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Is the NFC East now up for grabs? NFL Unfiltered Week 5

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Suddenly, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants make the NFC East one of the league’s most compelling divisions.  

How the heck did this happen?  

As the Delaware Valley primed itself for what seemed like an easy path to a division title, home field advantage in the NFC and a deep playoff run, a real race unfolded.  Photo: (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)

The Cowboys, at 4-1, share first place with the Philadelphia Eagles, and frankly, they look like the best of the four teams.  

Meanwhile, the Giants return to Philly Sunday with a three-game winning streak, and once again look like the pain in the neck they were at the end of the 2007 and 2011 seasons.  

Though a laughingstock more recently, New York’s offense is again as productive as any in pro football.  A notion that seemed impossible just a month ago.  

How then, did the gap between the Eagles and their rivals close so quickly?    

It’s simple. Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo’s health forced a philosophical change in Dallas, both on the field and in the draft.  Moreover, Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese found a pair of offensive lineman and two running backs, returning his team to the style of play they are known for. Both teams run the football, play respectable defense and ask their quarterbacks to limit mistakes while making a few important throws each game. It isn’t sexy or overly advanced, but it is exactly how teams win in January. Not a lot of guile needed.    

Conversely, the Eagles want to force defenses out of position through formations and misdirection, and at this stage, it isn’t very effective. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact head coach Chip Kelly does not seem to have an answer. Since the screen passes to tailback Darren Sproles in week two against the Indianapolis Colts, has an Eagles opponent looked confused?  

Teams aren’t even fazed by the teams’ up-tempo pace anymore. For all their commitment to the latest advancements in sports science, it is the Eagles who actually look a step slower than they did last season. Of course, as Kelly reminded us after the Eagles’ loss to the San Francisco 49ers, the offensive line is missing starters, which forces him to call more conservative plays. Yet, with three-fifths of the starting lineup returning, his charge still managed a rather pedestrian 20 points against a well-below average St. Louis Rams secondary.  

Still, the Giants aren’t quite the 1985 Chicago Bears, or even this year’s 49ers.  But like every team, they have plenty of visual data on how to slow the birds.  

Lately, that’s all any Eagles foe needs.

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THINGS THE PUNDITS CAN’T OR WON’T SAY: Week 5

- Once again, the four most important people in any pro football organization are the owner, the quarterback, the talent evaluator and the head coach, in that order.

-Based on the tenor of the game early, Rams’ quarterback Austin Davis simply must get a first down before sliding. He had room and either lost track of the line to gain, or didn’t want to get hit.  In either case, he showed poor leadership.  

-Early in the 2nd quarter, the Rams easily diagnosed a double screen play. Last season, tricky plays like that gained a lot of yards.  

-The Rams are barely average, even though head coach Jeff Fisher is in his third season. Talk about living off your reputation.  

-If you’re still wondering why the Rams are far and away the worst team in the NFC West, look no further than Tavon Austin. The team selected Austin 8th overall last year and still haven’t figured out how to use him. He is nothing more than a return specialist and fifth wide receiver.  

-Jim Harbaugh is a good football coach, but he isn’t the ONLY good football coach. Just as teams will line up to interview him if he leaves San Francisco, the 49ers ought to have a few suitors looking to fill the vacancy.

-Colts’ quarterback Andrew Luck looks the part, but he is still learning like every other young quarterback. The experts want you to believe he is a finished product. He isn’t.  

-Because of outside linebacker/defensive end Bjorn Werner, the Colts don’t miss Robert Mathis as much as you think.  He isn’t J.J. Watt, but he has J.J. Watt tendencies.  

-One of the things taken for granted in the NFL is the fact quarterbacks Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Luck all play with incredible toughness.  

-It doesn’t matter how many good players the Bengals have, Marvin Lewis is still the head coach and Andy Dalton is still the quarterback.  

-Chicago Bears’ head coach Marc Trestman must know by now there is no changing his quarterback’s bad habits.  

-Buffalo Bills’ quarterback Kyle Orton is little more than a journeyman, but he still throws as pretty a pass as anyone in football.  

-Washington’s defense plays as dumb and undisciplined as any in the NFL. It’s no surprise the Eagles play so well against them.  

-Only twice in 17 seasons as a defensive coordinator or head coach, has a Jim Haslett defense finished in the top 10 in points allowed. That’s mind-blowing. You’d almost have to try to produce that kind of mediocrity. 

 

Earl Myers is a freelance writer from the Philadelphia area.  He closely follows North America's four major sports leagues but just about any sporting event gets his attention.  His goal is to provoke a little thought in his readers.

Contact Earl at emyersiii@hotmail.com

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Photo: (Louis DeLuca/The Dallas Morning News)