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Trick or treat for the NFC East

Happy Halloween

NFL: Washington Commanders at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Halloween! Time to give out both tricks and treats to the NFC East for what they did this October. And in keeping with the seasonal theme, every team in the division has a zombie pass catcher to review.

Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)

What happened in October: Swept the Commanders, beat the Rams, smashed the Dolphins, and… lost to the Jets for the first time in franchise history.

What’s next in November: Cowboys, Chiefs, and Bills, and their bye. Easy.

Trick: The Eagles, with all their star players on offense and their top tier offensive line, are just 18th in red zone offense, converting 51.5% of trips into touchdowns. They should be embarrassed.

Treat: The good news is that despite the struggles, the Eagles have the 5th most red zone TDs, because they have the 2nd most trips to the red zone. That’s certainly better than struggling to get there. And they have the 5th most non-red zone TDs. There are worse situations to be in.

Zombie pass catcher: Julio Jones. In 10 seasons with the Falcons from 2011-2020, Jones caught a TD in nearly half his games. So far with the Eagles Jones has caught a TD in half his games. Clearly prime the Eagles have signed prime Julio Jones, it’s science.

Dallas Cowboys (5-2)

What happened in October: Won three games against teams with losing records, got curb stomped by the 49ers on national TV.

What’s next in November: Giants, Panthers, Commanders, and Seahawks. But none of that matters, the Eagles are up next.

Trick: Mike McCarthy wants to run the ball more. The Cowboys have the 7th most rushing attempts per game, up from 6th most last year. Hold on, I’m being told that 6th to 7th is going down? Wow, great job there Mike.

Well maybe they’re running better? Nope, 18th in yards per attempt last year, 19th this year.

Or to put that in perspective:

Jalen Hurts: 3.6 yards per carry (which is deflated by the volume of QB sneaks that intentionally gain at most 2 yards), 6 rushing TD.

The Dallas Cowboys: 3.9 yards per carry, 5 rushing TD.

Treat: I have to say something nice here about the Cowboys because I formatted this post this way so here it goes:

The Cowboys are the most entertaining team in the NFL. There, I said it. They have scored 30+ points 4 times, but also 20 or fewer in all their other games. They multiple games with 0 TDs given up and multiple games with 4+ TDs given up. In 4 of their 7 games they have 3+ takeaways or 3+ turnovers. In 5 of their 7 games at least one of the teams puts up 377+ yards. They have as many non-offensive TDs as they do rushing TDs. You might not see a good performance, but you’ll see an entertaining one!

Zombie pass catcher: Brandin Cooks. Averaging 1000 yards a season and 13.7 yards per reception over his career, Cooks was brought in to help replace the void the Cowboys could not fill after trading away Amari Cooper. In case you were wondering, the Cowboys gave up more to get him then they got for Amari Cooper. So how is he doing? Cooks is 130th in receiving yards and has a 9.9 yards per reception rate.

Washington Football Team Commanders (3-5)

What happened in October: Got swept by the Eagles, lost to the Bears and Giants, but did beat the Falcons.

What’s next in November: Patriots, Seahawks, Giants, Cowboys, and maybe some benchings.

Trick: The Commanders have a better record (2-3) when they score 24 or fewer points than they do when scoring 31 or more points (1-3).

Treat: Sam Howell is the new Kirk Cousins. Against the Eagles:

Kirk Cousins per game average vs the Eagles: 303 yards, 101.3 passer rating, 2.4 TDs

Sam Howell per game average vs the Eagles: 343 yards per game, 107.2 passer rating, 2.5 TDs

Maybe this story gets a speedrun. The Commanders have new ownership. They’re primed to make a splash this offseason. They will have a new coaching staff and front office. New GM, new coach, and new QB are all on the table. What bigger splash could they make than trading up for DC native Caleb Williams? Meanwhile the Vikings will need a new QB, even before Kirk Cousins tore his Achilles they were almost certainly moving on. Somewhere there is a universe where the Vikings take a flier on Sam Howell. Maybe that’s this one.

Zombie pass catcher: Jamison Crowder. From 2015-2018, Crowder had 2628 receiving yards for WASTEAM, making him the best WR the team drafted since Rod Garner in 2001. This year he has 116 in 9 games, 95 of which were on Sunday.

New York Giants (2-6)

What happened in October: Snapped a four game losing streak—the second four game winless streak of Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll’s career—with a thrilling 14-7 win against the Commanders, then blew a lead on the Jets with 1:26 to go.

What’s next in November: Three straight away games against the Raiders, Cowboys, and Commanders, then host the Patriots. As we did in our last NFC East recap, I would like to remind readers that Ben McAdoo had a better record in his first season than Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll did in his first, and McAdoo went 2-10 in his second when he got fired. Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll is four more consecutive losses away from 2-10.

Trick: In September Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll clearly took over play calling duties from offensive coordinator Mike Kafka and denied doing so. In October Coach of the Year™ Brian Daboll apparently took over coaching all the offensive position groups too. So what happened next? The Giants went from scoring a “this should get people fired” 11.5 points per game in September to scoring… 10.4 points per game in October. Mike Kafka, prepared to get scapegoated during the bye at the beginning of December.

Treat: It’s not all bad! After catching just 6 interceptions in all of 2022 and none in September of 2023, the Giants defense is on fire, they caught 4 interceptions in October. So hey, that’s working for them. It helps to play against Josh Allen, Sam Howell, (both 2nd in the league in INTs with 8), and Tua Tagovailoa (8th in INTs with 7). Real murder’s row of ball control there.

But cheer up, the Giants are currently in position to draft the third choice in a two QB draft! The 20 point comeback against the Cardinals in Week 2 looms large.

Zombie pass catcher: Darren Waller. In 74 games before joining the Giants Waller averaged 12 yards per catch. In 8 with the Giants as their prized offseason addition, he is averaging 10.7. Oh, also, he’s hurt again.

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