys will now have to be without their best defender indefinitely as Lawrence broke his foot in Tuesday’s practice. Lawrence, the Cowboys’ top pass rusher, underwent surgery Wednesday and is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Even if Lawrence returns for the season, his loss is a significant blow for a defense looking to get better under new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

On Sunday, the Cowboys plays the Chargers, a team that recently carved up Washington’s defense. 

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