Final Word: NFC East

December, 16, 2011
12/16/11
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 15:

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezFourth-quarter collapses have become common for Jason Garrett's Cowboys this season.
Pleading the fourth: How bad has the Dallas Cowboys' defense been in the fourth quarter this season? Maybe worse than you even thought. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys, who play the Bucs in Tampa on Saturday night, have allowed the third-most yards (1,516), the seventh-most points (96), the eighth-most touchdowns (11) and the sixth-highest opponent's pass completion percentage (62.0). An inability to finish out games is quickly becoming an ugly hallmark of Jason Garrett's coaching tenure. He has nine losses as the Cowboys' head coach. One came to the Eagles earlier this season by 27 points. The other eight have come by a combined total of 27 points.

The opposite: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has thrown 14 fourth-quarter touchdown passes this season. That's the most in the NFL by four and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, tied for the most fourth-quarter touchdown passes ever in one NFL season. Manning's brother, Peyton Manning, threw 14 fourth-quarter touchdown passes in 2002, and Johnny Unitas did it in 1959. Of course, Unitas did it in only 12 games. Manning has played 13 and has three left.

Skins want to win out: The Washington Redskins go into Sunday's game against the Giants with a 4-9 record, assuring them of their third consecutive losing season. But if they lose one more, it would also be their third straight season with at least 10 losses. The last time that happened was 1993-95. It's going to be tough, if history has anything to say about it. The Redskins' Week 1 victory over the Giants snapped a six-game Washington losing streak against New York, and the Redskins have lost three straight road games to the Giants. On the flip side, though, the Giants have lost their last two games at home (to the Eagles and Packers). A loss Sunday would give the Giants their longest home losing streak since their Super Bowl season of 2007, when they somehow lost their last four home games.

A potential opening?: The Philadelphia Eagles get a visit from the New York Jets, who have been known over the past three years for their great defense. But the Jets suffered a key loss this week when safety Jim Leonhard injured his knee and was placed on injured reserve. Leonhard got injured with five games left in the 2010 season, and a Jets defense that was allowing 17 points per game and 6.4 yards per pass attempt with him in the lineup saw those numbers go up to 23.4 and 6.9, respectively, with Leonhard on the sideline. Just a little potentially encouraging news for Michael Vick and an Eagles offense that needs all the help it can get.

Be on the Mark: The Eagles' defense had nine sacks against the Dolphins in Week 14 and will need to pressure Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez if they are to limit a Jets offense that has scored 99 points in its last three games. With Vick and top receiver Jeremy Maclin banged up, it's possible the Eagles will have to win a low-scoring game, and to do that they'll need their defense to step up the pressure. The best way to do that is get after Sanchez, who doesn't perform as well against the blitz.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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