New York Giants Have Emerged as the Favorites to Win the NFC East
With their second straight dominant win, the New York Giants sit atop the NFC East tied with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, all with 3-2 records.
Both the Giants and Redskins pulled off so-called upsets this weekend and got impressive wins on their resume, while the Eagles took care of business on the road against the 49ers.
What you may not know, however, is that the Giants have separated themselves as favorites to win the division with their play of late. Both the Redskins and Eagles have glaring issues on one side of the ball and the Cowboys are a mess, while the Giants have been the most complete team in the division.
Let's take a look at what each team needs to improve on, and also look at why the Giants look like the favorites up to this point.
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For some reason, the Cowboys find themselves at the cellar of the division at 1-3 despite having the most talent on paper (where have you heard that before?). It is obviously a coaching problem, yet owner and general manager Jerry Jones continues to support Wade Phillips.
The Cowboys find themselves in the same boat as the Giants as far as the turnover margin (minus-four), but the defense has only created three turnovers in four games. They won't get very far creating 12 turnovers, which is what they're on pace to do.
The biggest problem for Dallas is not cashing in on opportunities and stupid penalties. They have the No. 2 offense with 421 yards per game, but are only averaging 20.3 points per game on offense, which ranks them 16th in the NFL.
The penalties has to fall on Wade Phillips, his mentality does nothing to strike fear into the players and their lack of respect for him shows on the field with these costly penalties.
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The Eagles have looked very potent offensively, but have not lived up to expectations on defense. They rank 15th in yards per game allowed, 19th in points per game allowed, and 24th in rushing yards per game allowed. They gave up 32 points to the Detroit Lions and nearly gave away that game late despite having a huge lead.
Nate Allen has been one bright spot on the defense, playing very well and winning Defensive Rookie of the Month for the month of September.
The possibility of losing starting defensive tackle Brodrick Buntley is a huge deal for the Eagles. Reports indicated that he would need surgery to repair torn ligaments in his elbow, but those reports have now changed indicating they may be able to delay surgery.
The Eagles defense was supposed to be one of the best in the NFC, but have looked average at best. They won't last much longer unless they drastically improve on that side of the ball.
At least their offense is stepping up to the plate. Michael Vick has played like a man possessed, but an injury in the game against the Redskins has his status for the upcoming games in question. He still has yet to practice this week, but has begun lifting weights according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Michael Vick was awarded with the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September, racking up 750 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions during that span. He also had 187 rushing yards and a touchdown.
In their first game without Vick since the opener, Kevin Kolb played well, going 21-31 with 253 yards and one touchdown. His only blemish in the game was losing a fumble.
LeSean McCoy has been fantastic in filling in for Brian Westbrook. When the Eagles released him it was clear they had the utmost confidence in McCoy. He has 583 yards from scrimmage and is second in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns.
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The Redskins have won their games on the backs of their defense. In their wins, they've held teams to seven, 12, and 13 points. In both of their losses, the opposing team scored 30 points.
The offense has been awful. With all of the expectations surrounding Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan supposedly being able to get the running game going, the offense has failed to live up to the hype.
Besides Chris Cooley and Santana Moss, McNabb does not have a reliable target to throw to. Only once in five games has the offense scored more than 16 points. In the one they did they scored 27, but lost to the Houston Texans because of the inability to close them out with a reliable rushing attack.
Don't be fooled by the fact that Washington ranks last in terms of yards allowed per game. The reason they've given up so many yards is because their offense rarely turns the ball over (really the only good thing about their offense), giving teams the chance to rack up yards with deep field position. They only allow 18 points per game, which is ninth in the NFL.
Washington doesn't have as much to worry about as Philadelphia, frankly because the Eagles lost Mike Vick for an undisclosed amount of time and Kevin Kolb has not looked good so far this season. Washington can play good defense and hope the offense comes around. Being led by Donovan McNabb, it's easy to assume that will happen eventually, but it hasn't yet.
New York Giants
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The Giants, however, have looked good on both sides of the ball. With the exception of the Colts game, they have been able to move the ball up and down the field with relative ease. They only scored 10 points in the game against the Titans, but that was due to two turnovers inside the five yard line. They gained 471 yards offensively in that game.
That turnover aspect of the team could make or break their chances of winning the division title, and is really the only thing that is wrong with the offense. The receivers have been dropping passes that are falling directly into the hands of defensive players, and Eli Manning along with the running backs have struggled to hold on to the football.
You could argue that the running game is not as good as it has been in the past, but I'd argue that is simply due to the fact that the passing game has overshadowed the running game thus far both in scheme and in the games. They have improved each game and are 11th in the NFL with 130 rushing yards per game and ninth in yards per carry at 4.5.
The Giants are second only to the 0-5 49ers with 15 total turnovers in five games.
The defense took a couple of games to adjust to a new scheme with defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and have looked as dominant as their 2007 playoff run of late. They hounded Jay Cutler to the tune of nine sacks—10 total in the game—and they held the No. 2 offense in the NFL to 195 total yards.
The Giants are the only team in the NFC with a top rated offense and defense in terms of yards per game. That being said, if they can't find a way to cut down on the turnovers, they won't go very far in the playoffs if they make it.
Easy, Fans of Other Teams, I Realize It's Early
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While the Giants might be the favorites at this point, it would be foolish of me to predict them as the winners already.
Only five games in to the season doesn't say as much as 10 games into the season, so maybe the subject will have to be revisited at that point, but it does look as though the Giants have done the most to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
In two weeks, the Cowboys and Giants face off on Monday Night Football, perhaps we will know more about each team after that game, considering it will be the Giants first against a divisional opponent.