NFC East Week 10: Eagles, Cowboys Can't Both Lose

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 08, 2012



by Justin Henry (@cynicjrh)
NFC East Beat Writer/Ricky Williams' new Colorado realtor

The defending champions blew a 10 point fourth quarter lead. The most reviled rival of theirs wussed out on their attempt at a game-winning drive. The team known for its futility made comical errors in their Monday night loss. And the team with the highly-touted Heisman winner got outplayed by a recently written-off Heisman winner.

Just another week in the fluffed up chasm that is the NFC East.

The Redskins get a week off to ponder just how truly awful their defense is, while the Eagles and Cowboys battle for the "We're Less Sucky" championship belt. The Giants, meanwhile, get what appears to be a cakewalk in the Bengals, but we know, especially after Sunday, that nothing's easy for this division.

Not even for the champs.

1. Why the Eagles Will Beat the Cowboys
Sounds like a bold statement, considering even XFL defensive lines would have a field day with King Dunlap, Evan Mathis, Dallas Reynolds, Dennis Kelly, and Julian Vandervelde. Only Mathis was part of the original line going into the summer.

But assuming the Philadelphia Eagles can keep Michael Vick from dying a terrible, excruciating death at the hands of DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas Cowboys' defense, there are advantages that they as a whole can exploit.

Believe it or not, the Eagles' pass defense is far superior to that of the Cowboys. The Eagles have picked off 7 passes, and opposing quarterbacks are posting a mere 57.4 completion percentage against them.

Compare that to the Cowboys, who have just 3 INTs, and a 61.3 completion rate from the opposition.

In addition, thanks to 2 lousy performances against the Bears and Giants, Tony Romo leads the NFL in interceptions with 13. In both cases, the Bears and Giants were able to get a good break from the pack on their division rivals, winning those games.

The Eagles, in equal desperation mode, seem primed to make Romo pay for any potential mistake.

And if the Eagles can't pick off Romo's wayward and forced throws, they have a respectable chance at forcing them to punt. Philadelphia has the third best third-down percentage in the NFL, a restricting 32.61 percent.

Let's not forget the running game. LeSean McCoy had his finest output of the season on Monday, with 119 yards on 19 carries (6.26 YPA), although it was on the Saints hapless D. The Cowboys running game, meanwhile, struggles as DeMarco Murray's foot gives him fits.

2. Why the Cowboys Will Beat the Eagles
Like I said, the pass-blocking is awful. It's so awful that if it manufactured condoms based on their protective performance, Travis Henry and Antonio Cromartie would proudly use them.

Jason Peters, Todd Herremans, and Jason Kelce are all finished for the year, and their replacements would be expendable on most teams.

Dallas has 16 sacks in 8 games; 9 of which belong to the marauding DeMarcus Ware. Given Vick's inability to call audibles, and set protection and blocking schemes, Ware can set himself anywhere in the formation and wreak havoc. Just pick an offensive line spot to exploit, and it's off to make the kill.

Put it like this: the Saints had 13 sacks before Monday night, and now they have 20. The Saints don't have DeMarcus Ware.

I think after Sunday, the chatter will turn to, "Will DeMarcus Ware break Michael Strahan's ill-gotten record?" Remember, they play Philly twice.

On the contrary, Dallas' offensive line may not be great, but at least Romo will be better at getting the ball away. He's only been sacked 14 times compared to Vick's 27.

The Eagles have only 4 sacks over the last 5 games, and never more than 3 in any game all season, so I'm not expecting them to put Romo's life in any kind of danger.

And to counter the point about McCoy having a nice bounce-back game, he's not playing the Saints this time around.

Dallas has only allowed 2 100-yard rushers this season: Marshawn Lynch (122) and Michael Turner (102). They also allow 4.08 YPA rushing, so McCoy's troubles could lead to a heavier reliance on the unreliable Vick.

3. Eli Will Follow Peyton's Footsteps, Beat Cincinnati
Since mauling the Jaguars on September 30, the Bengals have not won a game. They've lost to all 3 division opponents this season (1-3 overall against them).

During their four game losing streak since the Jacksonville outing, they've lost by 4, 10, 7, and 8 points. Among their conquerors are good teams like the Steelers and Broncos, a decent squad in the Dolphins, and scrappy underdog Cleveland.

The Giants, however, will be a different test.

Coming off an embarrassing 24-20 loss to the Steelers, wherein the Giants were outscored in the fourth quarter 14-0, a team of their caliber will likely annihilate the equivalent of a wrestling jobber being thrown their way.

Fact: Andy Dalton has been sacked 22 times this season, and has thrown 11 interceptions. The Giants create a sack or INT in 12.46 of their defensive snaps; the best average in the league.

New York's 25 sacks and 17 INT on defense are a more-than-favorable match up.

Fact: Although no receiver has topped the century-mark vs. the Bengals, 5 wideouts have between 90 and 99 receiving yards on them this season. Both Eric Decker and Josh Gordon had 99 each against Cincinnati.

Victor Cruz's 3 100-yard games and Hakeem Nicks' 199-yard performance against the Buccaneers indicate that Cincinnati's streak of holding receivers under 100 yards this year is quite in jeopardy.

With a win, the Giants would leave the idle Redskins and the Dallas-Philly loser another game back, as they continue their relatively breezy cruise to a second straight East title.

4. Bye Week Blues: Washington Edition
Here’s a look at the Washington Redskins on their bye week, and what the road ahead looks like.

Record: 3-6

Combined Record, Remaining 7 Opponents: 26-32

Record Against Next 4 Opponents, 2008-Present: 7-19 (including loss to Giants earlier this season)

Causes for Faith
-They have Robert Griffin III, their first potentially elite QB since.....uh....Theismann?
-RG3 and Alfred Morris are a big part of the team's 5.25 YPA rushing

Causes for Concern
-Redskins are a league-worst 28.57 percent at converting third downs
-Lousy pass defense allows 301.7 passing yards per game

Team MVP: Robert Griffin III (14 touchdowns (8 passing, 6 rushing), 65.6 completion percentage, and the potential to only get better)

Biggest Disappointment: Brian Orakpo (No fault of his own, but his season-ending injury in Week 2 cost the defense their best leader next to London Fletcher)

Outlook: I wouldn't at all be surprised to see Mike Shanahan and his abrasive kid tossed out on their hides after this season. Daniel Snyder demands success, which is as averse to him as the concept of patience. Getting a quarterback as dynamic, marketable, and possessing as much upside as Griffin has given the Redskins the best foundation it's had during the Snyder era, excepting the time Snyder let Brad Johnson go.

With RG3, I see a hybrid of the modern Saints/Packers offense (spread around to various targets, anyone can have a big fantasy day) and the Falcons offense during the Reeves/Mora run (RG3/Morris/Royster = Vick/Warrick Dunn/TJ Duckett).

But we're talking ceilings and beyond. Right now, there are still offensive line issues, key injuries gutting Jim Haslett's defense, and a secondary that couldn't keep a snail from crossing the street.

Getting a healthy Orakpo, Adam Carriker, and Fred Davis back for 2013 is vital, but it does them no good now. The defense is giving up the sixth most points, fifth most yards, and Griffin and Morris are finding their best efforts neutralized by all-around incompetence.

The likes of Tony Romo and Eli Manning can torch their defense with long bombs. Even Michael Vick, protection willing, could air mail DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin into the end one. That's 5 of their remaining 7 games.

As for the Browns, they play everyone tough, even at 2-7. Resistance and aggression can beat this team. As for Baltimore, they're an overrated 6-2, but what they have over-matches the Skins' overall package.

Prediction: 5-11

5. Mini Power Rankings
1. New York Giants (6-3)
The defending champions whomped the 49ers 26-3 less than a month ago to go to 4-2. Since then, they won 2 of their next 3, winning both games by 4 and 5 points, and then blew a lead to the Steelers. Eli Manning, over his last 3 games: 1 TD and 4 INTs.

2. Philadelphia (3-5)
The Eagles have not lost 5 in a row since September-October 2008, under the death knell of Ray Rhodes final disastrous year. Andy Reid's suffered through 5 streaks of 4 losses (2 in 1999, 1 in 2005, 1 in 2011, and 1 currently), and a 5-gamer here sinks him for good.

3. Dallas (3-5)
How's this for disparity: the Cowboys had 227 yards rushing against Baltimore. Their second best effort of the season was 143 against the Giants on opening night. In their other 6 games, they average 49.5 YPG on the ground, topping out with 85 against Carolina.

4. Washington (3-6)
The Redskins are the only team this year that has not held an opponent below 20 points in any game. Even Jacksonville, Kansas City, New Orleans, New York Jets, Oakland, and Tennessee have all done it once. Holding Carolina to 21 was their best output.


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