Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday NFL Musings - Week 5 Edition

Back on May 23 of this year, we discussed in this very space the return to form of the Philadelphia Eagles, a team that went to 4 straight NFC Championships before imploding last year. Well, 5 weeks into the season, the Eagles are sitting atop their division, 2 games in front of everyone else. In my opinion, 2 things are contributing to the Eagles resurgence: a re-energized defense and Donovan McNabb.

The Philly defense has shown a tendency to give up a big play here and there, but they have looked absolutely dominating since the start of the year. Consider this: while they are sitting in the bottom half of the league in yards and points allowed, the Eagles are tied for sixth in interceptions with 6 and lead the league in sacks with 23, 5 more than second-place Chicago. 21 of these quarterback takedowns belong to defensive linemen, which is quite a feat in itself. But you really find out about the the quality and depth of the line when you see that 6 different linemen share that total, and that the leader is a backup (Trent Cole) who mostly plays third downs only. Philadelphia also leads the league in forced fumbles with 13, 5 of which they have recovered. So, while they have given up big plays, they have created a truckload of them too. And with the return of Pro Bowl Cornerback Lito Sheppard (2 int's in Sunday's win vs. the Cowboys) from injury, things look to get even better for this defense. With Sheppard back with Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis and Sheldon Brown in the secondary, def. coordinator Jimmy Johnson unleashed a myriad of blitzes upon a confused Dallas offensive line this Sunday. Look for that to continue all season long.

On offense, it has been the Donovan McNabb show. McNabb has played like a man possessed all season long. Early on, he was developping something special with newly acquired Donte' Stallworth. But Stallworth hasn't played in 3 games. Still, McNabb just keeps going. He is finding receivers all over the field, no matter their names: Brian Westbrook, L.J. Smith, Stallworth, Reggie Brown and Greg Lewis all have over 10 receptions this year, and some guy named Hank Baskett caught an 87-yeard touchdown from McNabb on Sunday. Furthermore, McNabb is playing so well that the Eagles offense is actually rushing the ball to a tune of 114 yds/game, good for 11th in the league.

Indeed, like Sheppard said after the Dallas game on Sunday: "5 is alive".

Random Thoughts from Week 5

  • The Bears look very strong. Very very strong. But all the talk about how no one cna touch them in the NFC is ridiculous. The Panthers, if Steve Smith can get healthy are capable of doing it. And Rex Grossman has yet to face a defense like the that of the Eagles' or Panthers'. And remember that when they took on the Seahwaks 2 weeks ago, MVP RB Shaun Alexander was not in the lineup.
  • At this point, I really don't know what team is more pathetic: the Oakland Raiders or Detroit Lions. I mean, yes, the Lions are actually trying to give themselves a chance to win every Sunday and they have come close a couple of times, but that's the thing: they're trying. In the off-season, Al Davis hired Art Shell to be his coach and Tom Walsh to be his offensive coordinator, both of whom had not coached in years. Then he signed Aaron Brooks to be his quarterback. And then he passed on Matt Leinart. Davis knew what he was doing: he wants the #1 pick in the 2007 draft, and he's gonna get it. So, with that in mind, I now proclaim the Lions the 'most pathetic team' in the NFL.
  • Speaking of Matt Leinart, he certainly looked good in his first start. Too bad Neil Rackers couldn't hit his first meaningful kick in 2 years.
  • Kudos to the Saints for yet another win. Yes, it was against the hapless Buccaneers with some guy called Gradkowski at quarterback. But you know what, Gradkowski looked much better than Chris Simms in there. He played with poise, and threw a good ball all afternoon. But in the end, when it mattered most, the Saints showed they had superior talent. Indeed, Reggie Bush scored his first TD in the NFL on a punt return with less than 4 minutes to go. I'l tell you that much: no one plays faster than Reggie Bush in the NFL.
  • Pittsburgh still has a chance to get back in the playoff hunt.
  • Miami doesn't.
  • Denver has the best defense in the league. Not Chicago. Not Baltimore. Denver.

Oh by the way, I finished 12-2 in my picks this week, by far my best outing this year. That brings my season record to 40-19. Not bad, not bad at all, I say.

Dwarf out.


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