For the first time since Kevin Curtis actually made a positive impact on a football field, I have season tickets to the Philadelphia Eagles this year. Over the course of Philadelphia’s three home games to date this season, I’ve gotten an up close and personal look at not only the Eagles, but two of their NFC East rivals as well, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants.
After being in the stadium Monday night and Week 2, not to mention watching every pathetic second of the Eagles’ 23-20 loss the Washington Redskins, I can tell you that the records of the four teams in the NFC East do not lie. This division is laughable, and that’s being kind.
Let’s begin with Monday night, for starters.
The Eagles, even while playing mistake-filled football through five weeks, entered the contest with a chance to claim first place in the division. This despite the fact they came in with a losing record at 2-3, turn the ball over with regularity and have a head coach who has had to answer just as many questions about (potential) college coaching vacancies as he has about his own team.
Monday night, the Eagles played absolutely terribly on the first two drives and looked out of sorts the entire game on offense… yet they dominated the New York Giants to the tune of a 27-7 victory that could have been even worse.
Truthfully, there was no evidence the game was going to turn out this way in the opening minutes. Suddenly pace-setters in the NFC East, the Giants received the opening kickoff and proceeded to march right down the field 80 yards in eight plays, capped by a touchdown pass to a wide open Odell Beckham Jr. The Eagles followed that up with a pathetic three and out, and the Giants were on the move again, shredding Philadelphia’s defense with ease.
But then, the Eagles found a savior in an old veteran. With New York cruising (not Cruz-ing) down the field and looking to take a commanding two-score lead, the Giants moved all the way down to the Philadelphia 23 in just eight plays. On the ninth play of the drive, however, with the Giants in field goal range and the Eagles providing no evidence they could stop them, DeMeco Ryans put on his big boy pants and ripped a pass away from Larry Donnell.
DeMeco Ryans snatches the ball from Larry Donnell #MNF #NYGvsPHI pic.twitter.com/QJUQATULCY
— NFL (@NFLIive) October 20, 2015
That play completely changed the tone of the game. The Eagles turned that turnover into seven points courtesy of a Sam Bradford touchdown pass to Riley Cooper — a pass that was woefully underthrown, by the way — and then absolutely shut down the Giants the rest of the way, scoring 27 unanswered points for the victory. Given that layout, you’d think the Eagles played well from that interception on, but you’d be dead wrong. OK, that’s not entirely true. Philadelphia’s defense was masterful, pressuring Eli Manning, stuffing the run as it has all season and making big-time play after big-time play, highlighted by Nolan Carroll's pick-six.
Nolan Carroll Jr with a perfect read for an interception returned for a touchdown. #eagles https://t.co/a1omoq7jVG — Greg Kennedy (@GregSKennedy) October 20, 2015
With a defensive front that includes havoc-wreaking linemen like Fletcher Cox, Bennie Logan and Cedric Thornton; pass-rushing linebackers Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham; the steady hand of DeMeco Ryans inside and breakout rookie Jordan Hicks filling in more than admirably for the injured Kiko Alonso and Mychal Kendricks; along with a pair of dynamite safeties in Malcolm Jenkins and Walter Thurmond, the Eagles are legit. The corners haven’t been shutdown guys, but Byron Maxwell and Nolan Carroll — Carroll in particular — are plenty good with the talent around them.
HOWEVER, the Eagles’ offense is a joke. Sam Bradford simply is not good, at least not at this point in the season. He threw three more interceptions Monday night, bringing his season total to nine through six games, tied for second in the NFL with Matthew Stafford and trailing only Peyton Manning. Throw in his two lost fumbles, and you have a quarterback doing the one thing you don’t want your quarterback to do, particularly when you have a defensive unit capable of dominating when it actually has time to rest on the sidelines.
On top of that, DeMarco Murray has been slow to start until the past two weeks, Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce has been arguably the team’s worst offensive lineman despite having two borderline NFL players at guard, the wide receivers can’t catch — especially No. 1 target Jordan Matthews — and rookie Nelson Agholor has done virtually nothing and missed Monday’s game with a shin injury. Basically, Philadelphia’s offense has been out of sync and making mistake after mistake to the point you wonder if the players even practice with one another.
And yet… this is your first-place team in the NFC East. Yes, a team with horrid quarterback play, less-than-stellar offensive line play and laughable wide receiver play is leading the division. How can this be? Because every team in the NFC East is the worst team in the NFL. Just take a look at Philadelphia’s competition.
The Giants, who were leading the division but trail Philadelphia thanks to the tie-breaker, sit at 3-3 as well… and they are just awful. Defensively, New York is surrendering nearly 400 yards of offense to the opposition, good for 28th in the NFL. They also happen to have just eight sacks, also 28th in the league, and can’t stop anyone through the air.
Couple that with absolutely no rushing attack on offense — the Giants are 28th in rushing, averaging just 89.5 on the ground per game — and you have yourself a team reliant on Eli Manning and the passing attack to win games. That’s all fine and dandy when Odell Beckham Jr. is dominating, but with Odell playing hurt, trusting Eli to carry the load is a dicey proposition. He may be a two-time Super Bowl winner, but he also happens to be a turnover factory when he’s the lone focal point of the team. That was evident Monday night, when the Eagles picked Eli twice and made him look like his older brother — the 2015 version.
The thing is, the Giants look like world beaters compared to the Dallas Cowboys right now.
Admittedly, it’s unfair that Dallas is among the dregs of this awful division. No team in the NFL could withstand losing its best offensive play-maker and starting quarterback, and that’s especially true for a team like the Cowboys, who rely almost exclusively on Dez Bryant and Tony Romo as far as big plays are concerned. Perhaps no team in the entire league has a bigger drop-off between its top wide receiver and its second best, and with Brandon Weeden as the Dallas backup, Tony Romo is as important as any quarterback in the NFL to his team.
The results have been disastrous, as Weeden is set to be replaced by Matt Cassel, a career journeyman who has been with Dallas for just a few weeks and, frankly, has been unsuccessful everywhere outside of subbing for Tom Brady as a starter when the future Hall of Famer tore his ACL in 2008. It hasn’t helped Weeden that Terrance Williams has been invisible, Jason Witten is 8,000 years old and that incredible offensive line has been unable to see the same rushing results without DeMarco Murray lining up behind it.
Frankly, the defense doesn’t even matter for Dallas these days, because unless it pitches a shutout, the Cowboys have no shot at victory. If this team was healthy, it would probably be running away with the division. It isn’t, and Dallas is flat out terrible without Romo and Bryant.
However, the Cowboys aren’t as terrible as the Washington Redskins. Of course, we all knew this would happen, given that the best thing about Washington is the franchise’s ability to turn Robert Griffin III from a Heisman Trophy-winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and starting playoff quarterback into an overly publicized third stringer. Jay Gruden obviously hates his guts, evident by the fact he continues to start interception guru Kirk Cousins without even activating RG3, but it doesn’t matter. Washington is a dysfunctional mess, and its 2-4 record is proof of that.
Washington’s defense is fine, but with that offense, it’s irrelevant. This is a team that just waits with bated breath for the next turnover by the offense, much like the Eagles and Cowboys. In fact, Washington has a -2 turnover margin, bested (or worsted?) only by Dallas’ -5 turnover margin in the division. What I’m trying to say is the Redskins are bad. Very bad.
How bad? Well, as bad as everyone else in the NFC East, the division in which every team is the worst team in the NFL. Hell, the one-win Ravens, Chiefs, Titans, Jaguars and Lions would probably be leading this joke of a division — you know, if they were lucky enough to be aligned with the worst division in all of football.
Reverend Paul Revere, aka Joe Boland, is a sports blogger out of Philadelphia whose life revolves around sports 365 and a quarter days per year. Keep up with Rev at his own personal blog, The House That Glanville Built and on Twitter.