These rankings are supposed to become easier to do as the season wears on, not the other way around. But here we are. The Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants are each still mathematically alive in a three horse race for the NFC East title, with the Eagles gaining ground down the stretch. This week’s rankings are based on the probability each team makes the postseason and its overall performance of late. You might find the following to be a bit surprising.
1) Dallas Cowboys (8-6)- Frankly, I find the Cowboys’ defense to be a vastly overrated unit, one that the Eagles should light up for the second time this season (if the game has meaning come kickoff). I can’t comprehend how Rob Ryan’s name has come up as a possible head coaching candidate for potential future openings. What exactly has Ryan done to warrant such consideration?
The Eagles have been successful against the Ryan brothers this year and have been unusually successful against “3-4″ defenses, sporting a 4-3 record this season.
After letting their strangle hold on the NFC East slip away with a brutal loss to the Giants two weeks ago, Dallas showed up on Saturday night in a must-win game, pounding a pitiful Tampa Bay team into submission. That’s what they were supposed to do. And now they’re back in the driver’s seat on the road to a division title. Whether or not they can remain there has yet to be seen.
2) Philadelphia Eagles (6-8)- You’re probably asking how I could put the Eagles in front of the Giants right now. But let me ask you this: What’s more likely–that the Giants beat the Jets and Cowboys or that the Eagles beat Dallas and Washington? I think that ultimately either team will have to win both games to leapfrog Dallas, and if that’s the case, I’d rather be the Eagles right now.
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SBNation.com has tons of NFL Week 14 highlight videos and gifs at this link.
We know that the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the New York Jets today, giving KC a 5-8 record. Unfortunately, that puts Kansas City in last place in the division. How did the rest of the AFC West standings pan out in Week 14?
The San Diego Chargers beat up on the Buffalo Bills this afternoon, 37-10. That puts the Chargers at 6-7 on the season, good for third in the AFC West. Even though San Diego won, Phillip Rivers was still Philip Rivers.
Full NFL standings are here.
1. Injuries – The Patriots played without Chad Ochocinco, Dan Connolly, Brandon Spikes, Pat Chung, and Devin McCourty. The Eagles played without Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin, and while Nnamdi Asomugha suited up, he played an extremely limited role on their defense. In the absence of Ocho as the Patriots “third” receiver, Deion Branch and Aaron Hernandez stepped up to complement the typically solid performances of Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker. While Taylor Price was pushed down the depth chart, it was good to see the Patriots still be able to pass the ball. Ryan Wendell played very well at center and looked more control than Connolly has in a few weeks. Tracy White played linebacker over Gary Guyton, which was a great coaching move, as White prevented LeSean McCoy from having a large impact on the game. After the first five minutes of the game, Kyle Arrington and Antwaun Molden combined for a solid game of play and prevented Vince Young from developing a rhythm. The Patriots did a great job of compensating for injuries, while the Eagles were unable to overcome their injured players. A win for the Patriots.
2. LeSean McCoy – Yep, McCoy was eliminated. The defense held one of the best running backs in the league to 31 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries- and 22 of those yards were on one play. That means beyond that one fantastic run (not to take it out of consideration), McCoy rushed 9 times for 9 yards. Yeesh. McCoy was also limited in the passing game with 4 receptions on 7 attempts for 30 yards and two dropped passes. In total, McCoy had 14 touches on 17 attempts for 61 yards and a touchdown, or 4.3 yards/play (3.6 yards/attempt). In comparison, he has averaged 5.5 yards/play (5.3 yards/attempt) on the season, which means that the Patriots made McCoy perform at a level far below his expected level. In other news, running back Tom Brady averaged 5.6 yards/run attempt. A win for the Patriots.
3. Pick Young – I was worried when the game opened up and Young threw a pair of beautiful deep catches. Of course, I was lucky and saved my butt by saying, “As long as the defensive backs can run with the Eagles receivers, then they can be in position to take advantage of errant throws.” There was no way Arrington was going to defend that first throw, although the Patriots should have had a safety in the vicinity. The miscommunication between Antwaun Molden and Sterling Moore allowed the second big gain. Beyond that, the Patriots hassled Young and made him look awful (until he padded his stats on the final drive). Molden came down with one of the bad throws, but Young was throwing such difficult throws for his receivers that literally no one on either team was in the area of a few of his other bad tosses. The Patriots didn’t really take advantage of turnovers by not putting points on the board, but they did force Young to win the game for the Eagles- and he had no chance. A win for the Patriots.
4. Receivers – Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski show up to play every week. The Patriots offense has made a point of involving Aaron Hernandez on five or so passes every game and he is continuing to grow as a reliable target. Deion Branch finally had a good game after putting up some pretty unspectacular performances. These are the only four players who caught a pass- and that’s totally fine, as long as they’re the open receiver. When the Patriots play with a blocking tight end (ie: Nate Solder), there’s only space for four skill players on the field (+Brady and the offensive line), so if those four players can continue to contribute, this offense could succeed where the past few offenses have struggled: the playoffs. A win for the Patriots (although I’d like to see some running backs catch some passes out of the backfield).
5. Protect Brady – The good news had to end. Tight end Rob Gronkowski had a stellar game blocking. Brian Waters was his usual consistent self. Ryan Wendell had a solid opening performance. Beyond that? Yikes. The Eagles pass rush was relentless and abused the Patriots cornerstones. Matt Light, bum ankle and all, was taken to school by Trent Cole and the Eagles pass rush. Logan Mankins was moved around by Cullen Jenkins. Juqua Parker and Jason Babin had a field day pass rushing against Sebastian Vollmer and Nate Solder. For whatever reason, the Patriots continue to struggle to establish any consistency with their blocking. Their average level of play forced Brady to move around the pocket and into the open field where, while Brady played exceptionally well against the Eagles, he cannot be expected to perform against top talent in the playoffs. The offensive line needs to solve its issues very quickly. A loss for the Patriots.
Overall, the Patriots took this game 4/5 points. The question still floats about the Patriots’ offensive line and their inconsistencies. Was this past game a result of Matt Light’s ankle (or Trent Cole’s typically high level of play)? Where is Logan Mankin’s mean streak as a blocker? Will the right tackle position ever settle down this season? Look for the answers to these questions next week against Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
That could get ugly.
The Dallas Cowboys escaped Landover, MD with a fulfilling but not aesthetically pleasing 27-24 overtime victory over the Washington Redskins. Of course, a win is a win for the standings. When projecting future success, the how and why become just as important as the what. In that vein, the now first-place Cowboys still have work to do. As expected, going to overtime against a team that has lost five games in a row didn’t impress many of the national pundits. We all know, though, that they have already written their season chapter on the Cowboys and nothing Dallas does against inferior opponents will impress much.
That’s probably a good thing, as it should keep the Cowboys from being impressed with themselves. Yes, the team’s first three-game win streak since the end of 2009 is nice, but it has come at the hands of three teams that appear (now) to be in the bottom half of the league. Despite two wins in a row since being blown out by Dallas, Seattle sits at 4-6. The once up-and-coming Buffalo Bills just got embarrassed for the second consecutive week, at the hands of the then 2-7 Miami Dolphins. Sunday’s opponent, Washington, have now lost six consecutive contests. Despite the large margin of victory in the first two games, Dallas has simply beaten teams they were supposed to.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, they still have two straight games in front of them that they should be able to win. The Cowboys play their customary Thanksgiving Day game against the aforementioned Dolphins in just three days. Miami is led by ‘one that got away’ quarterback Matt Moore, and is sporting their own three-game winning streak. Two of those have come against the same teams Dallas has defeated (Buffalo and Washington), and the third (Kansas City) is comparable to Seattle. So if as fans we poo-poo what the Dolphins have done, that same grain of salt has to be sprinkled on Dallas’ wins.
OK, enough of the wet blanket. Let’s catch up with the latest news from the webisphere.
The puzzling thing for the Cowboys is that they don’t know what’s exactly wrong with [Fiammetta] who has been held out of practice since last week. His symptoms include nausea and sickness when he is working out, Garrett said.
Sensabaugh had an MRI exam Monday which revealed the specific nature of the injury. Sensabaugh indicated he wants to play in Thursday’s game vs. Miami.
Sensabaugh said the goal is to wear the protective boot for one day and then get back to practice, something he missed Monday.
Also missing from practice today were WR Miles Austin, CB Mike Jenkins and QB Jon Kitna. Kitna has been ruled out of the game, while Jenkins had previously targeted Turkey day to make his return.
ESPN studio analysts Cris Carter and Merril Hoge took a moment to call out Dez Bryant . Carter, a former receiver: “Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice were the best-conditioned wide receivers in the NFL. As a wide receiver, you should be the best-conditioned guy on the field. Dez Bryant is not that.” Hoge: “Dez Bryant doesn’t adjust to [defensive] adjustments.”
I went back and talked to [Romo] a little bit last night about a couple of the plays, and he confirmed what I thought — that Dez actually ran an outstanding route on 3rd and 15. He changed the play, Romo did, from what was sent in, and the one he changed to had an adjustment in the route. So there was a play sent in, [Romo] changed it, what he changed it to had an option adjustment in the route for Dez, and he got it all right, which is impressive for Dez. Because I think now we’ve seen two or three weeks where Dez has actually a few good routes, so they may be getting through to him a little bit.
“We can’t control what the standings are like,” Elam said. “They’ll probably be different next week. It’s been changing all year. If you focus on that, you’ll be left behind.”
“There’s not time for that,” Ratliff said. “There’s no time for us to look around the league and see what’s going on and get help from this person or that person.”
The graph shows the up and down swings from the contest on Sunday. Note how it appeared the Redskins were sooo close in OT.
In more than one of the Three To Focus On articles covering Cowboy games this season I’ve reminded everyone that, while Tony Romo has been playing well lately, he can still be a liability, and their losses to the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions can attest to that. After yet another great performance – 113.8 NFL passer rating with 292 yards, three TDs and no picks or fumbles – made all the more impressive by the fact that the running game was ineffective, those two meltdowns seem unlikely to happen again this season. Redskin fans are very aware of Romo’s Houdini-like escapability; in the 2009 game in Dallas, Romo was able to just barely spin out of Orakpo’s clutches, buying himself enough time to find Patrick Crayton in the end zone to score in what would turn out to be a 7-6 win.
“It’s crazy to think that we were playing a football game [Sunday], but that’s what it is because it is a short week,” linebacker Cameron Wake said. “You say ‘do extra.’ You’ve got to do extra on top of extra. It’s a grind, so you’ve got to put in extra time whether it’s at home — whenever you can grab those extra 10 minutes, you’ve got to grab them.”
The Dolphins held a walk-through Monday, allowing players’ bodies to heal while still preparing for Thursday’s game plan. Tuesday will be the team’s only practice before flying to Dallas on Wednesday.
It seems like Cowboys fans got under the Redskins receiver’s skin after the game. Stay classy, Washington.
Also seems like the Cowboys, specifically Dez Bryant, have made MeAngelo doubt his abilities as a player.
DC stands for Dallas Cowboys.
As most of our readers know, I live in the Washington, DC metro area, so I feel I have a bit of perspective on the pulse of Redskins fans. I’ve grown up here, and know no other existence than being bombarded with hatred of my favorite team. I revel in it. While it probably says just as much about me that, at an early age, I aligned myself with “the villains”, I wear those threads with a badge of honor. Literally, in fact, as people that follow my personal Twitter account as well as the BTB one, know very well. I’ve tweeted pics of my jersey with its derogatory Redskins message on a couple of occasions. All of this background is leading up to the question I asked myself recently… where the heck have the Redskins fans gone?
Normally during Redskins Week, my fandom is playfully assaulted every where I go. When I step out of my house, neighbors talk trash, warning me of the impending doom the Cowboys face. When I drive down Maryland Route 202 or Georgia Avenue, NW DC with Cowboys flags flying from both rear windows, I normally get honked at or disgruntled looks and comments at stop lights and signs. This normally happens regardless of the current state of the Redskins. It happened during the Spurrier era, Gibbs 2.0, and even the Zorn debacle. This week? Nothing. Redskins fans are exuding zero swagger.
When I wear said jersey around town (at least three times during each Redskins week) I normally get all kinds of responses and insults hurled my way. This week? Nothing. I’ve never seen the fanbase of this rival so downtrodden as they are in Year Two of “The Shanahans.” It’s eerie, and honestly… disappointing. The current five-game losing streak is bringing the masses to question the leadership; after head coach Mike Shanahan guaranteed that the Beck/Grossman combo was good enough to stake his two-Lombardi reputation on.
Regardless, it’s still Redskins Week. And if the Cowboys don’t want all of the ‘DC’ fans to be assaulted for the next calendar year, they have to continue their recent upswing and the Redskins slide. We all know, just a single victory tossed into their sea of misery will fuel their fiery ire.
So what’s the latest on the actual combatants in Sunday’s tilt? Glad you asked.
The article is an overview of the injury update on all Cowboys. Felix was in full pads (per several twitter reports) and Derrick Dockery was in the starting left guard slot. Sean Lee’s cast size has been reduced, and now allows for flexibility with his fingers. As we saw watching the Bills game, he was unable to use his injured left hand in wrapping up and though he reached the ball carrier on several occasions, couldn’t wrap up.
As is customary, Washington’s brass watches what the Dallas Cowboys do very closely, and often try to emulate. This season has been no different with their offseason signing of DE Stephen Bowen and their midseason pick up of Tashard Choice. Bowen was made available to the Dallas media, and had the following to say about his former teammate.
“He’s a freakish athlete. I’ve just never seen somebody pound for pound as strong as he is,” Bowen said. “He’s a very smart player. He studies a lot of film. He’s good at attacking people’s weaknesses. He is one of the best I’ve ever been around.”
“Every time I step on the field, I got a chip on my shoulder. Somebody tell you (that) you can’t do something, somebody tell you (that) you’re not good enough, you go out there and prove it. You play well, you ball and they shut their mouth.”
The Redskins, who are last in the NFL in rushing at 86.6 yards per game and have averaged just 46 yards on 14 carries in the three contests since losing starter Tim Hightower to a season-ending knee injury, could certainly use a spark from the energetic Choice, who averaged 4.6 yards per carry during his Cowboys tenure.
The second-year man has replaced Rocky McIntosh in the starting lineup. While the Redskins overall play has disappointed their fans, McIntosh was the only weak link of their LB corps. With Riley collecting four tackles-for-loss in Sunday’s defeat to Miami, it appears that Washington has at least one area of their team that should be a major concern for Dallas.
Check out the renditions, the NFC East ones are some of the best.
Looks like everything is set for the team to return to the cool confines of the California coast.
The first halves of several NFL games this week eight have been a surprise.
We’ve got the Giants losing at home to the Dolphins; the Rams are beating the Saints; and the Ravens are getting smashed by the Cardinals.
href="http://lombardiave.com/2011/10/30/nfls-week-eight-surprising/">NFL’s week eight surprising – href="http://lombardiave.com">Lombardi Ave – href="http://lombardiave.com">Lombardi Ave – A Green Bay Packers Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and more.
What we learned after Week 7 in the NFL:
href="http://nicepickcowher.com/2011/10/24/steelers-mmqb-nfl-week-7-wrap-up/">Steelers MMQB: NFL Week 7 Wrap Up – href="http://nicepickcowher.com">Nice Pick, Cowher – href="http://nicepickcowher.com">Nice Pick, Cowher – A Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and more.
What we learned after Week 4 in the NFL:
Blah, blah, blah other games were played. Now WTH is going on with the Steelers? I usually spend the first part of the Monday Morning Quarterback going over some of the highlights and lowlights of the other games that were played but I can only seem to relive the Steelers game in my head over and over again. So what when wrong? Basically, the Steelers have 2 giant weaknesses so far this season; the offensive line and the run defense. That’s what opponents are focusing on when watching game tape in preparation for the Steelers and that’s what they are exploiting when playing them. After the Steelers were manhandled by the Ravens in Week 1 I urged everyone to calm down and not panic. Is it time to panic yet?
href="http://nicepickcowher.com/2011/10/03/steelers-mmqb-nfl-week-4-wrap-up/">Steelers MMQB: NFL Week 4 Wrap Up – href="http://nicepickcowher.com">Nice Pick, Cowher – href="http://nicepickcowher.com">Nice Pick, Cowher – A Pittsburgh Steelers Blog
Many thanks to Dale Lolley for taking the time to answer a few questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers. I asked Dale a few personnel questions, some questions about the Steelers’ sloppy 23-20 win over the Colts Sunday night, and a few bigger picture items that I learned quite a bit from. Let’s see if the same answers that resonated with me stand out with you. This Q&A concludes a five-part series I had arrange with Lolley. Hope you enjoyed the two live chats, two interviews, and the column he led off with back in August. Dale graciously offered to continue dropping in for us, so we’ll get him back on for another chat, have him join a podcast, or see if he’ll pen another column or two sometime a bit later in the season.
- Michael B. -
1) Before appeasing the nervous nellies and negative nancy’s of Steeler Nation, a couple quick questions that aren’t doom and gloom. Firstly, what did you think of Ben Roethlisberger’s performance against the Colts? Obviously the turnovers have to be cleaned up, but outside of the interception, he wasn’t entirely at fault obviously. Am I alone in thinking that he’s slinging the ball around really, really well? Outside of cleaning up the turnovers, is there something he definitely needs to improve upon in your eyes?
Lolley: I think Ben is getting a little greedy at times and that has caused some of the turnovers. For example, the sack/strip by Dwight Freeney was a draw/pass option. Ben opted not to run the draw and then held the ball waiting for a deep receiver to open up. On the sack/strip by Robert Mathis, he stepped up into the pocket and waited well past a normal amount of time for something to open up downfield. He needs to realize it’s OK to run the ball or take a checkdown instead of looking for the big bang every time.
2) How would you assess the weekly progression of James Harrison so far through three weeks?
Lolley: James is rounding into shape. He’s held up well and looks like the Harrison of old. The power, if it isn’t all the way back, is nearly there. At the very least, it’s more than good enough for him to be effective.
3) On a similar note, what about Troy Polamalu?
Lolley: Troy looks like Troy. It’s obvious that he’s healthy and the ankle injury is behind him.
4) From the sofa, it seems like the tandem of Aaron Smith and LaMarr Woodley are struggling in ways that we’ve not really seen on the left side of the defense. Question: is it too much of an adjustment to move either a DE or OLB from the right to the left side in the middle of the season? Basically I’m wondering if it’s a foolish train of thought to even entertain the idea of moving Harrison over to Aaron Smith’s side.
Lolley: I have a theory that Woodley is struggling – if you can call 1 1/2 sacks in the first three games struggling – because Smith is struggling so much. Woodley has also been a streaky pass rusher. He gets his sacks in bunches. Aaron obviously isn’t himself right now. You expect him to get there at some point.
5) Speaking of Smith — there seems to be mixed reaction to his performance. Surprise, surprise, some fans are ready to issue him his pink slip; others think he played fairly well, at least on a fair number of snaps against the Colts. What did you see?
Lolley: He’s not played like Aaron Smith to this point. He seems to be struggling with his power. But he’s a hard worker and there is so much respect for him in that locker room that he’s not getting benched. If it continues, look for Smith to approach the coaching staff about taking a back seat to Ziggy Hood. He’s that kind of guy.
6) Can you clarify at all what happened on the play where Jonathan Scott completely whiffed on Dwight Freeney, which in turn led to the second strip sack of the second quarter? I argued that despite Scott getting manhandled by Freeney for most of the night, that it was hard to argue that there wasn’t some sort of miscommunication on that play. He may have gotten his lunch eaten by Freeney, but Scott at least got a hand, helmet, or at least his butt on Freeney — with mixed results. But still, no complete whiffs. Was there some confusion there?
Lolley: I touched on this earlier. It was a draw/pass option and the ball was supposed to be out quick if it was a pass. Scott was supposed to let Freeney up the field and the ball should have been gone.
7) Over/Under — Mike Wallace receiving yards: 1800.
Lolley: Under. Wallace’s pace at this point is probably unsustainable. He won’t get to 1,800 because teams can’t continue to let him get deep. Can they? He’ll miss it, but not by much.
Has Keenan Lewis done enough to make Tomlin and LeBeau think twice about automatically reinserting Bryant McFadden into the starting lineup?
Lolley: Lewis has played well, but they are not at the point where they are looking to replace McFadden until they see him totally healthy.
Lolley: Gilbert will definitely play. If I had to bet on it, I would say Legursky is active but doesn’t start. He could be available if they absolutely need him. Scott will not play.