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NFC 'Easter


November 14, 2009 6:55 PM

Mid-season Report Cards for the NFC East

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This card was compiled before Sunday's games and originally appeared on Friday on Blogspot.com




Dallas Cowboys- (6-2) B


Now that we are at the half point of the season, the race in the NFC East is still the most compelling in the NFC even if the teams aren't as good against competition outside the division.

Even though the Dallas Cowboys (6-2) have taken the lead in the division thanks to Sunday's win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the question for Dallas is can they keep it going into December where they have struggle over the last four years.

As it stands now, the Cowboys are playing well offensively. Dallas has the NFL's third ranked offense in the NFL (sixth in passing and eighth in rushing). Romo after struggling earlier in the season has found a rhythm with young wide receiver Miles Austin, the main reason for the Cowboys recent resurgence.

During the Cowboys current four-game winning streak, Austin has scored at least one touchdown. He scored two-game winning touchdowns in Dallas wins over the Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs.Austin has definitely been the difference maker for the team.

The Cowboys three-headed monster rushing attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice are averaging 138 yards per game. Barber has been Dallas's version of New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera with his ability to get in between the tackles and run out the clock.

In Sunday's win at Philadelphia, Barber kept the chains and the clock moving by gaining 23 yards on three carries in the game's final four minutes. That along with a five-yard pass from Romo to tight end Jason Witten and the Eagles never saw ball again.

The Cowboys defense, which struggled to get interceptions and sacks back in September, has been playing much better. Against the Eagles, the defense pressured Donovan McNabb into four sacks and two interceptions. They also stopped the Birds on two critical, but controversial driving-end plays that were reviewed by the replay booth.

In both instances-a reception by Eagles running back LeSean McCoy on third down and a quarterback sneak by McNabb-were ruled in favor of the Cowboy. The defense apparently created enough doubt for the replay officials to not overturn the calls. As a result, the Eagles were forced to lose two crucial timeouts that ultimately sealed their fate.

With December still on the horizon, the Cowboys overall grade for the first half of the season is a "B" mainly because of how they've played in the last four weeks.


Philadelphia Eagles- (5-3) C


If there has to be a question that Philadelphia Eagles fans have about their team from week to week, is who are the real Eagles?

Most Birds fans would like to think that it was the team that rolled to a 40-17 victory over the New York Giants as opposed to the inconsistency the team has shown in their last two losses to an awful Oakland Raiders and in last week's loss to Dallas.

The only unwinnable loss the Eagles have had this season was a 48-22 loss at the hand of the undefeated New Orleans Saints that might be one of the best teams in the NFL at this juncture of the season.

With all the weapons on the Eagles offense such as DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook when he's healthy, the Birds are hurting on the offensive line where Shawn Andrews has not played all season and guard Todd Herremans has missed games due to injury. The Birds free agent pickup left tackle Jason Peters has been a disappointment and has allowed opposing defensive ends to sack McNabb.

The injuries to the offensive line have made it difficult for them to come up with more consistent performance. In the last two losses, McNabb has been sacked 10 times.

Speaking of injuries, running back Brian Westbrook hasn't been in the Eagles lineup for the last two games because of a concussion and a sore ankle. The Eagles need Westbrook back in their lineup to help younger weapons like DeSean Jackson, who caught just two passes in the loss to Dallas.

In the loss to the Cowboys, McNabb had a difficult time establishing any kind of flow in the passing game. With the pressure of the Cowboys defense bearing down on him through out the game, McNabb tossed a pair of interceptions, overthrew receivers and was sacked four times.

The game ultimately came down to a couple of replay challenges that not only went against the Eagles, but sucked up all their timeouts. With four-minutes-33 seconds left in the game and facing a fourth and 11 at the Cowboys 34, the Eagles inexplicably kicked a 52-yard field goal to cut a seven-point deficit to four.

Dallas ran the clock out and won the game, leaving Eagles fans to flood the local talk show circuit with another example of how McNabb and head coach Andy Reid do a poor job of managing games in the fourth quarter--the Eagles are 1-8-1 in their last 10 games decided in the fourth quarter.

Though the Eagles are 5-3 at this point of the season, four of their wins have come sub-500 records. The only team contending they've beaten this season has been the free-falling New York. The Eagles dropped from about what would have been a B (had they beat Dallas) to a straight up "C" because of their inconsistent play and a very bad loss to Oakland.


New York Giants (5-4) C-/D+


For the first five weeks of the 2009 season, the New York Giants looked like they returning to the form that helped them win the Super Bowl in 2007.

But after four devastating losses in a row, the Giants are searching for their collective mojo, not to mention answers for their current free-fall.

In their four losses, you name it, the G-Men have blown off the field on the defensive end--133 points in their last four games--including two games in which they've given up more than 40 points, they've had bad games by Eli Manning, who has thrown six interceptions during this current losing streak and they've lost games in the final seconds--last week's loss to the San Diego Chargers.

The odd thing about the Giants offense is that the receiving corps has managed the fill the void left by departure of Plaxico Burgess. Steve Smith has 53 receptions for 662 yards and four touchdowns. Rookie Hakeem Nicks is making a bid for NFL Rookie of the Year with 20 catches for 368 yards and four touchdowns. Former Michigan star Mario Manningham has caught 48 passes for 439 yards and four touchdowns.

And yet, the Giants are 28th in the NFL in red zone efficiency, scoring 15 touchdowns on 36 trips inside the 20. The pundits who follow the Giants on a regular basis believe that's where New York misses a tall receiver like Burress who can just go up and get the ball because of his height.

Here's an idea for head coach Tom Coughlin--you have Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw give it to one of those guys. With a pair of running backs who can bust through the line and offensive line that can blast open holes, moving the ball on the ground rather than trying to passs on goal line situations would help New York to score a few more touchdowns.

Defensively, the Giants are not the same team that dominated teams with a fierce defensive line and a solid linebacking corps. For one thing, the Giants aren't getting the same kind of push in the pass rush they once had. Osi Umenyiora is not exploding off the ball like he did before his injury, but he does have four sacks.

Strangely enough, the Giants are the NFL's top ranked defense in yards allowed and third in pass defense. But in the last four games, New York has allowed teams compile 349 yards per game--just under 100 yards more than their average.

The Giants injury-riddle secondary which has been without cornerback Aaron Ross and safety Ken Phillips has allowed opposing qjuarterbacks to pick them apart.Although they played better against the Chargers, the defense still allowed San Diego to drive to the final touchdown.

In the last four weeks, the Giants went from an A- to C-/D+.


The Washington Redskins (2-6) F


The only good thing you can say about the Washington Redskins at this point of the season is that they have eight more games left to play and their season will be over.

Despite having one of the NFL's best defenses, the Redskins have been awful as a team, but it's not the fault of the player on the team. It's the head coach--Jim Zorn and an absolutely clueless front office, most notably owner Daniel Snyder, that have put the Redskins into their current state of chaos.

On the offensive end, the Redskins are 24th in the league in total offense-20th in passing and 23rd in rushing even with Clinton Portis in the back field. Not even the recent hiring of Sherm Lewis as the offensive coordinator (while taking Zorn's playcalling duties away from him) has helped a Redskins team that has yet to score over 17 points in a game.

The team has an injury-riddle offensive line. Quarterback Jason Campbell, if he's not harassed by the opposing defenses, he has been an erratic quarterback so far this season. He has nine touchdown passes and eight interceptions.

While the Redskins have the best defense in the league, the inability of their offense to keep chains moving is the thing that's making life hard before the defense because they're staying on the field so long.

The bottom-line is that the Redskins are at the bottom and they're not getting up soon. Therefore , the Skins will get an F until further notice.



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