Final Word: NFC East

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
1:30
PM ET
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:

[+] EnlargePierre Garcon
AP Photo/Mark DuncanThe Redskins are 7-1 this season when receiver Pierre Garcon plays, and score 5.3 points more.
Difference-maker. How important has the post-bye return of wide receiver Pierre Garcon from a foot injury been for the Washington Redskins? When Garcon plays this season, Washington is 7-1, scores an average of 29.5 points per game and averages 9.7 yards per pass attempt and 286.4 passing yards per game. When Garcon has not played, Washington is 1-5 and averages 24.2 points per game, 6.7 yards per pass attempt and 209.8 passing yards per game. Garcon will be a significant challenge for a Philadelphia Eagles secondary that has not responded well to many challenges this year. He's averaging 7.6 yards after the catch this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, which ranks fourth in the league among receivers with at least 30 catches.

Bookends. A loss to Washington would be the Eagles' 11th defeat of the season. They've not lost that many since 1999, which was Andy Reid's first year as their head coach. Reid is expected to lose his job at the end of this season, and that means Sunday would be his final home game as the Eagles' coach. Reid has had good success against the Redskins in recent years, having won five of his past seven against them. But the Redskins began their current five-game winning streak with a 31-6 victory over the Eagles at home in Week 11. If they beat them badly again Sunday, it would be the first time the Redskins beat the Eagles by double digits twice in the same season since 1973.

Bucking a trend? The Dallas Cowboys have lost six of their past seven games against the New Orleans Saints dating back to 1998. Their one victory in that stretch, however, was the Dec. 19, 2009, game in which the Cowboys went into New Orleans and beat a Saints team that was 13-0 at the time. This Saints team is ... not that Saints team. This year's Saints are 6-8 and have struggled all year on defense. Dallas is averaging 29.5 points per game over its past six games (of which it has won five) after averaging just 18.8 points per game in its first eight games of the year. The Cowboys should be able to put up points against a Saints defense that ranks 31st against the run, 31st against the pass and 32nd overall in the 32-team NFL this year.

Running it up. The return of running back DeMarco Murray from his foot injury four weeks ago has obviously helped the Cowboys' run game, but it has helped the offense overall as well. According to ESPN Stats & Info, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a 72.7 completion percentage and averages 10.5 yards per pass attempt with six touchdowns and no interceptions on play-action passes with Murray in the lineup. When Murray does not play, Romo's completion percentage on play-action drops to 63.2, his yards per attempt to 3.9, and his TD-INT ratio to 1-2. Murray scares opposing defenses to an extent that backup Felix Jones does not, and the offense is able to do much more when he's on the field.

Who bounces back? The New York Giants lost 34-0 in Atlanta last week to fall out of first place in the NFC East. But in games following losses this year, the defending Super Bowl champs are 4-1 and averaging 37 points and 441.6 yards per game. The Baltimore Ravens, who fell to the Broncos last week, have lost three in a row following a 9-2 start. They have not lost four games in a row since the 2007 season, when they lost nine in a row. Baltimore also has lost its past two home games. Prior to that, it had enjoyed a 15-game winning streak at home. The Giants need the win more, since the Ravens have clinched a playoff spot and the Giants have not. But neither team is coming in particularly hot.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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