Tuesday, September 23, 2008

This & That, Week 3

Posted by Alli

When I wasn't agonizing over Eagles injuries and admiring the defensive handiwork, I noticed a few other things around the league and the NFC East in particular.

Let's start with the recent obsession with the NFC East. Holy God, every football site I go to is giddily pissing themselves over how strong the NFC East is. To be fair, the division certainly makes an argument for being the juggernaut of the NFL thus far. Dallas is clearly the best team in the NFL, the Eagles' only loss was a close one to the 'Boys and they then dismissed the AFC's then-best, the Steelers. The Giants are the defending champs and are undefeated so far, and the 'Skins are looking stronger each week with an impressive Jason Campbell at the helm. And the 4 teams are 8-0 in games outside the division.

I'm just not totally sold on the Giants yet. This certainly stems out of my dislike for the G-men, and the painful offseason I had to live through with Chris gloating about his semi-crappy Giants team that played their 4 best games all season at just the right time. Even if they had their entire team back, I would see them going 10-6 at best, but the Strahan retirement and the loss of Osi Umenyiora take away - or at least significantly reduce - their biggest weapon, that mighty pass rush. The Giants beat the Redskins in week 1, who admittedly are a decent team, but played terribly in week 1. Next they beat the Rams, who, let's not forget, were only down by 7 points (albeit briefly) early in the 4th quarter. The Giants didn't dominate that game until the very end, and this was against arguably the worst team in the league. Finally, last week, they needed OT to finish off the Bengals. Yes, a win is a win, but in predicting future succees, I just don't see it for the Giants this season. But then again, I said that about them last season, so what do I know...

I understand all the hype for this division though, especially considering how other former powerhouse teams around the league are tanking by the second. What irritates me to no end is all of the fans of NFC East teams on message boards and blogs that LOVE to talk about how great this division is, like they take personal pride in it. Why?! I could care less how strong the rest of the division is, and I'd actually prefer that they all sucked. I don't want these teams beating up on each other 6 games a year; I'd rather have the easiest road possible to the playoffs. The shittier the division competition, the better. I mean, it's an NFL division, they don't need to earn respect. It's not like a college team playing in, say, the WAC or MAC or other semi-obscure conference, who might want to support one another to gain legitimacy. I had no problem with the good ol' days when the rest of the NFC East was miserably awful and provided us with 6 easy wins a year. And also... I hate the Giants and especially the Cowboys, and I don't care for the 'Skins. I'd like to see them all go 5-11 if I had my way. I don't want to see them glorified. What's with all this intra-divisional love all of a sudden? Pardon my French, but... suck it, NFC East.

I'd like to issue a special thank you to
Ronnie Brown for making my fantasy team so awesome this week, as I was able to steamroll over Taz despite losing my top pick, Westbrook. And to think, Ronnie, I almost benched you for DeAngelo Williams! It was also nice watching you manhandle the Patriots D. Now what am I gonna do this week for your bye?

It was good to see the
Chargers finally get a much-deserverd win this week after the Ed "I can't control my over-muscled jaw from inadvertently blowing my whistle" Hochuli situation. I don't see that game (or the ugly last-second loss to Carolina in week 1) keeping them out of the playoffs or the top of the division, but it was a very frustrating way to start their season. They may not yet be in the discussion for who the cream of the AFC is, but given the way the AFC teams have been stumbling each week, it's only a matter of time. They're a good team that got off to a slow start, but they'll be a big threat throughout the season.

EAGLES - 3 Weeks In...

OK, so I never got around to finishing/posting my analysis of the Cowboys game. But after reviewing what I had written so far, particularly some of my concerns about the game and what I was looking to see in week 3 against the Steelers, these 2 games are really worth discussing together, especially given the totally opposite defensive play in each game.

Unsurprisingly, the bulk of my criticism of week 2 was on the defense. I mean, what the hell was that? I know Romo and the Cowboys have a strong offense, but damn, they dismantled our D. I do believe, however, that the Cowboys will be hands-down the best offense that the Eagles will face this season; it's also unlikely that the 2nd meeting in Philly in Week 17 will actually be a meaningful game for one or both teams. Accordingly, I figured things HAD to look up for the D coming out of that MNF performance. Truthfully though, I was absolutely surprised at just how well they rebounded in week 3 against the Steelers. I actually feel like I should go back and delete the entire blog post that I began to write last week because nearly all of my criticisms have become moot. As Phil Simms aptly noted, how in the hell did the Cowboys put up 41 points on THAT defense?!

The Steelers O-line obviously did an inadequate job of protecting Roethlisberger, and I have heard the name Winston Justice come up in more than a few comparisons. Nevertheless, the Eagles front 7 were absolutely masterful. They literally could not have done things any better as far as I'm concerned. They were not only responsible for 8 of the 9 sacks against Pittsburgh, they were a brick wall in the face of Willie Parker, who was held to 20 yards on 13 carries. Through 3 games, the Eagles lead the league in run defense, allowing a mere 45.7 yards per game. And it's not like they've been up against crap RBs either; Steven Jackson, Marion Barber and Willie Parker are some of the best in the NFL. And more amazingly, despite giving up 8 trillion points to Dallas, the Eagles overall D is 4th in the NFL.

Last week, though obviously annoyed about losing to the freaking Cowboys, I was impressed that they had put themselves in a position to win against what will probably be their toughest opponent all season. I was energized by the offensive performance (at least through 3 quarters) and felt they deserved respect after putting up 75 points in 2 weeks. Now following the win against the Steelers (which really felt like a much bigger domination than the score suggests), they've gotten that respect. ESPN and NFL.com both have the Birds ranked #3 in their power ranking... not that that matters for anything considering the NFL still employs standings rather than opinion polls like college football. But I am very curious to see how the Eagles live up to the recently heightened expectations that have now been laid out for them. We've seen what they can do, and I'm no longer satisfied that they can "hang around with" the best. I want to see them BE the best.

Along that vein, I think the Eagles are living up to that well after week 3. The Cowboys game reminded me of the Pats game last year, both a "moral victory" of sorts if such a concept exists. However, the Birds followed up that Pats 3-point loss with a flat performance against a medicore Seahawks team, and I was afraid something similar would happen this week against the Steelers, especially with having the short practice week. (To be fair of course, the disastrous Seahawks loss may have had a litttttle something to do with AJ Feeley's 4-interception shitfest.) If anything, the 2008 Eagles in contrast took the MNF loss and built on it, plugging the holes that clearly existed in that game and making vast improvements in the proceeding game. This is the first time in a long time that I haven't felt like the Eagles were taking themselves out of games mentally. Where last season they seemed to dwell on poor past performances and continue to underperform (Green Bay, anyone?), this season they seem to have only used it as motivation.

Now that I've finished gushing about how awesomely wonderful our squad is... I've gotta at least address the offense, at least their last 5 quarters compared to their first 7 of the season. First, I don't blame McNabb for the Cowboys loss, and neither should you. McNabb had a stupid fumble at a bad time, but for the love of God people, the defense and special teams gave up 41 points, there's only so much you can ask of your QB, he's not a freaking miracle-worker. And to say that he can't finish games is absurd. I love my fellow Eagles fans, but some of them are so quick to forget the MANY times that McNabb has led them down the field to 4th quarter victories and only dwell on the times he's come up short. My absolute favorite thing about the Cowboys game was how mobile McNabb looked. It helped that the O-line gave him good protection, but he looked like vintage McNabb, didn't he?! He was using spin moves, side-to-side moves, I mean he looked seriously confident on foot and I am really looking to see how that benefits him this season.

Yes, the last drive on offense was ugly. Yes, McNabb should never have taken that DeMarcus Ware sack. But it would be unfair to only focus on the 4th quarter, when the QB and O-line played a very, very good game the rest of the night- prior to the last drive, McNabb was only sacked twice against a vicious pass rush, and I was impressed how much time the O-line gave him in the pocket. So despite the lackluster last few drives, I still give the Eagles offense and particular Donovan McNabb an A for the Cowboys game.

The O in the Steelers game is a little more confusing to dissect. First, the Steelers were far and away the best D we've faced so far. And second, Westbrook left the game one play into the 2nd quarter. There are really almost no words to describe how utterly crucial and indispensable B-West is to the Eagles, even more so than McNabb in my opinion. Buckhalter did a noble job of replacing him after he left the game, but there is no one else who commands the coverage that Westbrook does, which is what makes him so valuable. Fortunately, as far as injuries go, this one sounds like it could be worse, and Westbrook has been walking without crutches. I'll be curious to see whether he plays this Sunday night against Chicago, but I'm far more concerned with his health down the stretch. And... it's just the Bears, right?? Anyway, my overall conclusion on the Eagles O against the Steelers is that we shouldn't be worried. Reid admitted that he and Marty Mornhinweg were conservative with the play-calling in the second half, given the spectacular defensive play and the fact that the Eagles were opening a make-shift ER on the sidelines to handle the offensive players going down by the dozen. The Birds face another tough D in the Bears this week, but I'm confident that they'll be OK offensively.

And finally, how could I possibly discuss the O without a word about DeSean Jackson? That word is... IDIOT. Yes, I believe he is and will continue to be a very good receiver and I'm glad we have him, especially with the injuries to Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown (Brown was in for a few plays but had no catches on Sunday). Nevertheless, for an otherwise smart guy who went to Berkeley, he's an idiot. And I worry that he's got some TO/Ocho Cinco crazy-in-a-destructive-way in him. In fact, I was all set to buy myself a shiny new DeSean Jackson jersey, but after this past week wisely changed my mind and went with Stewart Bradley (which I will hopefully be debuting at the Redskins game at the Linc in 12 days, but who's counting?) But anyway, the immeasurable arrogance displayed by Jackson when he casually flipped the ball behind him a YARD before reaching the end zone against the Cowboys speaks for itself. And for those of you who missed SportsCenter and Jackson's similarly moronic swan dive a yard shy of the end zone in high school, I encourage you to check that out here. Jackson's idiocy was sealed in my mind this past Sunday when he caught a pass late in the 4th quarter when the Eagles were trying to drain the clock and he ran straight for the sidelines, stopping the clock. IDIOT. But whatever, he's a great receiver, blah blah blah. Just use a minimal amount of common sense from here on out, buddy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

COWBOYS - My two cents on the Eagles win

Posted by Taz:


Monday, September 8, 2008

EAGLES - And the season is off and running...

So it’s obviously been a while since I’ve updated, but now is as good a time as any as the Eagles have their first game under their belts. And wow, what a way to start off the season, even if it was against a struggling Rams team. It’s impossible not to be excited anytime the offense puts up 38 points, no matter who the opponent, but I was even more impressed with the defense. The Greatest Show on Turf the 2008 Rams are not, but Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson are still a legitimate threat when the O-line is healthy, and I expected the Rams O to put at least a pair of touchdowns on the board. The Eagles’ defensive line put pressure on Bulger early, and the young linebacker corp did a great job of stuffing the run. I’m really anxious to see how they do against Marion Barber next week, but I’m feeling extremely optimistic at this point.

Frankly, as much as I wanted to dropkick the TV every time Asante Samuel and co. dropped an interception, I was happy that they were making big coverage plays. I’d rather see the drops in games like that when we didn’t need the turnovers, so that hopefully they can come up with a few against the Cowboys or Steelers in the next two weeks. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling major déjà vu watching one blown-interception after another yesterday, but if the shaky hands of the defensive backs is the biggest concern coming out of week 1, the Birds are in great shape. Now let’s just hope that they can turn those near-misses into huge plays in coming weeks.
And speaking of week 1… obviously the season-opener has not been a forte of the Andy Reid era, seeing as how they were 3-6 under Reid before yesterday. But looking back to this same Monday afternoon last season- holy shit what a difference a year makes. To be fair, I’m not ready to proclaim the Eagles legitimate Super Bowl contenders just yet, but how can you not notice the extraordinary difference in special teams between yesterday and a year ago? The crappy punt returning (or more accurately, the crappy decision-making by the coaches to not put more thought into the punt return prior to week 1) in the 2007 season opener against the Packers was easily one of the most depressing incidents I’ve ever witnessed. I know that I personally threw at least 3 breakable objects across the room over the course of that game before my roommates attempted to sedate me. I still believe that if the punt return disasters sprinkled throughout that Packers game hadn’t occurred, not only would they have certainly won that game but also they might have sucked less in later games, including that depressing Monday Night loss to the Redskins in week 2 where it just felt like the Birds were playing flat the entire game. Once they went 0-2, they spent the entire season unsuccessfully struggling to get above .500, losing one heartbreakingly close game after another.
This year, DeSean Jackson made a big statement for the positive in week 1 punt returns. He may not have broken away for his first regular-season return touchdown just yet, but watching him maneuver down the field yesterday left me with no doubts that he’s going to be a huge force this year, whether it be on special teams, offense or both. He literally got better and more impressive with each punt return, starting out slow in the first quarter and eventually dazzling the crowd with returns of 18 and 60 yards in the third quarter, the former of which he was one tackle-from-behind from finding open grass all the way to the end zone. So yeah, the punt return is only one element of the game, but if last year taught us anything, it’s that this one little element can make or break a season. On the other side of special teams, the return coverage units did their job spectacularly; the Rams’ best starting field position all day was their own 25, and they were twice pinned at their own 2. The potential of specials this year, led by Jackson, combined with the fact that McNabb looked like vintage, healthy, pre-Mama-McNabb-blogging-escapades Donovan McNabb, set a much different tempo for this season.

And for those of you who think this game is nothing different from the misplaced optimism we took from the Detroit blow-out in week 3 last season – which, lest we forget, was followed up by the excruciating shit-show of a loss to the Giants the following week, including the 12-sack Winston Justice fiasco – I hear ya, cause it crossed my mind too, but I truly believe this time will be different. For one thing, despite putting up 56 points against the Lions in that game, I bet you remember that queasy feeling you had somewhere in your stomach about the 21 points we gave up in the first half. Yesterday, on the other hand, the D shut out the Rams for 3 quarters before eventually conceding a lone field goal. The defense also allowed a mere 166 yards all game and did not give up a single third-down conversion, which is about as stingy as a defense can get. Sure, it would have been nice to see a freaking turnover, but in a game where the D didn’t let the Rams into the red zone all afternoon, it’s really just unnecessary whining on my part at this point. Nevertheless, if the defense fails to hang onto an interception or force a fumble in the next couple weeks, I’ll be back to bitch about this.

Next week’s Monday night showdown against the Cowboys in Texas Stadium will obviously be a lot more telling about how much the Birds really have improved since last season. Of course, we did beat the Cowboys in our last meeting there, and there are no major holes that I can feasibly identify in the Eagles’ play thus far, so I’m thinking positively. I’ll even go so far as to say that I could potentially handle a loss to the ‘Girls, so long as McNabb and the O remain potent and the defense gets pressure on Romo. But I think we’ve got a fantastic shot next week so I’ll be eagerly counting down to MNF for the next 7 days.

This and that…

Back to the Cowboys- truthfully, although I was really hoping for a total Cowboys suck-fest yesterday against the Browns, they looked excellent to kick-off their season, and I think they will definitely (though unsurprisingly) be the team to beat in the NFC. The o-line was strong, the defense was solid, and Romo has 3 excellent receiving options in TO, Witten and Crayton. On the other hand, the Browns looked pretty terrible so as with the Eagles-Rams game, it’s difficult to tell how much of the win was on the Cowboys’ own merits versus how much of it was the Browns sucking. Next week will be a very important game for both Philly and Dallas.

I used to be a fan of Brett Favre, but after his predictably short-lived retirement, I’m getting a little bored of him. The veteran’s leadership of a squad of young but talented players was a feel-good story last year, but this year, the media’s ongoing felatio of Favre is just played out. While Favre and the gang masterminded a 6-point victory over the colossally craptacular Miami Dolphins, I was unimpressed with the geriatric QB in what I saw of the game. The commentators gigglishly fawned over him in the 2nd quarter on 4th and 13 when he chucked a “pass” into the air in a seizure-like motion in the general direction of the end zone that, by some miracle of God, WR Chansi Stuckey came down with in the end zone. It also didn’t hurt that any Dolphins defensive back within a 10-yard radius of Stuckey appeared to be filing his nails or generally running in the opposite direction of the ball. “Favre doing what Favre does best,” they feverishly gushed on TV. I can’t argue there; there’s nothing Favre does better, or at least with more frequency, than blindly heave passes in the air. I’m calling it now… 20+ interceptions for Favre this season.

I can’t skip over the opportunity to comment on the Ocho Cinco situation. Last spring, I was eager about the possibility of acquiring the receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson in a trade. I’ve always believed that he’s a less destructive version of TO; I enjoyed his river-dance and I figured he was goofy but harmless. Now I wonder. It’s not that the act of changing one’s name is such a big deal (albeit to something as stupid as Ocho Cinco, which isn’t even Spanish for eighty-five but rather for eight five, though I’ll concede that it’s catchier than Chad Ochenta y Cinco). It’s more the idea of, what idiot actually takes the time out his life to run to court to get it legally changed? Even king of the dumbasses himself, Terrell Owens spends less time than that thinking up lame touchdown celebration dances. Chad just took it too far. Jokingly pasting “Ocho Cinco” onto his jersey was funny. Legally changing his name to Chad Ocho Cinco is disconcerting. I’m now one of the growing mass of people who no longer cares who he gets traded to, so long as it’s a team that already has a #85, preferably one who refuses to switch jersey numbers. Oh, and I hope he doesn’t have any touchdown dances planned out just yet considering Carson Palmer couldn’t find the end zone if he river-danced into it. It looks to be a bad year for the Bengals.