Through one quarter of the season, the NFC East has established itself as the best division in football without dispute. The question that remains though, is who is the best team in the East? Here is a team by team first quarter report.
The Dallas Cowboys- And so it begins... Jerry Jones makes his first appearance on the sideline, Terrell Owens has once again began to make his frustrations public, and Dallas drops a critical game to a division opponent. It wont be long now until The Cowboys enter self destruct mode right? Wrong... With the next three opponents being Cincinnati, Arizona, and St. Louis, they will be back on the war path before a showdown with the Giants in East Rutherford. Through four games, Dallas has showed why they can be an overwhelming opponent as well as how they can be beat. The Cowboys led during the entire week one match-up against The Browns, flexing their muscles in every aspect of the game. The following week Dallas fell behind early in the face of Jim Johnson's blitzing Eagles, a unit which forced Romo to fumble in the end zone, resulting in seven Eagle points. It looked as if Romo was feeding into the notion that he struggled significantly under pressure. Philidelphia's costly mistakes gave him a chance to capitalize and get a win though. Following a week three win at Green Bay came the most intrigueing opponent yet for the Cowboys ... The Washington Redskins, who would cause Dallas to reveal it's biggest flaw, the inability to play without a lead. Marion Barber received only eight hand-offs while Romo attempted 47 passes. The defense allowed Clinton Portis to run for 121 yards, and Jason Campbell had 231 yards through the air, with no interceptions. One play told all for the Cowboys though, a third and five for Washington with five fifty to go where a Washington first down would all but end the game for Dallas. Washington ran it for a first down... And Dallas had twelve men on the field. In conclusion, this teams ability to handle tough situations on offense and defense will determine its fate down the stretch.
KEY STAT- -4 Turnover ratio
The Washington Redskins- Characterized by a tough secondary and a blossoming quarterback, Washington has made their presence felt thus far in 2008. Jason Campbell appears to have tapped into his potential under the tutelage of head coach Jim Zorn and his new West Cost Offense. This is a great sign for Washington, as they already boast a stud running back in Clinton Portis and a savvy defense led by the extremely athletic London Fletcher-Baker and hard nosed LaRon Landry. Last week, Dallas played directly into their hands, passing on 47 of 58 plays, while defensively they frequently brought six man rushes, giving Santana Moss and Antwan Randle El plenty of room to run in the secondary. The Redskins dictated the game, as their efficient passing game set up a powerful running game late in the game. If opposing defenses fail to set their priorities straight against this Washington team and slow Jason Campbell's growth, they could be one of the best teams in the league. They do have weaknesses though, as Marcus Washington appears to have lost several steps and could not stay with Jason Witten the entire game, and has looked suspect when chasing sideline to sideline. They also appear to have very few blitz packages which could hurt them down the stretch. Despite those weaknesses, they will go wherever Jason Campbell takes them.
KEY STAT- Jason Campbell's Quarterback Rating- 102.2
Philadelphia Eagles- Philadelphia has made quite an acquaintance with opposing quarterbacks through four games, sacking them seventeen times. The number of sacks generated has been Philadelphia's pride for a number of years, at least since defensive coordinator Jim Johnson got to Philadelphia. Despite that, Philadelphia boasts the worst record in the division through four games. They have more than enough time to rectify that issue though, as they put up 381 yards against Dallas, and nearly shut out Pittsburgh in a game where they had double digit sacks, showing that they have the mettle to get through a tough road ahead. The biggest concern here has to be the health of Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb. There is no chance they don't convert a first and goal from the one with Bran Westbrook in the game (which they failed to at Chicago). If those two are healthy, look for Philadelphia to create match-up problems down the stretch for lots of teams.
KEY STAT- 17 sacks
The New York Giants- In the games played, The Giants have either shown us nothing about themselves, or everything. They can win close, win big, and win physical. Defensively Steve Spagnuolo has put together a similar scheme to that of Jim Johnson. He uses allot of blitz packages while relying on Justin Tuck to do lots of damage. The Giant secondary is one of the most improved units in the league, with Cory Webster finally proving that he is a big-time player. Offensively, The Giants are characterized by a cool and calm quarterback whose stats never impress but poise does, a running back tandem that is as good as any, and a rugged offensive line. They have lots of work to do and must play physical constantly if they hope to compete down the stretch though. One thing is for sure... They have the heart and personnel to do it.
KEY STAT- Opponents yards to go on third down 9.8
There is no clear cut leader in this division, but after the second quarter of the season, where there are plenty of match ups to come, the picture will come into focus
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