NFC East Stock Watch

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
1:00
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FALLING

1. Prince Amukamara, Giants cornerback. It may not be nice, or really even fair, to pick on the rookie. But opposing offenses are doing just that, and the New York Giants' first-round cornerback is struggling. Amukamara's problems are emblematic of the overall coverage issues with which the Giants have been struggling throughout the second half of the season. But while those problems were more easily explained when the Saints, Packers and Cowboys were throwing on them at will, the fact the Redskins' offense was able to operate so efficiently and with so much third-down success Sunday was extremely troubling for the Giants.

2. Reasons to criticize Tony Romo. The Cowboys are 5-2 in their past seven games, and during that stretch Romo has 18 touchdown passes and two interceptions -- both of which came in the Thanksgiving game against Miami. The Cowboys' issues in finishing off games against the Cardinals and Giants were on the defense, which continues to struggle on the back end and could cost them again this week against the Eagles. But there's no denying the efficient, responsible and extremely effective way Romo is leading an offense that hasn't missed a beat since its star running back went down with an ankle injury.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin
AP Photo/Bill FeigTom Coughlin's seat is a warm one in the month of December as the Giant are 1-2.
3. Tom Coughlin's job security. I've said it before and I believe it: The Giants' head coach is not to blame for what's going on in New York. He was handed an insufficient roster that was ravaged by injuries, and the fact the Giants' 6-2 start was an act of overachievement. I think Giants management would be wise to take a long, serious look at the way its team's roster is constructed, the way certain positions are consistently and stubbornly overlooked and the extent to which needs have not been addressed over the past few offseasons, and Coughlin has nothing to do with that. But all of that said, fair or not, a third straight season without a playoff appearance is the kind of thing that puts coaches (especially New York ones) on the hot seat. And while the Giants' owners are not the type to do anything rash or reactionary, Coughlin has to be uneasy about the way his overall December record looks in the big picture.

RISING

1. Jason Babin, Eagles defensive end. When Babin found himself in Tennessee last year hooked up with defensive line coach Jim Washburn, his career was re-energized. Washburn stripped away everything except the thing Babin does best -- get after quarterbacks -- and told him to focus only on his strength. Babin was wise enough to move to Philadelphia this past offseason, and with six sacks in his past two games he's up to 18 on the season. Babin had 17.5 sacks in the first 66 games of his career. In his past 30, playing for Washburn, he has 30.5. He's currently tied for the league lead and has an outside chance at Michael Strahan's all-time single-season record of 22.5. And he's helping drive an Eagles defense that has turned it on in the past two weeks for the team's longshot playoff push.

2. Dallas Cowboys' playoff chances. Lots of people last week were telling me the game against the Buccaneers didn't mean anything, and with regard to tiebreakers it did not. But with the Redskins beating the Giants, the Cowboys' victory over Tampa Bay may turn out to have been important for keeping them out of any ties. If Dallas beats the Eagles this week and the Giants lose to the Jets, the Cowboys clinch the division and the Week 17 rematch against the Giants will be the Stephen McGee show as Romo and the Cowboys rest and get ready for a home playoff game the following week. Dallas took care of business against a team with a losing record and the Giants did not, and as a result Dallas is the team in the position of strength right now.

3. Rex Grossman, Redskins quarterback. Two early interceptions? Ten games in a row with at least one? Hey, Grossman is who he is. But there's no denying that the Redskins' offense is at its best when Grossman is playing quarterback. He has no tight ends, only two of his five starting offensive linemen, no real No. 1 receiver and a rookie running back. And yet, Washington has averaged 23.5 points over its past five games. That doesn't make them the Packers, but with their defense it makes them a team that's always in the game. The Redskins still need to find a franchise quarterback this offseason if they're to take the next step into a brighter future. But if they bring back Grossman, at the very least they'll know they have a veteran backup capable of putting points on the board if they need to use him.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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