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NFC East Report Week 11: Eagles fans have plenty to be thankful for this Turkey Day

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NFC East Report Week 11: Eagles fans have plenty to be thankful for this Turkey Day

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: GAME OVER!) and what they have upcoming. This week the Giants make about as much sense as Ben McAdoo’s barber, Washington saw its worse choke-job since George Dubya met a pretzel, and the Cowboys, well...I’m pretty sure you heard what happened to the Cowboys.

Here’s what happened this week in the NFC East:

New York Giants (2-8)

What Happened: The Giants can't even Process correctly. A week after being hilariously humiliated by the winless 49ers, Eli Manning and Company (or what remains of the Company) went ahead and beat the previously-playoff-bound Kansas City Chiefs in overtime, 12-9. Before you ask, yes, this one was about as much fun as that score leads on.

Tough loss for Andy Reid, whose Chiefs appear to be rotting faster than your neighbor's Halloween pumpkin (and the owners of both should probably think about making a change). This game featured more interceptions thrown by non-quarterbacks (two) than it featured touchdowns (one). Allegedly, the world’s least-deserving future Hall of Famer, Eli Manning, spent the pregame “firing up the troops,” which sounds about as believable as Donald Trump saying “I believe the women.” Seriously, the only individual I can imagine being less inspiring than Eli is the guy in the red jacket and mustache on the other sideline telling reporters he’s got to do a better job. 

Despite the win, the Giants were mathematically eliminated from winning the NFC East on Sunday, which is about as shocking as the fact that Mike Lombardi can’t get an NFL front office to hire him. The realization that they've been officially knocked out before Turkey Day is funnier than JoJo blocking and flopping. Seriously, this Giants season is a lot like Charles Manson, in that I was pretty surprised to hear death didn’t officially arrive until this week. Who knew?

Positive Spin: Nothing. Seriously, there is nothing positive Giants fans should take from this victory. They didn’t even act spoiler against a legitimate rival (does any New Yorker get some emotional pleasure from a victory over Alex Smith?). There are cat videos on YouTube that can prove more productive. This was a complete and utter waste.

Roger Lewis Jr., an undrafted wide receiver only in the game because Odell Beckham, Brandon Marshall, AND Sterling Shepard are out, made a ridiculous grab to put New York in field goal range to win it. This doesn’t turn him into the next coming of Victor Cruz, but hey, there’s not a lot of silver linings this deep down in the barrel.

Negative Spin: Everything that this team does from now till the end of the season should be focused on 2018. By beating the Chiefs, the Mara’s franchise is now back into 3rd on the 2018 NFL Draft Board. That may not seem like too big a deal, except when you consider the difference between the 2nd overall pick and the 3rd can mean the difference between, say, Carson Wentz or Joey Bosa (or even worse, Donovan McNabb vs. Akili Smith). The draft is about as predictable as what-issues-Alabama-voters-care-about, but ask yourself this; is a victory in November really worth it?

This is a franchise with a lot of tough questions to ponder going into the offseason. Winning a game in Week 11 isn’t some Earth-shattering shift, but it definitely doesn’t help in any fashion.

What’s Next: Tryptophan won’t be the only thing putting people to sleep this Thursday. The Giants head to the district to take on Washington.

 

Washington (4-6)

What Happened: Imagine sitting down this Thanksgiving after spending the entire day slaving over a fantastic meal; full turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes with the little marshmallows in it, the real deal. Then, right before you’re about to dive into this incredibly delicious spread you’ve spent the past several hours pulling together, Drew Brees runs into your home, steals all your grub, and then on his way out, kicks all of your friends in the shins.

That’s essentially what happened to Kirk Cousins and his Washington squad on Sunday. Up fifteen points in New Orleans, the Washington D let Brees throw two touchdowns in the final minute, then gave up the game-winning field goal in OT to give the Saints their eighth consecutive victory and drop Dan Snyder’s squad to 4-6 on the year. Adding literal insult to injury, Jay Gruden’s crew had to put a number of players on injured reserve, including the electric Chris Thompson and the guy who is certainly NOT Alshon Jeffrey, Terrelle Pryor.

Pryor’s one season in D.C. ends with 20 catches and a touchdown. Please note that his numbers have been eclipsed by Jeffrey (whom the Iggles opted to sign instead) as well as former Washingtonian’s DeSean Jackson (who’s catching passes from Ryan Fitzpatrick) and Pierre Garcon (who’s been out since Week 8). My goodness, even Sam Hinkie made better free agent signings (looking at you, RoCo).

After the game, Cousins complained about an incorrectly-called intentional grounding penalty against him, which is justified but irrelevant (which, notably, is the same tagline for the new Justice League movie). When you blow a fifteen-point fourth quarter lead, there’s often a few issues more prevalent than the zebras.

Positive Spin: For 48 minutes, Washington beat down on a Super Bowl competitor with a Hall of Fame bound quarterback, which is comparable to saying for 99% of her swim, Chrissie Watkins had a blast. 

Meanwhile, Cousins added more evidence into the ‘sign this guy to an extension’ folder, made even more impressive by the fact that he’s doing it with a bunch of no-names at the skill positions. The NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles laid out a pretty clear blueprint on how to upgrade the weapons around a talented quarterback; if Washington’s front office can get their act together fast enough to do the same, the path back to relevancy shouldn’t be too windy for this franchise.

Negative Spin: This team is receding faster than LeBron’s hairline, and like The King’s fro, the owner seems happy to pump money into a quick rebuild. But don’t bet on it. Two years ago they won the division, a year later they just missed the playoffs, and this year they’re bolting towards the exit faster than that lazy coworker you hate. They’ve let a number of playmakers leave and many of the replacements have failed to impress (the ageless Vernon Davis notwithstanding). Considering this franchise’s history of being more disjointed than a season arc on AquaTeen Hunger Force, the chances of a bounce-back don’t seem too good for anybody (except for us Iggles fans, naturally)

What’s Next: If Washington has any chance of getting back into the Wild Card conversation, it’ll have to get a victory Thursday night at home against the Giants. That seems unlikely, so it’s probably best for Birds fans to pull for Big Blue on Thanksgiving, in an effort to negatively impact their draft status.

 

Dallas Cowboys (5-5)

What Happened: If you're reading this, you're either a masochist Cowboys fan (oxymoron alert) or you already know. Despite playing at home, despite playing with their backs against the wall, despite Cowboys owner Jerry Jones honoring Cowboys owner Jerry Jones at halftime, and despite said owner Jerry Jones promising that his team would be better, ‘dem Boys were completely and utterly out-classed at home in front of a God and a national audience on Sunday by the future NFC East Champions.

Plenty has been said about the victory, so no need for me to get into how the Cowboys D couldn’t stop anyone come the second half, or how Dak Prescott had the worst game of his career with four turnovers, or how Dallas is now on the outside looking in on the 2017 playoffs. And I won’t even get into how they’ve only scored one touchdown in the last eight quarters, or how they’ve been outscored by 48 points the last two games, or how their offense has come to a grinding halt ever since Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension finally came through. No need to mention any of that. Lets keep it on the hush.

But is it just me, or is Dez Bryant's heart just not in it anymore? It use to be painful watching him throw a temper tantrum worse than a small toddler deprived of a happy meal, but the fact that he wasn’t seen on the sideline berating some poor wide receivers coach arguably is enough to put him in the NFLs concussion protocol. Dez, like this squad as a whole, seems a shadow of his former self. 

Meanwhile, Jones won't be suing the NFL after all, showing he has the same steel legal cajones as his President. It doesn’t matter if Sunday night was the turning point to send Dallas’ season spiraling into irrelevancy; the Jones/Goodell brouhaha is likely to dominate this team’s headlines for the remainder of the year, and I, for one, don’t have nearly enough popcorn.

Positive Spin: If you’re a Cowboys fan trying to put down the bottle this week, here’s what you need to grab onto; your squad was missing a Pro Bowl running back, a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, a Pro Bowl linebacker, AND a Pro-Bowl kicker. Despite it all, Big D was leading at halftime. Prescott, meanwhile, will presumably only get better, and therefore the gap between the Cowboys and the NFL-leading Philadelphia Eagles isn’t as wide as the 37-9 final score would lead one to believe.

Negative Spin: Every bit of that is bull. For starters, the Iggles were also missing a Pro Bowl running back, a Pro Bowl offensive lineman, a highly-rated linebacker, and their starting kicker. Shoot, the Birds had actually lost TWO kickers by the time this one hit the second quarter, and you can bet your Thanksgiving stuffing Birds fans wouldn’t have accepted that as an excuse had Doug Pederson’s squad been embarrassed Sunday night.

The Cowboys stink, for all the natural reasons we’re all very familiar with. But as currently constructed (and football-lord forgive me for typing this), they’re not a bad team. However, to suggest that they’re anywhere near being on the same level as this Eagles squad, healthy or not, is a clear indicator you’re (like Dez) probably suffering from symptoms of a concussion. Either that, or you sniff the same glue Skip Bayless uses. That guy’s a bigger joker than Mark Hamill. 

What’s Next: The Cowboys face the Los Angeles Charges tomorrow on T-Day, then have a relatively easy schedule, facing New York, Washington, and Oakland. They could win all four and still lose this division, so don’t under-appreciate how big the Birds win Sunday night was. This year, there’s plenty for Iggles fans to be thankful for.

For me, I’m thankful the Cowboys owner hasn’t fired GM Jerry Jones yet.

Eagles fans give MetLife Stadium a real fan experience

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Eagles fans give MetLife Stadium a real fan experience

First, it was StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Oct. 1. Then it was the Los Angeles Coliseum last week.

This time, on Sunday, it was a turnpike drive to MetLife Stadium. 

Eagles fans travel — we know that. An Eagles game in North Jersey? It's nothing new, Eagles-Giants, no matter how big of a ghastly mess the New York football Giants are right now, will always attract plenty of Birds fans. But this is quite something.

Eagles fans on Sunday gave MetLife Stadium — which has been open for eight seasons now — a baptism of what real fan experience looks like, writes the New York Daily News' Gary Miles:

Thanks to the Eagles fans, we found out MetLife Stadium can actually be as loud as Giants Stadium used to be. This is the eighth year for the new stadium and it hasn't jumped like the old place.

It's hard to say more than 50% of the stadium were Eagles fans, but they seemed to account for 75% of the noise, even more down the stretch when they were chanting, "Defense, defense, defense," on the Giants last drive.

This was worse than late in the 1978 season when fans burned tickets, rented an airplane to fly over the stadium pleading for the end of bad football and hung Wellington Mara in effigy from the mezzanine.

The Eagles fans invaded and the only retribution was cops handcuffed a fan wearing an Eagles No. 11 jersey and escorting him through the bowels of the stadium after the game.

Well done, Eagles fans. Well done.

Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants in Week 15

Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win over the Giants in Week 15

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Grading the Eagles' 34-29 win Sunday afternoon over the New York Giants at the MetLife Stadium (see breakdown):

QUARTERBACK
Nick Foles: 24/38, 237 YDS, 4 TD

Foles was far from perfect, missing his share of open receivers. He also wasn't afraid to stand in the pocket and take a hit or push the ball downfield. Foles threw a touchdown pass on four of the Eagles' six trips inside the red zone. Perhaps most importantly, he avoided the negative plays, taking only one sack and finishing the game without a turnover. You can't ask for much more from a backup.

Grade: A

RUNNING BACKS
Jay Ajayi: 12 ATT, 49 YDS, 2 REC, 40 YDS

The Eagles went with a running back by committee approach in the first half to only middling results. In the second half, they turned the reins over to Ajayi, who quickly racked up the offense's long gains of the day — a 22-yard rush and a 32-yard reception. Not sensational production by any means, but at least there weren't any fumbles.

Grade: C+

WIDE RECEIVERS
Nelson Agholor: 9 TAR, 7 REC, 59 YDS, 1 TD

The performance of these receivers with the backup quarterback at the helm is deserving of some respect. Agholor led the team in receptions and receiving yards, and Alshon Jeffery added four receptions for 49 and a score. Torrey Smith drew a pass interference penalty to set up six for the Eagles as well. With or without Carson Wentz under center, this is still a dangerous bunch (see Roob's observations).

Grade: A-

TIGHT ENDS
Zach Ertz: 9 TAR, 6 REC, 56 YDS, 1 TD

Another week, another stellar game for Eagles tight ends. Ertz picked up right where he left off with a big day after missing the previous week, while Trey Burton tacked on two receptions for 15 yards and a score as well.

Grade: A

OFFENSIVE LINE
Chance Warmack: Started at left guard

Halapoulivaati Vaitai struggled with the speed of All-Pro defensive end Olivier Vernon off the edge, allowing four quarterback hits and a sack. Warmack had trouble keeping his feet and reaching his landmarks is the running game. Of course, you can only expect so much when the left side of the O-line consists of backups. Vaitai and Warmack were adequate, even very good at times, and settled in as the game went along to the point where protection was actually solid in the second half.

Grade: B+

DEFENSIVE LINE
Brandon Graham: 4 TKL, 2 TFL, 1.0 SK

The Giants rely on quick passes, negating the Eagles' pass rush to some extent, but the defense was able to generate some mild pressure. Vinny Curry had a sack erased by a penalty in the secondary, and Fletcher Cox got to the quarterback on a two-point conversion attempt. Otherwise, it was a quiet day up front, though the Giants were limited to 75 yards rushing on 3.3 yards per carry.

Grade: B

LINEBACKERS
Nigel Bradham: 11 TKL, 1 TFL, 2 PD

Both Bradham and Mychal Kendricks with nine tackles were extremely active, as the Giants worked the middle of the field hard with their power running game and short slants. Bradham had a chance to put the game on ice late in the fourth quarter but dropped what could've been an easy interception.

Grade: B

DEFENSIVE BACKS
Ronald Darby: 5 TKL, 3 PD, 1 INT

The secondary got off to a horrendous start, allowing 14th-year veteran Eli Manning to set a career high with 252 yards passing in the first half of a game. Darby's interception and 37-yard return while trailing 20-7 in the second quarter flipped the momentum a bit. The coverage was perfect, and Darby's run to the Giants' 20-yard line was even better. Manning went back to work in the second half, racking up 427 yards and three touchdowns. This was supposed to be the 31st-ranked passing offense in the NFL. Not good.

Grade: C-

SPECIAL TEAMS
Eagles: 3 blocked kicks

Derek Barnett blocked an extra point attempt in the first quarter, which turned out to be a huge play. Kamu Grugier-Hill followed up Darby's pick with a blocked punt on the following possession. Malcolm Jenkins blocked a field goal, too. And Jake Elliott was perfect on field goals and extra points. Yet, Najee Goode nearly undid all of it. Goode's totally unnecessary neutral zone infraction on a Giants punt in the third quarter extended a failed drive, eventually resulting in a touchdown. The rest of the unit bailed him out.

Grade: A-

COACHING
Eagles' record: 12-2

This was not Jim Schwartz's best work. The Eagles' defense seemed wholly unprepared for the exact same offense the Giants ran against them in Week 3 — the same offense they run every week. There's no reason for Manning to go over 400 yards. None. Some of the issues were the poor play on the part of the defensive backs, but the game plan was questionable as well.

Otherwise, great job by Doug Pederson to rally the troops after falling behind by 13 in the first half. It didn't look like the offense dialed anything back at all with Foles under center, which was the right call, too. When the team scores 34 with the backup quarterback, the coach is doing something right.

Grade: B-