Monday night’s Eagles/Giants matchup wasn’t the riveting, drama-packed thrill ride we were hoping for. At best, this game would have been a 40 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, if you’re running out of space on your DVR, I’d give it the axe, unless you want to see footage of Bradley Cooper hanging out with Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie in a luxury suite.
In a game that featured more turnovers than touchdowns, the Eagles held off the Giants 27-7 to take over first place in the NFC East. The Eagles are 3-3 with 10 games remaining.
Monday’s win came on the strength of a power running game that was nonexistent during Philadelphia’s first five games. Always eager to stick it to the Giants, DeMarco Murray exploded for 109 yards on 22 carries. Both were season highs. He also tallied his fourth touchdown (third rushing), leveling Brandon Meriweather with a vicious stiff arm on his way to the end zone. The Eagles’ other two touchdowns came on a pick-six by cornerback Nolan Carroll and a 32-yard catch by Riley Cooper (not related to Bradley, as far as I know).
Murray has torpedoed every fantasy team he’s been on this year with his low yards per carry and inconsistent workload. Now it looks like he’s ready to make amends. Consider the 243 yards on 52 touches the last two weeks his peace offering. Ryan Mathews has also been in the giving mood, supplying fantasy owners with 290 combined rushing and receiving yards over his last four contests. The Eagles are 3-1 in that span.
The Eagles scored 27 unanswered points following Eli Manning’s first-quarter touchdown strike to Odell Beckham. Eli came out scorching hot, completing his first 10 throws before finally getting picked off by DeMeco Ryans. Manning went just 14-of-27 the rest of the way with 102 yards and another interception.
While the Eagles’ backfield flourished, New York’s performance on the ground was predictably marginal. Rashad Jennings led the way with 13 carries for 63 yards. Andre Williams and Shane Vereen combined for six yards on nine carries. A cardboard cutout probably would have done just as well.
Neither quarterback brought their A-game Monday night. Sam Bradford bled the Giants for 280 yards passing but was also responsible for three of the Eagles’ four turnovers. Among NFL signal callers, only Peyton Manning (gasp) has thrown more interceptions than Bradford this year.
Philadelphia’s stay atop the NFC East might be short-lived. The Giants, who are also 3-3, get the injury-depleted Cowboys in Week 7 while the Eagles are heading to Charlotte for a date with the undefeated Panthers.
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Bad News for Mariota
Only Olivier Vernon could stop the Marcus Mariota hype train. The Dolphins right end pummeled Mariota Sunday, delivering a brutal hit that would have sent most quarterbacks to a hospital bed. Instead, Mariota stayed in the game for another two quarters, only giving way to backup Zach Mettenberger in the closing minutes.
Vernon apologized on Twitter after the game: “I’ve never been a dirty player. I never intended to hurt anyone. I even checked to make sure Marcus was ok. #mariotagetwellsoon.”
Vernon’s takedown of Mariota will have consequences for both sides. At the very least, Vernon will be facing a major fine as the league continues its crackdown on player safety. Even if Vernon regrets his late hit, it doesn’t erase what happened. It also won’t erase the damage to Mariota’s knee. Though it could have been much worse (think Robert Griffin III), Mariota’s MRI revealed a Grade 2 MCL sprain, which typically requires a 3-to-4 week recovery period.
For a point of reference, Ben Roethlisberger suffered an MCL sprain in Week 3 and hasn’t seen the field since. Mariota supposedly played through a similar injury in college so he obviously has a high threshold for pain. But in today’s NFL, franchise quarterbacks need to be protected at all costs. There’s little point in having Mariota play at 50 percent and risk further injury, particularly while the Titans are headed for another last-place finish.
That means there’s a good chance we’ll see Zach Mettenberger Sunday against the Falcons. Mettenberger was passable as a rookie (eight touchdowns, seven interceptions, 83.4 passer rating) but sixth-round picks are usually drafted that late for a reason. Other than Tom Brady, not many sixth-rounders have developed into franchise quarterbacks.
Kendall Wright, who is already fed up with how things are going in Tennessee, might burst into flames if Mettenberger has to take over the starting job. Aside from an outlier game against Houston last year (seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown), Wright has averaged just 51 yards per game with Mettenberger as the starter.
The only Titan fantasy owners can look forward to at this point is rookie running back David Cobb. He should take over the starting role relatively quickly once he returns from a calf injury. That should happen around Week 9 or 10.
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Quick Hits: Lions rookie Zach Zenner is being hospitalized for several cracked ribs and a partially collapsed lung. The team will consider signing George Winn off the practice squad if Zenner faces a lengthy absence … Michael Vick suffered a minor hamstring tear Sunday and expects to miss at least one game … Steelers beat writer Mark Kaboly considers Ben Roethlisberger (knee) a long shot to play against the Chiefs in Week 7. That puts Landry Jones in position to make his first NFL start … The Steelers placed LT Kelvin Beachum on injured reserve Monday. He suffered a torn ACL in Sunday’s win against the Cardinals … The Saints dumped Zach Hocker Monday in favor of former Redskins kicker Kai Forbath. Hocker missed two field goals in Thursday night’s win over the Falcons … Keenan Lewis is dealing with a strained hip flexor. The Saints cornerback was limited to eight snaps last week against Atlanta … Reggie Bush is expected to suit up Thursday against Seattle. He missed Week 6 with a strained calf … Bush’s backfield mate Carlos Hyde (bruised foot) also expects to play Thursday night. He was questionable for last week’s game but ended up playing 47 snaps … Pierre Thomas worked out for the 49ers on Monday. The former Saint tried out for the Chiefs last week … Chiefs coach Andy Reid has not considered giving up play-calling duties: “Well, I think I spend a lot of time on it anyways—not a lot of wasted hours.” Kansas City has lost five in a row … NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said it’s “incredibly unlikely” Dez Bryant will return for Sunday’s game against the Giants. He hasn’t practiced since suffering a fractured foot in the Cowboys’ season opener … Christine Michael got most of the Cowboys’ first-team reps at Monday’s practice. Joseph Randle began the year as the Cowboys’ lead back but has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry over his last two contests … Giants TE Daniel Fells could be released from the hospital this week. He’s undergone seven surgeries to treat a MRSA infection and nearly had his foot amputated … Daniel’s brother, Cardinals TE Darren Fells, will miss 2-to-3 weeks with a sprained shoulder. Two of his nine catches this season have gone for touchdowns … Broncos coach Gary Kubiak doesn’t sound too concerned about the sprained AC joint Emmanuel Sanders suffered against the Browns in Week 6: “Expectations are that he’s going to be okay.” Denver has a bye this week … Packers coach Mike McCarthy said the team will ride the “hot hand” at running back. James Starks out-touched Eddie Lacy 11 to six Sunday against the Chargers … Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley officially announced his retirement on Monday. Finley never returned to the field after suffering a spinal cord injury in 2013 … Redskins coach Jay Gruden has no plans to bench Kirk Cousins despite having the third-worst quarterback rating in the league among starters … DeSean Jackson is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers after reinjuring his strained hamstring at practice last week. He hasn’t played since Week 1 … X-rays on Allen Robinson’s leg came back negative. He should be okay for Sunday’s game in London … Percy Harvin (hip) and Sammy Watkins (ankle) are both looking doubtful for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville. Tight end Charles Clay led the Bills in targets last week against Cincinnati … Quincy Enunwa was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The Jets receiver was arrested for domestic violence in September 2014 … Stevan Ridley (ACL) is expected to wear pads at practice this week. There’s an outside chance he’ll make his Jets debut Sunday against his former team, the Patriots … Shaq Thompson suffered a minor MCL sprain Sunday against the Seahawks. The injury occurred on a collision with Seahawks return man Tyler Lockett … Keenan Allen was diagnosed with a minor hip sprain. It shouldn’t keep him from playing Sunday against the Raiders … Johnny Manziel could face discipline from the league following a domestic incident last week. Here’s dash cam footage of Manziel talking to police after getting pulled over.