Another week, another loss for the team possessing the top spot in the B/R NFC East Blog power rankings. Sorry, Eagles. Oh, and an apology in advance to the Giants, who return to the No. 1 position just in time to take on the red-hot San Francisco 49ers on the road.
Here's how I view a very tight NFC East through five weeks:
For whatever reason, they're starting slow. The Giants had just three points in the first half against the Eagles and were down 14-0 early against Cleveland. And you'll recall that they also had a double-digit halftime deficit in Week 2 against the Buccaneers.
The good news is that they recovered in all three of those games, winning two of them. The bad news is that the two wins came against the Bucs and Browns, who have a combined record of 1-8 this season.
If they don't begin to start stronger, they'll be in trouble as the schedule toughens up.
OK, that's my criticism. But there's so much to love about this team right now. They're proving that the pass rush doesn't have to carry them to victories, nor does the passing offense. The running game has gone from being a weakness to a strength, and the offensive line is putting it together and playing as well as it has in years.
This is absolutely the Giants' division for the taking right now, but the extremely difficult schedule will make if tough for them to pull away.
2. Philadelphia Eagles (3-2, 1st last week)
Michael Vick made some serious progress Sunday in Pittsburgh. It's easy to dump on Vick for the fumbles, and he deserves that criticism, but it still should be noted that he nearly led the Eagles to an impressive victory on the road against a Steelers team coming off their bye week.
Vick completed 67 percent of his passes, put up a 104.2 passer rating and avoided throwing an interception for the second straight week. He was great against the blitz, great on third down and great with the game on the line in the fourth quarter.
So again, if he can just stop fumbling, this team could finally begin to score points like we're used to.
And yes, it's concerning that the pass rush hasn't registered a single sack since Week 3, but they did still bring some heat against the Steelers. You'd have to imagine that Trent Cole and Jason Babin will come around, and if that happens and Vick and Nnamdi Asomugha can get back on track, the Eagles will be Super Bowl-worthy.
Yet there were quite a few "ifs" there.
3. Washington Redskins (2-3, 3rd last week)
Few teams absolutely need their quarterback as much as the Redskins, who will stand zero chance of competing if Robert Griffin III is forced to miss time. But for the purposes of these rankings, it's a great sign that the 'Skins might very well have beaten the perfect Atlanta Falcons Sunday had RG3 not been forced to leave the game due to a concussion in the third quarter.
We found out that Kirk Cousins isn't ready for prime-time, which surprised nobody outside of the Cousins family.
We also found out that while Ryan Kerrigan is one hell of a play-maker, he can't single-handedly carry this defense. They did a good job preventing big plays against a very good Atlanta passing attack, but the pass rush ultimately has to get more pressure against teams like that.
It's becoming obvious that the 'Skins are at least a year away from competing for something big, but at least Griffin's presence (if he's able to be present) leaves a lot of doors open in the short term.
4. Dallas Cowboys (2-2, 4th last week)
There's not a lot to say about Dallas that wasn't said last week because the Cowboys were off in Week 5, but I will say that what they bring to the table Sunday in Baltimore could determine whether this team competes with the Giants and Eagles this season.
New York and Philly could be in tough with San Francisco and Detroit, which means that a Dallas win could send the franchise from code-red mode to first place, just like that. But if the offensive line continues to bend like silly string against a fierce defensive front like Baltimore's and the offense continues to lack focus, the Ravens will make the Cowboys pay.
And with the bye week out of the way, it might be hard for the 'Boys to dig themselves out of that mental hole. I'm not saying this is a must-win game, but they need to show that they've learned from their mistakes and are back on track.
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