NFL Roundtable: Does anyone want to win the NFC East?
Each week we sit down with BetAmerica Extra columnists Ashley Anderson, James Scully, and Scott Shapiro to discuss the latest news from around the NFL. This week they weigh in on the horrendous NFC East, the Raiders' epic collapse to the Falcons, and the best rookie receiver in the league.
Someone has to win the NFC Least this year. Who’s your pick?
Ashley: The Cowboys’ remaining schedule is the most favorable among the four NFC East teams, as they play Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and New York over their final four games. But I can’t pick Dallas after their embarrassing Thanksgiving Day loss to Washington, who I will reluctantly back to win the division. Washington has the best pass defense in the league and can cause Seattle and Carolina some trouble at home. A win at Philly is a must to push Washington’s division record to 4-2. Otherwise, the Giants, who beat Washington twice, will take the crown, so long as they defeat Dallas (their most beatable opponent left) in Week 17.
James: Daniel Jones’ hamstring injury doesn’t appear to be season-ending, according to early reports on Monday, and New York is my pick if he returns. The Giants have three winnable home games remaining - Arizona (Week 13), Cleveland (Week 14), and Dallas (Week 17) – and will control their destiny with the tiebreaker edge over Washington. If Jones doesn’t return or proves ineffective, Dallas rates the advantage as the Cowboys have the easiest schedule left in the NFC East.
Scott: As we head into December, the NFC East is absolutely wide-open. A division that was once considered a two-team battle between the Eagles and the Cowboys is likely to come down to the final week of the season. My pick to capture the worst division in NFL history is the Washington Football Team. They have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, a strong running game, and a dynamic playmaker on the outside in Terry McLaurin. Look for Ron Rivera’s club to win six games and make the playoffs in 2020.
Who is most to blame for the Raiders’ lopsided defeat to the Falcons on Sunday?
Ashley: The Raiders had averaged 28.6 points per game leading up to Sunday’s 43-6 defeat. Their abysmal showing on offense mainly fell on their quarterback, Derek Carr, who lost three fumbles and had an interception returned for a touchdown. The Falcons scored 18 total points off Carr’s turnovers, but the Raiders defense deserves plenty of blame, too. Sunday’s defeat marked the seventh game in which Las Vegas’ defense surrendered at least 30 points. The unit also committed five penalties that resulted in Falcons first downs and allowed Atlanta to covert nearly 50 percent of tries from third down.
James: There's plenty of blame to go around. Las Vegas failed to show up in every aspect, and the disheartening 43-6 loss dealt a blow to their playoff hopes. After performing like a MVP candidate in recent weeks, Derek Carr had one of his worst games with three lost fumbles and a pick-six. Josh Jacobs had only 27 rushing yards. The defense was plagued by penalties and the lack of a pass rush. Jon Gruden took responsibility for the mess as the Raiders sustained their worst loss since 2014. Las Vegas figures to beat the Jets in Week 13, and their wild card hopes likely rest upon how they perform against Indianapolis (Week 14) and Miami (Week 16) late in the season.
Scott: Head coach Jon Gruden is most to blame for the Raiders’ embarrassing defeat in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon. Sure, QB Derek Carr was pitiful, Oakland’s offensive line did little to open holes for their running backs, and their defense struggled to stop a Falcons’ offense that was without star WR Julio Jones, but this was about the team not being ready to play. It was obvious that Las Vegas was "hungover" after losing a close one to AFC West rival Kansas City. Expect the Raiders to bounce back in a big way in their Week 13 matchup against the winless Jets.
Chase Claypool and Justin Jefferson have both been magnificent this season. Who will have the better career?
Ashley: Both receivers should enjoy successful careers, but I see Jefferson becoming the bigger star. The rookie has emerged as a No. 1 target for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota, and has already tied Randy Moss for the Vikings' franchise record for most 100-yard games by a rookie. Jefferson also ranks seventh in the league in receiving yards (918) and averages 17.7 yards per catch. Claypool shares the spotlight with JuJu Smith-Schuster and a handful of other talented receivers on the Steelers roster. It’ll be much more difficult for Claypool to put up the type of numbers Jefferson can if they both remain on their current teams for the foreseeable future.
James: Chase Claypool rates the edge because he plays for a better organization. Claypool has led Pittsburgh in receiving yards and touchdowns, and the Steelers will exploit their wide receiver talent. Justin Jefferson is enjoying a terrific rookie season – his numbers are better than Claypool and Dallas’ rookie CeeDee Lamb. He’s really good. But when was the last time the Vikings had a quality quarterback? Unless there’s a coaching change, Dalvin Cook will continue to be the offensive focus for a Minnesota organization that wants to run the ball and play sound defense.
Scott: The 2020 rookie WR class was widely considered one of the best of all time and thus far it has not disappointed. Justin Jefferson and Chase Claypool were not the first two pass catchers chosen in an NFL draft that saw 13 wide receivers taken in the first two rounds, but they have been the most productive in their rookie campaign. Of the two, I expect Jefferson to have the better career. The former LSU star can line up on the inside and outside, has the quickness to get down the field, is an incredibly strong route runner, and has great body control. He should be a star in the league for a long time.