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NFC East Report, Week 1: Eli Manning looks ready for Del Boca Vista

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NFC East Report, Week 1: Eli Manning looks ready for Del Boca Vista

Each week, we’ll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: they’re all failures). This week, the Cowboys picked up where they left off, Washington got run over by the Wentz Wagon, and the Giants looked ready for a spot in Del Boca Vista.

Here’s what happened, and what’s happening, in the NFC East after Week One:

Washington

What happened: I mean, y’all saw it.  Despite a hat trick of turnovers, Washington still had a chance to win this game on the final drive, and gave up a maybe-it-was-maybe-it-wasn’t fumble on a Brandon Graham sack that resulted in Fletcher Cox’s first career touchdown (and might I also add, a fantastic touchdown dance). In short, Washington had a chance to win it, and Kirk Cousins didn’t have enough … which, quite soon, may be what we’re saying about his bank account.

Sure, you can argue all you want about the final call. It doesn’t change the fact that Washington averaged less than three yards per carry, put up just 10 total points on offense, and ended the day with four brutal turnovers. You can’t complain about the last turnover when you’ve already handed it over three times. That’s like a chef ruining every dish on a four-course meal, then getting mad at the waiter for sneezing on the dessert. Cousins' performance on Sunday was a mucus-covered souffle, which is ironic, because I’m sure dozens of waiters in the DC area have spit in Dan Snyder’s food.

Positive spin: Insert obligatory “It’s only Week 1” comment here. In fact, Washington has lost Week 1 every year Jay Gruden has been in charge. They love losing Week 1, in the same way Jon Snow likes squinting at things or how the military likes taking its orders via Twitter. THE CHAOS IN DC IS CONSTRUCTIVE, can’t you see!?

Meanwhile, Ryan Kerrigan’s play is as consistent as your neighbor doing construction the only Saturday morning you have to sleep in, Chris Thompson made arguably the play of the day, and Washington lost a game to a division rival it was bound to lose to sooner or later. This one hurts for DC fans, but it’s not a backbreaker. It’s more like a paper cut … a massive, Cox-sized papercut.

If it wasn’t for a couple of Tony Romo-esque Houdini moves by Carson Wentz … and a fumbled punt … and a QB fumble in the first quarter … and a fourth-quarter interception in the red zone. .. maybe Washington’s in control all game. And maybe if we elected our president by popular vote, Snyder and Donald Trump wouldn’t be neighbors. That’s why we play the game, folks.

Negative spin: Washington lost a home game to a divisional opponent, and looked ugly doing it. Terrelle Pryor and Cousins looked out of sync, like when your live stream is just a second off so the lip movements don’t match the sound. And the offensive line, which was suppose to be a strength, struggled mightily against the Iggles' pass rush, like Sean Spicer at a “Guess the size of the crowd” contest.

Much has been made about how Cousins is playing for his next contract. His display on Sunday isn’t the kind of show that’ll get you 2016 Brock Osweiler money.

What’s next: Gruden’s squad heads out to Los Angeles to face a Rams team coached by its former offensive coordinator, Sean McVay. The McVay-Gruden dynamic is essentially the same thing Iggles fans will get with Andy Reid-Doug Pederson on Sunday, just with a lot less labored breathing.

The Rams are coming off a 46-9 victory, and consider it a must-win for Washington. The team will take on Oakland and Kansas City after that, and don’t expect it to be favored for either.

New York Giants

What happened: Giants fans have been waiting for years for Eli Manning to start looking like Peyton Manning. On Sunday night, he finally did … unfortunately, it was the 38-year old version who had the accuracy of a stormtrooper. Despite coach Ben McAdoo’s decision to go with the Chase Utley hairstyle, the Giants were thoroughly beaten by Dallas on Sunday night, 19-3. Just as we all predicted, the Giants' offense has been outscored on the season by Cox.

It was announced shortly before the game that star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., whom McAdoo got hurt in the preseason by being a moron, would not be able to play. That was about as exciting as the Giants' offense got. New York had just two first downs the entire first half, and had 256 yards total the entire night. Sitting through this game was a slow bleed, like bathing in a tub of leeches, or trying to binge watch all of Marvel’s Netflix shows. Oh, Iron Fist, you have the charisma of a mashed potato.

Positive spin: The defense looks good, in the same way Chip Kelly’s defense use to look good before the high number of plays sent them all into cardiac arrest. Wherever he is, Bradley Fletcher is probably still trying to catch his breath (also, a streaking wide receiver). While there wasn’t much for Giants fans to hang their heads on, their defense kept them in this bore-fest deep into the fourth.

And, presumably, OBJ will be back, though after watching Manning's noodle arm, it’s hard to imagine him in a rush. Once Beckham returns, he’ll make everyone look better. He’s like T.J. McConnell that way, only with worse hair.

At the end of the day, losing to a division rival on the road (like New York did) is better than losing at home (like Washington did). So, that’s something. Like how the one Wicked Witch probably preferred being melted by water as opposed to getting crushed by a house like her sister. How’s that for a dated reference?

And speaking of old things ...

Negative spin: Manning looked old. New Yorkers are offering him a seat on the subway, that’s how old he looked. Like clips of Ari Gold verbally berating women, the younger Manning has not been aging well. His numbers have been getting worse from year to year, despite the addition of Beckham (and Sterling Shepard, who’s still everything we expect Nellie Agholor to be), and maybe the Giants' front office was onto something when they drafted an heir apparent in the third round last April.

The Giant issues (see what I did there?) go beyond the quarterback, though. The offensive line makes tissue paper look like adamantium. Brandon Marshall had as many catches on Sunday as Jalen Mills. And the running game was … well, it was like the Eagles' run game, which is to say it was a complete and utter non-factor. The Giants' offense was bad. Like, Dark Tower bad, but with more summer hype (and less angry diehards).

Again, it’s only one week, and the Giants bounced back from a 2-3 start last season to make the playoffs. A month from now, we may have all forgotten that Manning looked ready for the scrap heap, or that the running game looked nonexistent, or that Marshall looked as old as Melisandre in that one Game of Thrones scene that didn’t make sense. But for right now, today, at this moment, after a beating on national TV in Dallas on a stage the Giants have typically thrived on, McAdoo’s squad looks like it’s got some problems. 

What’s next: The Giants come home for a game against the 1-0 Detroit Lions, who feature the highest-paid quarterback in the NFL, Matthew Stafford. Fun fact: Matty Staff has a .460 winning percentage in his career, which is the exact number in millions he’s currently getting from the Ford family. Glad to see Detroit becoming a beacon of high-paying American jobs!

Dallas Cowboys

What Happened: Ugh, please don’t make me recap this one. Reliving an easy Cowboys victory is as cringeworthy as what I imagine being stuck on an elevator with Sam Bradford is like.

In the same way the Birds got a monkey off their backs beating Washington for the first time in two-and-a-half years, the Cowboys chased away a bit of a boogeyman by easily defeating the New York Giants Sunday night at home. Eli and Co. swept Dak and Zeke last season, a feat made more impressive by the fact that the Cowboys only lost four games all of last year.

Evan Rafa Nadal thought this one was too easy. Dallas moved the ball effectively enough on the Giants, and while it struggled to get touchdowns (the lone one being scored by AARP spokesman and man-without-a-neck Jason Witten) and technically let the G-Men hang around, the Cowboys still felt in control all evening. Prescott wasn’t perfect, but he was effective, and Elliott found enough holes to be successful … which, coincidentally, is also the opening statement from his legal team.

Positive spin: The Cowboys looked like the exact same team that went 13-3 last year, which is great for the next three months (but as per usual, has little impact on the postseason). Elliott escaped his suspension, perhaps temporarily, or perhaps forever, in thanks to a Texas-based judge’s ruling and I’m sure that judge doesn’t have a Michael Irvin jersey in his closet, for sure. The Cowboys RB/QB combo got the job done again a tough Giants defense, proving there won’t be a sophomore slump (at least for one week).

Negative spin: This wasn’t a true test. Without OBJ, the Giants' offense had the fight of day-old roadkill. Oh, and they probably should have had more than 19 points. The offense stalled in the red zone a few times, a result of some poor Prescott passing. I’m nitpicking here, but hey, I’ve got a format for this article, and I’m gonna stick to it. I respect and follow the rules. If I don’t, Jerry Jones might try to hire me.

Oh, and did you know Prescott grew up a Cowboys fan? Yet he was born in California. That's so weird. 

What’s next: A flight to Denver to face an opponent coming off a short week. Jones is so clearly the shadow commissioner of this league, I’m surprised he’s not using a shell company to buy Facebook ads targeting independent voters.

Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

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Jerry Jones goes after Roger Goodell over Ezekiel Elliott suspension

Jerry Jones, the NFL's most outspoken troll, just wants to watch the world burn.

After weeks of talk and escalation, the Cowboys' owner is ready to go to war with Roger Goodell and the league's other owners over Ezekiel Elliott's suspension.

According to an ESPN report, Jones threatened the commissioner on a conference call after Elliott's suspension was announced, saying, "I'm gonna come after you with everything I have. If you think (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft came after you hard, Bob Kraft is a p---y compared to what I'm going to do."

For weeks now, Jones has tried to disrupt talks of a contract extension for Goodell, promoted objectively bad pizza in the name of football, and landed himself in hot water with the other owners. So much so that there has reportedly been talk about removing Jones as the Cowboys' owner.

It's hard to pick a side here. Jones — the long-lost twin of Emperor Palpatine — and Goodell — a man with rulings more inconsistent than Pete Morelli. You don't really want to root for either of them, but it is fun to think about the extremely unlikely chance that Jones loses the Cowboys. 

Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

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Cowboys just another inferior opponent to Eagles

It was only a few weeks ago when it appeared this first meeting between the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was shaping up to be a battle for NFC East supremacy. Now that we’re here, the Cowboys are just trying to save their season, and the Eagles just want to take care of business against an inferior opponent.

That’s not a stretch. Are the Cowboys a good team? Well, they’re not bad, at least based on their 5-4 record. They certainly would be a lot better were it not for injuries and suspensions. But as the team is currently constructed right now, Dallas is not on the Eagles’ level.

Name one thing the Cowboys do better than the Eagles in 2017? That’s going to be a struggle, because aside from maybe punting, or maybe having a marginally superior pass rush, or maybe running the football before Ezekiel Elliott was sent packing, there’s really nowhere Dallas possesses an edge at this point.

Doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t pose a threat to the Eagles or even win on Sunday night. It’s simply a difficult scenario to envision when we break down the matchup on paper.

QUARTERBACKS

We’re probably going to be having this debate for many years. One-and-a-half seasons certainly isn’t enough to settle it. That being said, there’s no question who’s playing better right now, as in ‘17. Carson Wentz might be the NFL’s Most Valuable Player through 10 weeks. Wentz has thrown for more yards (2,262 to 1,994), a higher yards per attempt (7.8 to 6.9), and found the end zone with greater frequency (23 to 21) – including rushing touchdowns – compared to Dak Prescott. The Eagles’ signal caller also has just one more turnover (7 to 6) and 26 fewer yards rushing (211 to 237). Ultimately, the stats are all pretty close, but Wentz also has the more important number over Prescott right now: Wins, eight to five.

Slight advantage: Eagles

RUNNING BACKS

It’s safe to say that any combination of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden and Rod Smith (not to be confused with Broncos great Rod Smith) is a massive drop-off from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys simply can’t replace the explosive element Elliott brought to their offense, not with this collection of has-beens and one nobody, anyway. Not one of those ball carriers has the pure ability of a Jay Ajayi at this stage of their careers, and the Eagles wouldn’t swap LeGarrette Blount or Corey Clement with Dallas, either. Fun fact about the Cowboys backfield: The unit’s leading receiver is Smith with 38 yards.

Clear advantage: Eagles

WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDS

Zach Ertz is leads both teams with 43 receptions, 528 yards receiving and six touchdowns, and he even missed the Eagles’ last game. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are second and fourth, respectively, with 500 and 428 yards receiving, and tied for second with five touchdowns each. The Cowboys’ top receivers haven’t been as effective at getting down the field or in the red zone, though it’s a deep group. Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Cole Beasley are essentially possession receivers at this point, and even speedy Terrance Newman is averaging a career-worst 11.8 yards per catch. Dallas’ best deep threat has been Brice Butler this season with 10 receptions for 243 yards and two touchdowns. Otherwise, the vertical game has been nonexistent.

Advantage: Eagles

OFFENSIVE LINE

In retrospect, the Cowboys’ issues this season were easy to see coming. The retirement of right tackle Doug Free started a game of musical chairs up front, while the departure of guard Ronald Leary in free agency hurt the unit’s depth. Going from guard to tackle has been an adjustment for La’el Collins, and whether at left guard or left tackle, Chaz Green has been an abject failure. Dallas needs Tyron Smith healthy and covering Prescott’s blind side for this to even have a prayer of working. Meanwhile, the Eagles’ O-line keeps on ticking despite losing Jason Peters, which is a credit to Halapoulivaati Vaitai’s development. Peters or no, this continues to look like the best unit in the league.

Advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE LINE AND LINEBACKERS

The Eagles may have the best front four in the NFL, or one of them at least, but don’t discount the Cowboys here. Dallas is tied for fifth with 29 sacks, and Demarcus Lawrence leads the league with 11.5. The defense isn’t great against the run – 4.3 yards per carry allowed is tied for 23rd – but Lawrence, David Irving and Tyrone Crawford can all get after the quarterback. Of course, it’s not as if the Eagles aren’t scary rushing the passer, with just four fewer sacks, plus Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and company boast the No. 1 run defense as well. Even if the lines are considered even, there’s going to be some separation at linebacker, as the Cowboys are without the heart soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring).

Slight advantage: Eagles

DEFENSIVE BACKS

Despite a solid pass rush, teams have thrown on the Cowboys’ secondary. In terms of opponents’ quarterback rating, Dallas ranks 23rd (96.4). It’s a young backfield, with rookies Jourdan Lewis, Xavier Woods and Chidobe Awuzie – the latter returning from a hamstring injury – in outsized roles. The Eagles are young at corner themselves, with Ronald Darby finally back from an ankle and rejoining Jalen Mills, but have seasoned safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod over the top. The unit will give up some ground, coming in at 26th in terms of yards per game (249.4), yet is ninth in quarterback efficiency (81.2). Teams throw against this group because they have to, not because they want to.

Advantage: Eagles

SPECIAL TEAMS

At one point, Dan Bailey may have been the best kicker in the league, but he’s coming off his worst season as a pro and is now sidelined by a groin injury. That was the Cowboys’ primary strength on special teams. Now unreliable Mike Nugent is handling the kicking duties. Dallas punter Chris Jones has been pretty good at pinning opponents deep, which is nice, because he’s getting a lot more opportunities this year. The Eagles routinely grade among the top units in all phases, and will get the nod over most opponents, even if there is a Pro Bowl kicker.

Advantage: Eagles

COACHING

Jason Garrett is the reigning NFL Coach of the Year. He doesn’t call the plays. He doesn’t run the defense. Heck, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably decides when to call a timeout or throw the challenge flag. Yet, Garrett has hardware saying he’s the best. To his credit, there is a good staff in place around him, particularly defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But as of now, Doug Pederson is well on his way to winning Coach of the Year in ’17, and will do it while actually running a team, nor are there any weak links on his staff. With an unconvincing 62-49 record, including playoffs, we’ll go ahead and chalk up Garrett’s 2016 campaign as an anomaly.

Advantage: Eagles

OVERALL

The Cowboys went 13-3 in the regular season in ‘16 on the strength of a dominant offensive line, punishing ground attack and well-coached defense. While the latter is still in place, even that aspect of the equation benefitted from ball-control offense. But Dallas’ line is an injury away from being in shambles, and the NFL’s reigning rushing champion is suspended. That leaves a young quarterback with aging weapons and adequate protection at best, and a defense that can rush the quarterback but does little else. Meanwhile, the Eagles have the best record in the league right now at 8-1, and they were firing on all cylinders heading into their bye. This is a week-to-week sport, so everything can change in the blink of an eye on Sunday night. Going in, however, there’s no denying which side is superior.

Distinct advantage: Eagles