Ranking The NFC BEast: NFL's Toughest Division Looking Better After Week 5
The NFC East is anyone's game right now.
At the beginning of the season, everyone seemed to be ready to count the NFC East out as the toughest division in football. With inconsistent play across the board from all teams, it seemed easy to write it off and wonder what was going on, as the division that was once so dominant seemed to have fallen off a cliff in the offseason. NFL analyst and columnist seemed baffled.
However, the teams in the NFC East are beginning to show some signs of life. A strong showing from the New York Giants, a great game for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kevin Kolb, and yet another nail biting finish for the ever scrappy Washington Redskins prove these teams are tougher to beat than it was originally thought, and can hang in there with the best. Meanwhile, the team everyone picked to win the division at the beginning of the year, the Dallas Cowboys, have been plagued with a string of bad luck heading into a very tough stretch in their schedule.
There is never a dull moment in the NFC BEast. It's time to stack 'em up and rank 'em to see where we stand after Week 5 in the NFC East.
No.4: The Dallas Cowboys at 1-3
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The Rundown: The Dallas Cowboys can't seem to stop shooting themselves in the foot.
For all the talk of the talent the Dallas Cowboys have at the skill positions and their desire to win the division and head towards the Super Bowl, the 'Boys can't seem to pull of a win. If you looked at the Cowboys stats, you'd be able to make a case for the being 4-0 right now. But despite putting up good numbers, costly turnovers, costlier penalties, and odd playcalling turn up in ever game to bite Jerry's men in white in the butt.
After a heartbreaking loss to the Washington Redskins, penalties and off playcalling continued to plague them the following week in their 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears. After defeating the Houston Texans in dominating fashion in Week 3 and a breakout performance by Roy Williams, not to mention the emergence of a running game, the Cowboys seemed to be back on track to being playoff contenders.
Not so fast.
Wade Phillips had never lost a game coming off a bye week until now. The problems and inconsistencies crept into the game versus the Tennessee Titans. The Cowboys put up points, but still fell 34-27. Now everything in Dallas has been thrown into flux, and the dreaded word "overrated" is being used to describe the team. The Dallas Cowboys need to find a way out of this dark place, quickly.
What's Next: The Dallas Cowboys go to Mall of America Field to face another team than can ill afford a loss; the equally baffling, equally inconsistent, equally desperate Minnesota Vikings. This battle of 1-3 teams is a match neither team can afford to lose. Both teams will need to bring their A-game, but Dallas can ill afford a loss in this game, as their next face the New York Giants, the surprising Jacksonville Jaguars and the Green Bay Packers.
The Dallas Cowboys need this win, otherwise they may put them in a whole it will be impossible to pull themselves out of.
No.3: The Washington Redskins at 3-2
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The Rundown: The Washington Redskins would do themselves a HUGE favor if they could win a game easy.
It's not easy putting the Redskins number three on this list, even though they are currently number one in the division. But consistency seems to be the name of the game in the NFC East, and the Washington Redskins are anything but right now.
4 of their last 5 games have come down to the absolute last play of the game. Redskins fans are having heart attacks on every drive, hoping that the Redskins can put one game away easily. The 'Skins were one holding call away from being beat by the Cowboys. In week 2 they couldn't put the Houston Texans away, blowing a 17-point lead and missing a game winning field goal after 23-year-old kicker Graham Gano received his first icing.
In week 3 they were flat out embarassed by the scrappy-but-in-no-way-dominant St. Louis Rams. In week 4, they played a good game against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half, only for the wheels to come off at the end, with another last second play that could've easily gone the other teams ways.
It seemed going into week 5 the the familiar "Same Ol' Redskins" tune was about to be sung by everyone, as the Redskins couldn't muster anything on offense, and their first drive of the series ended with a snap going right through the fingers of Donovan McNabb. But for all the talk of the Redskins defense giving up the most yards in the NFL, the defense somehow held Green Bay to 10 points.
The offense finally turned it on in the second half (or more like the fourth quarter) as Donovan McNabb rallied the troops, scoring on a 42-yard bomb to upstairs wide out Anthony Armstrong. From there, the Redskins hung in there, and the Gano actually kicked the field goal to win the game.
The Redskins may not be consistent, by they're are scrappy. That said, eventually, they'll have to put on a dominating performance to prove they're really in the playoff hunt.
What's Next: It gets no easier for the burgundy and gold, as they face off with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in prime time. They face the Chicago Bears and a stout defense, and the ever resilient Detroit Lions, who embarrassed the Redskins later. Stringing together three wins (even if they're ugly) would do a lot to move the Skins up this list. Dominant wins would do even more.
No.2: The New York Giants at 3-2
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The Rundown: As if the case with the rest of the NFC East, consistency is key. When the New York Giants are good, they look really good. When the Giants look bad, they look bafflingly bad.
The first quarter of their season opener against the Carolina Panthers looked ugly. But the Giants turned it on and dominated them on both sides of the ball. Tony Romo said this week that good teams overcome the penalties and turnovers and silly mistakes. Well the Giants must be a good team.
The Giants got completely and utterly dominated by the Colts in the Manning Bowl; neither the offense or defense showed up for that game, and they promptly got walked over. (And there was the whole "Brandon Jacobs helmet in the stands" thing). The domination didn't stop as the Giants got equally routed by the Tennessee Titans. The familiar cries of "fire everyone" rang out through New York, and the Giants were looking downright miserable.
The week 3 Giants finally showed some signs of life against the Bears, where the defense woke up and creamed not one, but two of their quarterbacks. At some point, the offense woke up as well, and the Giants ended up winning the game 17-3. It seems the Giants finally started clicking on all cylinders on Sunday, as offense and defense dominated the Houston Texans. There were still mistakes and some turnovers, but as Tony Romo said, good teams overcome those mistakes.
The Giants end up over the Redskins in this list because their three wins have been convincing and nothing short of routs. However, if another teams thrashes them, they might slip a spot as well.
What's Next: The Giants play an improved Lions team that somehow manages to hang in there in games with the big dogs, and a Dallas Cowboys team that could be staring 1-5 in the face and will be hungry for a divisional win, before they get their bye week. A couple impressive wins would cement there place in the NFC East, and it might be hard to remove them from the top.
No.1: The Philadelphia Eagles at 3-2
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The Rundown: It's been one hell of a year for the Eagles, hasn't it?
First, they trade their franchise quarterback in the division. Then, in the first game of the season, their heir apparent to the Eagles thrown plays poorly, ends up with a concussion, and Michael Vick steps in and leads a rally to almost beat the Green Bay Packers. Anyone who thought they saw the re-emergence of Vick coming needs to go into business as a psychic. Number 7 entered the game and played lights out football, despite being behind a shotty offensive line and not starting a game since his arrest.
Vick displayed poise, maturity, and a new found light on the game. And the Eagles won, and were consistent in the a division that's in a constant state of flux. The Eagles beat the Lions, though the defense let them back into the game. They then dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars 27-3. Vick was playing light a man possessed. People claimed he was playing like the old Michael Vick, but he was better. He could stand in the pocket and deliver the ball on the dime.
It seemed like the only way the Redskins could possibly beat a super hot Eagles team was if Michael Vick got hurt.
Welp...Michael Vick got hurt. And the heir apparent, once cast aside, had to step in. But Kevin Kolb didn't quite look sure of himself. Whether because of the playcalling or because of Kolb himself, there weren't a whole lot of shots down the field, and people began to wonder if the Eagles were going to unravel with Kolb at the helm.
Facing the 0-4 San Fransisco 49ers, a team so desperate for a win no one though they could lose this game and salvage their season, it seemed the Eagles might actually fall, giving a desperate team their win.
Kolb stepped up and played well. He took shots down the field. He managed the game. LeSean McCoy gutted out a rib injury, and the Eagles picked up the win.
The Eagles are the most consistent team in the NFC. They've had their dominant wins, their just barely wins, but they've proved that Michael Vick or not, they can still win some games. If Kolb continues to play well, Andy Reid's going to have yet another QB controversy on his hands.
It might be nice for a head coach to have two QB's that can star.
What's Next: The Atlanta Falcons come to The Linc to prove that, while the Eagles may be the best team in the NFC East, Matty Ice and his teammates are the best team in the whole NFC. Matt Ryan's play has been spotty at time--with Asante Samuel coming back, the defense will be a bit better. They then face a white hot Titans team before going into their bye week. Who knows if Vick will be healthy for either one of these games. But if Kolb is at the helm and can win either one of the these games, or both, he'll make an impressive argument to become the starter again, and the NFC East becomes a very interesting place to be...
Predictions for Week 6
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Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles, 1:00PM, Lincoln Financial Field: Two young teams with two (presumably) two young quarterbacks face off in what should be a damn good football game. While Kolb has been great, Atlanta's defense is underrated. The game will be a tough one, and the Atlanta Falcons are on a roll that I don't think the Eagles can overcome. The game will be close, but the Falcons pull this one out.
Detroit Lions @ New York Giants, 1:00PM, New Meadowlands Stadium: The Giants defense has been tearing up quarterbacks. While Shaun Hill has done well for the Lions (and boy don't the 49ers miss him right now), and they've hung in games, the Giants would have to do a complete faceplant to fail in this game. It's possible, but not likely. I take the Giants in this game.
Dallas Cowboys @ Minnesota Vikings, 1:00PM, Mall of America Field: Talk about a doozy of a game. Two 1-3 teams that absolutely can't afford to win, that make silly mistakes, stupid penalties, and can't seem to find it's rhythm. There's been sparkles and shimmers of greatness from both teams, but both teams seem intent on finding creative ways to win the game. Both teams have head coaches make confusing calls, stupid penalties...but the Vikings have Randy Moss. The Cowboys' Pro Bowl corners had trouble containing Tennessee's receivers. I don't see them doing better again Moss, and Favre has shown that with time in the pocket, he is not afraid to go deep to Randy Moss. It's at the Vikings house, and if nothing else, the Vikings D is formidable..I take Minnesota in this game.
Indianapolis Colts @ Washington Redskins, 8:20, FedEx Field: Landover, MD will be rocking, and the fans will be out in full effect for this prime time game. That being said, the Redskins have to get a run game of some sort going. If they can gash Indy on the run and keep Peyton off the field, they have a decent shot, as long as they capitalize on it--field goals will not suffice. The teams has to get more than three touchdowns to stay competitive. If Peyton is on the field, he will light the Redskins exposed secondary up; Dallas Clark is a match-up nightmare, Reggie Wayne is a surefire thing, and Austin Collie is an impact player so long as he's healthy. The Redskins have a chance in this game, but they have to take advantage of it, or they'll be in for a long night. That said, I see the Colts taking it in this game, unless everything goes right for the Skins.