Here we are after 4 weeks; and to be honest, very few had the standings where they are right now in this unpredictable division. Eagles in 1st? Cowboys slow out the gate? Redskins with a top 10 D? Giants winless? A lot has transpired inthis short time. And with 12 games remaining, here is Frenchie’s look at each team to this point, with a grade included:
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (Record: 3-1)
Next 4 Games: Vs. Cardinals, at Panthers, vs. Redskins, Vs. 49ers
Offense Rank: 3rd – 392.5 YPG
Defense Rank: 24th – 355.8 YPG
Points For: 7th – 25.8 PPG
Points Against: 21st – 23.0 PPG
– Year 2 of Wentz is off to a great start. While the statistics are not going to jump off the page for you, his pocket presence has improved, he is spreading the ball around, he has been poised, making good decisions, and he has been stellar on 3rd and 4th down.
– Despite the slow start, the run game has come alive. The three-headed unit of Blount, Smallwood and Clement has been productive lately. A continued focus on running well would bode well for the team’s success.
– The defensive front seven are holding down the fort on defense. Jernigan has been a great get for the defensive line. Long has been better than expected. Barnett is progressing well. I don’t know what has gotten into Kendricks, but he is a different player. A better one. Schwartz has deployed him nicely. Tied for 14th in sacks (10) and 2nd overall against the run (70.8 YPG) is a reflection of their play.
– Ertz has been outstanding. Agholor has shown that the training camp hype was justified.
– Jake Elliott has stepped in nicely for Caleb Sturgis. To where the Eagles may not bring Sturgis off the IR.
– INJURIES!!!! Darby is on the shelf. Cox is ailing. McLeod missed time. Hicks missed time. No Jaylen Watkins. No Corey Graham. Their absences hurt not only because of what they bring to the team, but because who has had to fill in for them has been pretty bad. For example, Chris Maragos should only step on the field for special teams. That’s it. Nothing else.
– They are abysmal against the pass. Due to their below-average secondary, and because their defense is so reliant on the front seven, the success of the secondary is prone to big plays when the pass rush fails. And big plays is the reason for their 30th overall rank against the pass (285.0 YPG).
– Alshon has been OK, not great. To this point, it has not hurt the team. But for someone who wants to be paid like a #1 WR, he needs to boost his production. Which means he needs to win those 50-50 balls and make those tough catches. He has not done enough of that. As for Torrey, he needs to catch the damn ball. Period.
– The left guard is the weak link in their offensive line. Seumalo has played his way to inactive status. Wisniewski is currently the starter, but is below average. Warmack is serviceable, but that counts for little. If the play of Kelce or Peters take a dip at all, more will be expected from Wiz or Chance. Right now, they’re not ready for that.
As great as it is for the Eagles that they are off to this start and 2-0 in the division, there is room for growth. The schedule ahead leaves an opportunity to entrench their lead in the NFCE. What they need more than anything though is for Cox, Darby and Co. to return from injury. As of now, their ball control offense might be good enough to hold the fort and keep distance from their competition.
CURRENT GRADE: B+
DALLAS COWBOYS (Record: 2-2)
Next 4 Games: vs. Packers, at 49ers, at Redskins, Vs. Chiefs
Offense Rank: 11th – 343.3 YPG
Defense Rank: 18th – 339.3 YPG
Points For: T 13th – 23.5 PPG
Points Against: 26th – 24.3 PPG
– DeMarcus Lawrence is on FIYAH!!!! Playing like a man possessed, Lawrence has single-handedly made up for the multiple suspensions in their defensive front to the tune of a league-leading 7.5 sacks. He’s no DeMarcus Lawrence, but he’s playing like it.
– Brice Butler & Terrance Williams have been surprisingly good. Despite only 6 catches, Butler has been their downfield threat to the tune of 25 yards per reception. Williams has been the Cowboys most reliable receiver, with 17 receptions on 22 targets. And Dez has not yet motioned Williams to go out of bounds.
– Jaylon Smith has been as good as the Cowboys have hoped he would be coming off that gruesome knee injury.
– Witten is his usual reliable self
– Zeke hasn’t been suspended…..yet
– 2017 Zeke has been nothing remotely close to 2016 Zeke. Feel free to pin that on the Dallas O-Line not performing as well to date, but Zeke is not showing the elusiveness, tackle breaking ability or burst that he did last season on aconsistent enough basis. On top of the fact his numbers are WAY DOWN after 4 games, there is still a chance he gets suspended should the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rule in favor of the NFL.
– Let’s be honest here: 2017 Rayne Dakota has been nothing remotely close to the 2016 Rookie of The Year that led Dallas to the playoffs. Call it a sophmore slump. Say that defenses now know how to attack the Cowboys offense. Say whatever you wish. Dak has not taken the leap like everyone expected he would in year 2. His numbers through 4 games are far from impressive. And with teams forcing Dak to beat them with his arm, he needs to be leaps and bounds better than he is now.
– Speaking of players needing to be better, has anyone seen Cole Beasley? And unless something miraculous changes in the next 12 games, it’s time to stick a fork in the “Dez Bryant: Number 1 WR” debate. He’s not. If someone…..anyone can point out a #1 WR that is catching less than 50% of the passes thrown their way, I’d be surprised.
– Their defense can’t survive on the play of Lawrence. Sean Lee is hurt again. There is little production coming from the rest of their defensive front. Their secondary has been more lucky than good to this point. The odds of it continuing are not good. They also are not forcing turnovers.
– Taco Charlton looks like a wasted pick after 4 games. With the return of David Irving from suspension, his playing time is likely to be reduced. But hey, at least he has a catchy name.
– The play of La’el Collins is making fans wish Doug Free would un-retire. Not to pin the O-line’s slightly above average play on him, but the unit as a whole is not as good and it starts with Collins.
Regardless of Zeke’s status, the wrath of a 1st schedule looms ahead and that is not good. And there are teams in funks (Chargers, Giants, Raiders) who could pose problems. Blame raised expectations; but the reality isn’t just that last season is very far in the rearview mirror, this year’s Cowboys will be hard pressed to compete for the division title. And while some of their numbers indicate otherwise, the truth is that this team is not as good as their 2-2 record indicates. At least they’re better than the Giants. A big turnaround is needed for the NFCE race to include them.
CURRENT GRADE: C-
WASHINGTON REDSKINS (Record: 2-2)
Next 4 Games: vs 49ers, at Eagles, vs. Cowboys, at Seahawks
Offense Rank: 8th – 363.0 YPG
Defense Rank: 10th – 311.3 YPG
Points For: T 16th – 22.8 PPG
Points Against: T 18th – 22.3 PPG
– Kurt Cousins is looking like a franchise QB. Boasting an impressive 107.6 QB Rating (5th Overall)
– Chris Thompson has been dynamic with the football, averaging 11.41 yards per touch and has a team leading 4 TDs
– They are finally getting production from Ryan Grant, who is currently on pace for career highs in receptions, yards and TDs. Josh Doctson has a pulse.
– Zach Brown and DJ Swearinger have proven already to be money well spent. Montae Nicholson has been better than expected for a player no one knew of until now.
– Greg Manusky has been a difference maker as DC. Major leaps in comparison to last season in all facets.
– INJURIES!!!! Reed is already at weekly questionable tag (or worse) status. Norman is on the shelf for a few weeks. Fat Rob is nicked up. Silverback is nicked up.
– Everyone is waiting for the Jamison Crowder from 2016 to emerge. Terrell Pryor has been up and down.
– Breeland has been inconsistent.
– Their schedule does not get any easier until Thanksgiving.
An early bye week is exactly what the doctor ordered, for the Redskins will need to get as healthy as possible with 12 games to go. Coming out of the bye awaits a familiar friend in Shanny Jr, who has his 49ers playing tough despite being0-4. Then a MNF tilt against the Eagles that play BIG into the NFCE race. Despite the 2-2 record, Redskins are sitting pretty as the unquestioned 2nd best team in the division, with all the makings of a playoff team IF they stay healthy. As long as there are no steps backward, this will be a two-team race for the division.
CURRENT GRADE: B
NEW YORK GIANTS (Record: 0-4)
Next 4 Games: vs. Chargers, at Broncos, vs. Seahawks, vs. Rams
Offense Rank: 18th – 324.3 YPG
Defense Rank: 25th – 359.3 YPG
Points For: T 30th – 15.0 PPG
Points Against: 25th – 23.8 PPG
– It took awhile, but they have figured out how to score. Putting up 47 points in the last 5 quarters.
– They have one of the premier talents in the league in Odell Beckham Jr. TE Evan Engram is progressing nicely as an option in their offense.
– BJ Goodson has been a pleasant surprise at LB. To where you’re in shock they have a LB. Landon Collins is still playing at a high level.
– Do not let the numbers or the offensive resurgence fool you. Eli Manning has been bad this season. For someone with 4 INTS on the season, he is lucky to only have that many. He’s 2nd in the NFL in pass attempts but 24th in yards per attempt.
– Beckham Jr. still acts like a petulant child. And if he keeps the immature behavior up, it will cost him.
– Forgetting Brandon Marshall. Remember when the Giants were lauded for signing him? Well the supposed “Best FA signing in the NFCE” is averaging a whopping 34.8 yards per game, and has yet to find the endzone.
– To say the Giants defense has regressed would be putting thing mildly. They’re at the bottom of the division in sacks (T-27th overall). Apple is getting burned on a regular basis. They only have 2 takeaways (0 INTs). And they’re getting gashed against the run, allowing 142.8 yards per game (28th overall).
– The Offensive line is abysmal. They have been like turnstiles. They can’t run the ball with any measure of effectiveness whatsoever (59.3 YPG – 31st). Eli is running for his life on what seems to be on every dropback. And to make mattersworse, when it seemed like maybe they found a patchwork solution, this happens:
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
One #Giants OL change. G Brett Jones is coming back & slated to start. Interesting, after DJ Fluker impressed vs. a stout #Bucs front.
6:56 AM – 4 Oct 2017
The free agent they wasted money comes in, plays well and gets rewarded with a trip back to the bench…….makes sense.
– Ben McAdoo looks like he should not be allowed within 500 meters of a school, and Jerry Reese is still your GM.
They could benefit from having the Chargers come to town this week and possibly get their 1st win of the season. But that is no easy task. Neither are the next 3 games. 0-8 is a very real possibility. Maybe Reese can trade one of the lateround picks they will waste on the turnstile O-Lineman in next year’s draft for Adrian Peterson to address the running game. Maybe Beckham Jr. will show maturity and be a leader. Maybe Marshall will turn his play around, and Eli will be the elite QB he is supposed to be. Maybe the O-Line will get their act toget…….Who am I kidding! The Giants are done. Let’s leave it at that!
CURRENT GRADE: F-