Eagles clinch NFC’s top seed vs. Giants backups while Cowboys lay egg in season finale loss

The NFC East title and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs is secure.

With the division and the NFC's No. 1 seed on the line, the Philadelphia Eagles took the field on Sunday against a New York Giants team that didn't play its starters. They jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead en route to a 22-16 win to secure the NFC's best record and the coveted first-round playoff bye that comes with it.

The Dallas Cowboys, meanwhile, looked far from playoff form in a 26-6 loss to the Washington Commanders. They entered the game with a shot at winning the division. That hope was deemed moot when the Eagles won, but their effort in the meantime will rankle some nerves in Dallas as the Cowboys look to next week's wild-card round.

Facing a Washington team starting rookie quarterback Sam Howell in his first NFL action, Dallas dug itself into a 13-0 first-half hole. The offense struggled to move the ball, and Dak Prescott's turnover woes continued with a second-quarter interception that Kendall Fuller returned 29 yards for a touchdown.

Fuller read the play while sitting in soft coverage and jumped the route as soon as Prescott threw the pass in the flat targeting Noah Brown.

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The play continued a concerning trend for Prescott, who entered Sunday tied for a league-worst 14 interceptions despite missing five games with injury. He finished his day completing 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards with a touchdown and the interception before Cooper Rush took over in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Cowboys averaged just 2.8 yards per play on offense and were outgained by the Commanders, 309 yards to 182.

As the Dallas offense struggled, Howell played well in his NFL debut against a Cowboys team playing its starters. He threw a touchdown on his first drive to give Washington a 7-0 lead and showed his deep-ball touch on a 50-yard connection with Terry McLaurin in the third quarter.

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He added a touchdown on the ground and finished 11-of-19 for 169 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Howell's effort will raise questions about why head coach Ron Rivera didn't give him a shot before the Commanders were eliminated from the playoffs. More immediately, it raises concerns for a Cowboys defense that will face Tom Brady in next week's wild-card round.

The Eagles, meanwhile, got off to a hot start then held off a late rally that saw New York close the gap. Facing backup Giants defenders, the Eagles opened with a field goal set up by a 30-yard pass from Hurts to A.J. Brown. They followed it up with an 80-yard drive capped by a Boston Scott touchdown run to extend their lead to 10-0.

They extended their lead again to 19-3 in the third quarter before the Giants scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns with Davis Webb playing quarterback in place of resting starter Daniel Jones. But it was too little too late as the Eagles ran out the clock after a failed onside kick.

Jalen Hurts failed to find the end zone after missing the last two games with injury. But his return was a welcome sight in Philadelphia as the Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak in his absence to finish the regular season at 14-3. He finished the day completing 20 of 35 passes for 229 yards with an interception. He gained 13 yards on nine carries. The Eagles have next week off before hosting a game in the divisional round.

The Giants remain as the NFC's No. 6 seed and will travel to Minnesota for a wild-card game against the Vikings. The Cowboys finish at 12-5, but will have to travel next week to face an 8-9 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that will host thanks to winning the NFC South.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 08: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) reacts during the first half of the National Football league game between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles on January 8, 2023 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA (Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A.J. Brown and the Eagles will have next week off. (John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)