Sunday, November 25, 2012

Feasting on the NFC East

Saturday Evening Post football

If Thanksgiving reminded us of anything, it's to be thankful for the NFC East, in spite of the baked and basted Eagles.

The division is mouthwatering, stuffed like a festive bird with all the trimmings---entertaining quarterbacks, rumbling pass rushers, gruff coaches and most importantly, rivalries of immense theatre. That's the key element in prolonging the peak of interest, defying the natural occurrence of a singular crescendo---the theatre of unpredictability. And the reigning champion New York Giants are about as unpredictable as it gets; the Cowboys as disappointing; the Redskins as thrilling; and the Eagles, well, as unseasoned. A dramatic stage has been set.

Already the Redskins deserve a standing ovation. Here was a club, so grossly commandeered from behind the offensive line and via the headset for years, you wondered if owner, Daniel Snyder, might be an even worse distributor of funds than, say, James Cameron, or Michael Bay---both world beaters in that category. Washington is suddenly more animated than Avatar ever was. 

The yet to be knighted Robert Griffin III provides the 'Skins a spread of offensive treats so sumptuous, the half-smoked hot dog from Ben's Chili Bowl is salivating. Certainly his running is a worry for defenders because truly good runners are capricious. Griffin not only cuts, he swivels and launches. It's untenable. But it's something further with him---he's unnerving. Michael Vick can tear past and edge, and yet, his presence doesn't unhinge ends in the same way. Not anymore. Griffin's attack, by contrast, is illusive as he probes for space with his feet, squeezes the ball into gaps as if it were malleable, and he finds room for that hair inside his helmet, perhaps that most unreal feat of all. 

Now that Washington is on a roll, it's feasible they could be carving Christmas turkey with a sense of comfort only a divisional leader can savour. But let's not belittle the Giants. All New Yorkers, not just those of grand political stature, or of regimented blue uniform, fight to the bitter end. It's just their way. So we should assume Big Blue Defense & Co. will bust through any complacency, and ultimately crash the playoffs. It's inevitable and you know it.

So which end of the saloon does that leave the Cowboys? In view of the leggy blonde eyeing out a Springsteen number on the Jukebox, or mumbling into a Miller Lite in the darkened corner beneath the elk? Perhaps halfway up the bar, with neither a shot at Dancing in the Dark, nor receiving hallucinatory advice from a mounted deer.

Tony Romo and Dez Bryant connected on two splendid touchdowns against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, which is presumably easy on your home turf and in front of a famous country singer. But for all the Cowboys' wild talent, Romo's relentless gun-slinging, and Bryant's powerful stride, they are surely victims of their own expectations. And ten gallons of good intention can't overcome that.

Against the Burgundy and Gold, America's Team stared down the barrel of a 25-point deficit---and Jerry Jones' distasteful glare---and yet, Romo bullet-holed the opposing defense like it was the O.K. Corral. Four-hundred and forty-one yards worth of spirals from the Dallas quarterback's arm later, the smoke cleared and Griffin's grin sparkled. 

Somewhat like his hero, John Elway, Griffin has that intangible knack for success. This irrepressibility is proving the difference in the NFL's toughest division.

Redskins vs Cowboys

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