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Tuesday, November 15, 2011
NFC East Stock Watch

By Dan Graziano

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. DeSean Jackson's prospects of a future in Philadelphia. Sunday began with the startling news that Jackson had skipped an Eagles team meeting and would be benched for the game against the Cardinals. A lot of other things happened in that game, and the Eagles lost it and probably slipped out of the playoff race. But the bigger, beyond-this-season issue is that of Jackson, who wants a new long-term contract, hasn't helped his chances of getting one with the way he has played this season, and now this missed-meeting fiasco. The Eagles could apply the franchise tag to Jackson next year if they want to keep him around for another season but not make the long-term commitment. But if he's already this unhappy, and he's not producing the way he used to, this might just be a marriage that needs to end.

2. Eagles' health. During that Arizona game, quarterback Michael Vick broke some ribs and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin hurt his shoulder and hamstring. Now it looks as though the status of both players is in question for Sunday night's game against the first-place New York Giants, and obviously the Eagles are at a point where they can no longer lose any more games. On the bright side, Jackson should be healthy and well-rested, right?

3. Redskins' luck. Washington's run of injuries at key positions has been well-chronicled here, and their season was already sunk before rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson went on IR with a hip injury. But the Hankerson injury is a kick in the gut for a Redskins team that was hoping to see more of him in the second half of the season in an effort to determine what role he might have on next year's team. Hankerson had a breakout game Sunday, catching eight passes for 106 yards before his injury, and now Washington fans don't even get to enjoy watching a talented rookie develop during an otherwise lost season.

RISING

Tony Romo
Tony Romo was on top of his game Sunday against the Bills.
1. Dallas Cowboys' playoff hopes. Dallas is one game behind the Giants now and still has two head-to-head matchups against them to come. Their first meeting will be in Dallas on Dec. 11. Between now and then, the Cowboys will play the Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals, while the Giants play the Eagles, Saints and Packers. It's not unreasonable to think Dallas could even be in first place by the time it faces the Giants, and regardless, that game and their Week 17 matchup loom as potentially decisive games in the NFC East race. The Cowboys may have had some problems early, but the schedule favors them the rest of the way. And with the head-to-head games against New York still on the schedule, their fate is in their hands.

2. Tony Romo's health. Finally fully recovered from the broken ribs he suffered in a Week 2 victory over the 49ers, the Cowboys' quarterback played one of the best games of his life Sunday in thrashing the Buffalo Bills. After the game, he said it was the first time since that San Francisco game that he felt fully healthy. And if that means he's going to play like this the rest of the way (and stay away from those pesky second-half interceptions that did him in a couple of times earlier this year), that's a scary thought.

3. Rex Grossman. Hey, look. A week ago he wasn't one of the 32 men in the world who could call themselves a starting NFL quarterback, and this week he is. So, rising. It appears the Redskins have given Grossman the keys to their offense for the foreseeable future, and his job is to run it efficiently enough to give them a chance to win a couple more games down the stretch. They have the opportunity to play spoiler against Dallas and New York one more time each, and there are young players on offense who need to be evaluated, so Grossman isn't just taking up space in Washington. They're expecting him to do a competent job in between turnovers.