It is the penultimate Tuesday of our NFL regular season, which means the Power Rankings are getting down to the nitty gritty, the knee-jerk reactions are taking on a consistent theme and I imagine I can predict the dominant topic of our weekly chat. In a division in which three teams are tied for first place with two weeks to go, there is much to discuss, so on to the links.
Nothing that happened Sunday, when backup quarterback Kirk Cousins went into Cleveland and played very well in the Redskins' fifth straight win, changes the fact that Robert Griffin III will play once the team doctors say his knee is healthy enough for him to do so. That could well be this week, but the Redskins say they're not going to hold Griffin back out of abundant caution just because Cousins looked good. There's a clear hierarchy on the depth chart at quarterback in Washington, even though the Redskins feel good about their backup.
One of the reasons for the Redskins' success this year is the stability and health of their offensive line. But this week, center Will Montgomery has a knee sprain, right tackle Tyler Polumbus has a concussion and backup lineman Jordan Black has been suspended for four games for performance-enhancing drug use. Sudden changes and a lack of depth on the line would be ill-timed.
So it appears that team owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett didn't know the players had arranged for Josh Brent to be on the sideline for Sunday's game. I wrote Monday that Brent's public presence there, so soon after the drunken-driving accident that killed friend and teammate Jerry Brown and has Brent facing intoxication manslaughter charges, sent the wrong message. And while not knowing he was going to be there doesn't absolve the Cowboys' leaders of blame (since they probably should have known), it helps explain why it happened. The players aren't responsible for the messaging, and aren't the ones who need to care how something like this looks. Jones and Garrett are, and it sounds as though they'll assume some control over this issue moving forward.
The Cowboys continue to monitor the fractured left index finger of top wide receiver Dez Bryant, which didn't prevent him from continuing his touchdown-catch streak Sunday. Bryant's determination to play through that pain is having a positive effect in the locker room, Garrett says.
New York Giants
Sunday was not a good day for Tom Coughlin and the Giants, but once Coughlin looked at the playoff picture Sunday night and learned that his team could still reach the playoffs by winning their final two games, he felt better. This is a key part of Coughlin's overall message to his players about their ability to create their own opportunities, and you can be certain he'll spend this week drilling them on the fact that they control their own fate.
Starting running back Ahmad Bradshaw expects to return from his knee injury and play Sunday in Baltimore. But as we all know (and learned again last week), Bradshaw doesn't get to make that call. So the Giants aren't yet sure they'll have him back for this very important game.
Phil Sheridan tackles the disturbing issues raised by the news that steroids were found in Garrett Reid's dorm room at training camp at the time of his death, and says the news casts a poor light on the Eagles' judgment in their decision to have Andy Reid's troubled son around the team.
The Eagles could have running back LeSean McCoy back for Sunday's game against the Redskins, and of course he'll play if he's cleared. There will still likely be carries for fumble-prone rookie Bryce Brown, as the Eagles contend that Brown needs the experience. But this isn't like the quarterback situation, where Michael Vick is riding the bench behind rookie Nick Foles. The Eagles signed McCoy to a long-term deal last summer. Unlike Vick, he's a key part of their future. They're not going to tell him his season's over even though he's healthy enough to go.