Cowboys make statement in NFC East – are the Giants done?

With their 20-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys made a huge statement in the NFC East.

After squeaking by a bad Kansas City team in Week 5, Dallas went into its bye week on a mission. They emerged in Week 7 and took it to a good Falcons team at home, beating Atlanta 37-21. They took care of business at home the next week by beating Seattle 38-17 and then proved they could win on the road in a hostile environment last night.

There’s a lot of football left to be played, but the Cowboys are finally playing with some consistency under Wade Phillips. Granted, maybe nothing has changed and Dallas will go on to lose five of their next eight games and miss the playoffs. But at least for the moment, the Cowboys are playing as good as any team in the league right now.

All is certainly not lost for the Eagles following this loss, but this was a disappointing defeat after routing the Giants 40-17 last Sunday. They couldn’t sustain drives and Donovan McNabb threw two costly interceptions. With teams like the Chargers, Falcons, Giants, Broncos and Cowboys left on their schedule, the Eagles certainly have their work cut out for them in the second half.

Speaking of the Giants, with they have now lost four in a row after the Chargers came from behind in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to beat New York 21-20 on Sunday. Eli Manning threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns, but the Giants twice settled for field goals in the second half and it came back to haunt them.

Even after losing four straight, I don’t think anyone is ready to completely write off the G-Men, but what is this team’s identity is at it stumbles into its bye? The Giants have been a team that lives and dies by rushing the quarterback it’s apparent that this isn’t the same pass-rushing team that it was earlier in the year. Of course, they did rack up wins against the Redskins, Bucs, Chiefs and Raiders, so that built some false hope.

Tom Coughlin and his coaching staff has a lot to work on heading into the bye. We’ll see if the Giants can emerge from their off week ready to go, because they’ll face the Falcons, Broncos, Cowboys and Eagles in succession starting in Week 11. That’s not exactly the kind of schedule a team wants to deal with after dropping four straight.

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Different playcaller, same lousy result for Redskins

After their loss to the winless Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Washington Redskins stripped head coach Jim Zorn of his playcalling duties and handed them over to Sherman Lewis, who hadn’t even been with the team for a month.

The move was made in hopes to spark the Redskins’ dismal offense, but as their 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles tonight can attest to, Lewis isn’t going to change Washington’s misfortune over night.

The Redskins’ loss to the Eagles actually had very little to do with Lewis’ playcalling and more to do with Washington’s lack of execution. In the first half, quarterback Jason Campbell had a ball batted into the air by a defensive lineman and intercepted by linebacker Will Witherspoon, who returned it for a touchdown. Later in the half, Campbell escaped the pocket but didn’t get the ball out of his hands in time and was stripped from behind. The Eagles recovered and turned the gift into three points to take a 17-0 second quarter lead.

Campbell finished the night 29 of 43 passing for 284 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. For all intents and purposes, his final numbers weren’t bad (he had a QB rating of 91.6), but he often settled for check downs or underneath routes and both of his touchdown passes came around the goal line. He still struggled with hanging onto the ball too long and missing open receivers.

That said, his pass protection wasn’t that great and his receivers dropped a few passes. He also didn’t have Chris Cooley, who left the game early in the first half due to an ankle injury and never returned. All in all, it was a complete team effort by a Redskins squad that somehow generated 17 points from a brutal showing. Lewis wasn’t the problem tonight – lack of execution by the players was.

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2009 NFL Week 7 Picks & Predictions

Instead of limiting myself to only four games like I have the previous weeks, I’ve decided to channel my inner Peter King and make predictions (with smaller write ups) on every contest on the NFL schedule this week.

49ers at Texans, 1:00PM ET
It had to have been a long two weeks for San Francisco’s players after the Falcons drubbed the Niners 45-10 in Week 5. Mike Singletary will have his team more focused and I think we’ll see a great defensive effort from San Fran this Sunday to slow down a potent Houston offensive attack.
Odds: Texans –3.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Texans 17.

Packers at Browns, 1:00PM ET
This will be a closer game than most think. The Packers could be looking ahead to a home date with the Vikings next Sunday, although in the end Cleveland’s offense is putrid and while Green Bay has been inconsistent defensively this year, I think they’ll do enough to get the Pack a victory.
Odds: Packers –9.
Prediction: Packers 24, Browns 16.

Chargers at Chiefs, 1:00PM ET
Ron Rivera has no clue on how to get San Diego’s defense back on track, but the young, inexperienced Kansas City secondary could have issues slowing down Philip Rivers and the Bolts’ passing game. Still, I think Matt Cassel and company pull off a surprise upset at home against a San Diego team coming off a short week.
Odds: Chargers –5
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Chargers 18.

Colts at Rams, 1:00PM ET
The Rams have given a nice effort the past two weeks, but this is a horrible matchup for them – even at home. Peyton Manning and company is well rested and the Indy defense will harass Marc Bulger all game.
Odds: Colts –14
Prediction: Colts 34, Rams 14.

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Eagles land Will Witherspoon

The Eagles acquired linebacker Will Witherspoon from the Rams at the trade deadline on Tuesday. In exchange for Witherspoon, St. Louis acquired wide receiver Brandon Gibson and a 2010 fifth round pick.

Witherspoon had been playing the weak side linebacker position for the Rams, but he has experience in the middle, which has been a weakness for the Eagles since Stewart Bradley was lost for the season in training camp. Stewart’s replacements, Jeremiah Trotter and Omar Gaither, are fine against the run but have been a liability in coverage.

Gibson was a sixth round pick of the Eagles’ in April. He impressed Philadelphia’s coaching staff in training camp, but was never going to see the field with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and others in front of him. St. Louis has had a major need at receiver, especially since Laurent Robinson was lost for the year with a knee injury.

As expected, the trade deadline came and went without any big names being dealt. Rumors circulated last week that Brady Quinn, Joshua Cribbs and/or Terrell Owens might be traded, but nothing came to fruition.

Kirwan: Time for Eagles to trade Vick?

Senior analyst Pat Kirwan suggested in a recent article that now might be the best time for the Eagles to trade Michael Vick.

Michael Vick said he expected to be a starting quarterback when he reentered the NFL. When I look at some of the quarterback situations around the league, I think he’s right, but I don’t really see him as a fit in Philadelphia after watching Kevin Kolb for the past two weeks.

The return of Donovan McNabb, as well as having Jeff Garcia under contract, makes Vick a guy to consider trading. He saw limited duty in his first real game and he will get better with more work, but his contract next year probably means he will not be an Eagle after 2009.
In the past two weeks, Kolb has completed 55 of 85 passes for 718 yards (8.44 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns, three interceptions and just two sacks. Any young QB that only gets sacked once every 43.5 attempts and distributes the ball to seven different receivers every game is the future — and he’s a whole lot cheaper than Vick.

In Vick’s career, he has been sacked an average of once every 10 pass attempts. And when it comes to the Wildcat, receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin can handle those duties if the Eagles care to continue using it.

I don’t think there are any real worries about the fallout from Vick’s off-the-field issues anymore and maybe a team like the Raiders would love to have him on the roster. He has to be worth a decent draft pick. Garcia is the veteran backup the Eagles need for insurance. When the Eagles activated him to the 45-man roster this weekend, they confirmed they see him that way, too.

Garcia was just released so that the Eagles could make room for middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, although I don’t think that would change Kirwan’s mind regarding Philly trading Vick.

Kirwan suggests that Vick “has to be worth a decent draft pick.” Not sure I agree with that. He hasn’t shown enough in his limited time back to convince any team that he can be their starting quarterback and no team is going to part with a draft pick just to use Vick in the Wildcat.

One thing I do side with Kirwan on is how teams don’t have to worry about the fallout from Vick’s off-field issues. The Eagles essentially took the first blow and they didn’t receive much criticism. But again, I don’t see any team parting with a 2nd or 3rd rounder (what I would deem a “decent” draft pick) to add Vick just based on what we’ve seen so far.

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