Eagles Waive ‘Bye’ to the NFC East
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) — The bye week couldn't have gone better for the Philadelphia Eagles when it comes to the NFC East.
If the Eagles' 8-1 start didn't have you convinced that they were the class of the division, a vacation while watching Dallas, Washington and the New York Giants all lose should have helped you focus.
The Giants were already irrelevant coming into Week 10 but things reached a new low when the winless San Francisco 49ers whipped Big Blue with C.J. Beathard playing quarterback. Add in the Redskins' inability to handle Adam Thielen and the Cowboys' implosion in Atlanta and as of a sudden Philadelphia has a three-game lead with seven to play heading into North Texas on Sunday night.
There is still work to be done because the team's nipping at the Eagles' heels for conference supremacy -- the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams -- all triumphed on Sunday but when it comes to the first goal of any organization (winning the division), Philadelphia would have to endure an epic collapse to even let the Cowboys into the conversation come Week 17.
Elliott's absence was the most high-profile one for Dallas against the Falcons but the most important turned out to be injured All-Pro left tackle Tyrone Smith as the Cowboys somehow allowed pedestrian pass rusher Adrian Clayborn to record six sacks in the game.
For whatever reason Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan treated backup Chaz Green like he was Smith and left the former third-round pick on an island without any help.
Considering Clayborn's previous career-high for sacks in a season was only 7 1/2 and the defensive end himself admitted he's basically got one pass-rushing move that's not the worst game plan in the world coming in. What is unforgivable was not adjusting as the game wore on and it became evident that Green couldn't handle the task given to him.
In many ways, the Cowboys' 27-7 loss to the Falcons was their Winston Justice game and with the Eagles' impressive front looming you can expect a lot of max protections on Sunday night unless Smith is able to return from back and groin issues.
Remember Philadelphia lost its own All-Pro-level left tackle in Jason Peters and has managed to persevere with nary a hiccup despite moving toward Halapoulivaati Vaitai at the position.
"He makes progress on a daily basis," offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland said when discussing Vaitai last week. "Very happy with his progression. I like him as a left tackle. He's been a natural left tackle."
For most this week will be built up as Carson Wentz-Dak Prescott III but Dallas' inability to handle the loss of Smith for one afternoon really highlights the advantage the Eagles have when it comes to this game: coaching and depth.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen