How the abysmal NFC East gave us an intriguing Thanksgiving football game

This NFL season, the NFC East has been unforgivably bad, and the idea that one of the four teams making up this train wreck of a division will be playing playoff football come January is laughable. 

That should not discredit, however, the massive implications that are on the line Thursday when the Dallas Cowboys host the Washington Football Team. A matchup between two 3-7 teams would almost never seem like an enjoyable matchup, especially given it being an afternoon game on Thanksgiving.

As we’ve seen this year, though, nothing is too unimaginable, and for whatever reason a win for either team would lift them from the depths of the division into a playoff spot. 

It would make either team a potential favorite to win the division with six weeks left in the season. The way this season has gone for the pair, neither should even sniff the playoffs, but both found victories in Week 11 that fostered this new found hope.

Dallas is a much better team than their record shows. Losing your starting quarterback in Week 5 to an injury can shift the course of your entire season, and to make matters worse, second-stringer Andy Dalton missed two weeks.

The players the Cowboys have had out on the field for a majority of the season have struggled. Ezekiel Elliot has been inconsistent for much of the season, and the team's ability to play defense has been obsolete. 

On Sunday, however, with Dalton back, the Cowboys played a competitive game of football and beat a Minnesota Vikings team that had won their last three. Elliot showed up with his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and the defense held on at the end preventing any last-second comeback. 

On the other side of the matchups stands the Washington Football Team. It is by no means a good team, but it's hard to gauge how bad they are at the same time. 

Early quarterback woes led to Washington benching second-year starter Dwayne Haskins, Jr. Week 5, choosing to instead give the start to Kyle Allen, who was then injured in the contest. Allen would return and play in the next two games before suffering a dislocated-ankle that ended his season. 

In stepped quarterback 36-year-old quarterback Alex Smith, who made his first start in two-years following his own horrific leg injury. Smith has thrown for 556 yards in his two starts this season, completing 55/80 passing attempts. 

Smith leading Washington to a victory Thursday would be a perfect way to push start the playoff aspirations of Smith and his teammates. He’s lucky to have even returned to the field as doctors at one point suggested amputation during his recovery, but that hasn’t stopped his comeback.

Holding an 8-1 record in head-head Thanksgiving matchups, the Cowboys will hope to extend their lead on Washington, and the rest of the NFC East come Thursday. 

The result remains to be seen, but maybe the newly named Washington Football Team will find their footing and be led to their own victory on the back of what would be an inspiring performance by the battle-tested Alex Smith.

Kickoff for the intriguing Thanksgiving matchup is set for 1:30 p.m. on FOX and should give us a surprisingly worthwhile matchup involving the NFC East.

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