Keeping an Eye on the Other Beasts in the East

With the Eagles atop the division, they've got a leg up on the rest of the Beasts in the current playoff picture.

Eagles clinch playoff berth with 1) PHI win + NYG loss, or 2) PHI win + DAL win.

Obviously, of the top three Beasts, the Giants need the most help. Having been swept by the Eagles, along with having a poor 5-4 conference record, New York's best chances are highly dependent upon Dallas losses.

The Cowboys sit in the middle. Being swept by the Giants keeps a fire lit under their behinds; yet, they still have a chance to sweep the division leading Eagles. Week 17 will be of utmost importance.

The Redskins, who have been playing well lately, are in danger of being swept by the division. Perhaps their 0-4 NFC East record will spurn them towards upsetting the Giants on Monday night at FedEx Field.

More Beasts in the East after the jump.

 

Washington Redskins (4-9)

Last game: 34-14 Win @ Oakland

Next up: Home vs. New York Giants

 

Big news in Washington. After VP/GM Vinny Cerrato's resignation, owner Daniel Snyder has hired Bruce Allen as his replacement.

Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, has announced that proven long-time NFL executive Bruce Allen has been tapped to be the Executive Vice President/General Manager of the franchise. Daniel Snyder made the announcement just hours after accepting the resignation of Vinny Cerrato. Cerrato served in many capacities for the franchise over the last ten years, most recently as executive vice president of football operations.

"Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner," Snyder said. "Our fans know his heritage; we know his abilities. He is the right person to lead our club."

Although the Redskins are not contending for a playoff position, they will still strive for a win against the rival Giants.

"I don’t want to look at it as a spoiler role for our football team. What I want to do is just win because we’ve earned it," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said on a conference call with New Jersey/New York media Wednesday.

"If we can earn the win, I want it to be more for us than winning it for somebody else. "What’s exciting about this game is it is a division opponent, it has a lot of meaning just because it is a division opponent, and it’s a Monday night game. We hope we can stay on track. That’s what we are looking forward to, anyway."

It does not sound as if Clinton Portis expects to be wearing the same jersey colors in 2010.

"I can't sit and tell you I want my career to be over here, but at the same time, you got to understand the business side of things," Portis said in a nearly 10-minute interview with a small group of reporters Tuesday at FedEx Field.

"I've been here for six years, and we went to the playoffs twice. I think Mr. [Daniel] Snyder [the team's owner], with the pressure that's on him with the organization, [is] probably going to have to make changes. For everything that [goes] on, I'm to blame, so why wouldn't I be the change?"

Rookie Brian Orakpo has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance (six tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble) against the Raiders.

 

New York Giants (7-6)

Last game: 45-38 Home Loss vs Philadelphia

Next up:@ Washington

 

The Giants are depending upon a Cowboys' collapse to get in the playoffs. Eli said so himself.

Eli Manning nearly snickered when asked about the Giants salvaging the season and not having a chance to control their own postseason destiny.

"We all know who Dallas plays and they've got a tough schedule," he said. "We are in the mind-set that if we win these three games, we think we will make the playoffs."

The Giants' troubles on defense have some pointing fingers at first-year coordinator, Bill Sheridan.

New York's defense, which was the NFL's best during the team's 5-0 start, has been uncharacteristically soft since, although coach Tom Coughlin gave first-year defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan a vote of confidence this week.

"I let him know my support for him and I also let him know it has to be better," Coughlin said. "We've got to do a better job. We're here for one reason. The inconsistency part of it is disturbing, let's face it. Six big play passes and three big play runs (against Philadelphia). You're not going to beat anybody like that."

The Redskins, on the other hand, have been a resurgent team of late.

"I'd love to be the Grinch on their Christmas," rookie linebacker Brian Orakpo said Monday. "That's what we're aiming for. Obviously we're not going to make the playoffs, but we would ruin some other people's seasons."

The Cowboys and Eagles each needed winning scores in the final three minutes to beat Washington, and the Saints only stayed unbeaten after a dramatic comeback in a 33-30 overtime victory two weeks ago.

The Redskins responded by blowing out lowly Oakland 34-13 on Sunday, as Jason Campbell threw two touchdown passes to emerging tight end Fred Davis while Quinton Ganther filled in for injured running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts by rushing for two scores.

Here is the NFL Game Center for MNF's Giants @ Redskins matchup.

 

Philadelphia Eagles (9-4)

Last game: 45-38 Win @ New York Giants

Next up:Home vs San Francisco

 

Said simply, DeSean Jackson is a playmaker. Here's what he said about his electrifying punt return against the Giants.

What started as a return up the middle ended with his streaking up the left sideline.

"I caught the ball, went to the right a couple of steps and I didn't see nothing was going on that way, so I turned around and came left with it," he says of a decision that had to be made instantly. "They did a great job of sealing the sideline off for me."

His feel for open space, and his tremendous acceleration, served him well. He was left with only punter Jeff Feagles to beat.

"It's just a rule to me, I try not to get tackled by the kicker," he says.

Jackson was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Donovan McNabb compares and contrasts the T.O. days with this season's offense.

"With T.O. brought a lot of attention to our offense," McNabb said, when comparing the two offenses. "I think for rolling the coverages and being able to move (Owens) around because of his size, it still created mismatches which led now to (Brian) Westbrook having so many catches and so many yards; L.J. Smith, so many catches and so many yards; and then even Correll Buckhalter, I mean, coming in an spelling for Westbrook and picking up big yards ... Todd Pinkston I believe at that time led the league in catches over 20 yards."

"I think the difference for this year, obviously there's a different height situation with DeSean and T.O., but still the same explosiveness. We have Maclin, who is a bigger receiver, still being able to make plays on the other side. Brent Celek, who I think is having a Pro Bowl year. Leonard Weaver, having a Pro Bowl year. Our offensive line, the chemistry is where we need it to be. They seem to be getting that experience and they're playing well. So, there are some comparisons but there are also some differences."

I found this interesting tidbit of information when researching what losing Brian Westbrook has meant to the Eagles. To sum up the author's words, Westbrook was indeed important, but RBs are replaceable.

Aaron Schatz, president of Football Outsiders and the point man for this type of statistical analysis, calls it the "Mike Shanahan corollary," after the former Broncos head coach who produced five different 1,000-yard rushers in one eight-year stretch. The corollary isn't about just one coach, though; it's the whole league.

Over the last three seasons, eight featured running backs have gone down to injury, and in each case their understudies have actually outperformed them. If anything, you should be surprised Weaver and McCoy have been so unproductive.

In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Most carries are much more about the offensive line than they are the RBs. If your offensive line gets a 5-yard push, the back gets 5 yards. If the line gets you 2, he'll get 2. Lest you think I'm cherry-picking data, consider this: Adrian Peterson, the consensus best tailback in football, averages 4.5 yards per carry. The combined average of every other Viking to take a handoff? 4.4.

You see? Flozell Adams isn't the only Beast in the East who fights with the Giants. Eagles' DE Trent Cole got into a huge brawl Sunday night, but will not be suspended for his involvement.

Cole apologized for his actions and said that he will accept whatever repercussions are placed upon him by the league. After Darren Howard forced a fumble on a sack of Eli Manning with less than 30 seconds to go in the game, Trent Cole was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty and disqualified from the game for throwing two punches at Giants' offensive lineman Shaun O' Hara.

Cole was fined $15,000.

The team moved TE Martin Rucker up from its practice squad. The move may or may not have something to do with Brent Celek's back injury.

Rucker is an accomplished receiver, as evidenced by his 203 career receptions at the University of Missouri, most ever by a Big 12 tight end. But Reid said that because Rucker worked in the spread offense in college, his blocking needed work when he reached the NFL – and still does, the coach added.

Some injury notes:

Maclin (foot) and Celek (sore back) were the only two players to miss Wednesday's practice. According to head coach Andy Reid, Celek is expected to play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers (6-7). Westbrook (concussion) ran with the scout team. He hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game, but may not play.

You saw how hard the 49ers fought on Monday night. By beating the division leading Cardinals, they've got some hope for the playoffs. Hopefully, they'll play just as tough against Philly.

The 6-7 Niners don't even have to win out, nor do they need for the 8-5 Cardinals to lose out. They just need to win two of their last three if the Cardinals lose all three, or to win out and hope for the Cardinals to lose at least two of three. If the two finish with the same record, the 49ers win the division outright based on beating Arizona twice.

Yes, the Niners can still win the division with an 8-8 record. But they cannot win the division if the Cardinals win all three remaining games.

If you missed the Monday night game, this is what the 49ers did to the Cardinals' offense.

The 49ers forced the Cardinals into seven turnovers, sacked Kurt Warner four times and allowed only 245 yards in total offense. Along with that, free safety Dashon Goldson played the best game of his professional life and could be a star in the making while outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, with three sacks, showed the kind of edge pass-rushing ability that all coaches crave. San Francisco is now tied for seventh in sacks with 34.

NFC Offensive Player of the Week, Frank Gore, gashed the Cards' defense. Do it again, Gore!

His 167 rushing yards helped propel the 49ers to a 24-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Gore totaled 104 yards on the ground in the first half on 13 carries and scored the team's last touchdown to seal the victory.

Here's the NFL Game Center for the 49ers @ Eagles matchup.

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