Following a 2016 season in which NFC East teams combined to win 61% of all games (including 69% of all non-division games) many expected the NFC East to again be one of the best divisions in the NFL in 2017. Two weeks into the season the four teams have a combined 3-5 record and a surprising 1-3 record outside the division. Let’s look at the numbers to see what’s happening.
Let’s start with overall offensive performance and rankings:
Here’s each team’s rankings among all 32 NFL teams:
It is shocking to find the Cowboys ranked near the bottom third of the league in primary offensive categories like points and yards per play. The team is built to score points but after playing two of the better defenses in the league the team’s numbers are disappointingly pedestrian. The excuse that “well, they’ve played great defenses” doesn’t really work because when you’re supposed be an elite offensive unit you’re supposed to be able to score and gain yards against any defense. Fans are expecting more from the offense going forward but confidence in this group has been shaken.
The Eagles possess the best numbers among the four teams, but the eye-test has not been impressive. After watching much of both their games, it’s fair to say the offense just isn’t very consistent.There is a discussion of Carson Wentz’s issues below, but the big issue is turnovers. The Eagles have turned the ball over four times and the number could be much higher. They’re also not running the ball. I don’t see the team’s rankings continuing without improvement.
This history of Kirk Cousins is he puts up big numbers but makes mistakes at key times that sink his team. The team’s loss against the Eagles in week one was a perfect example, he had his team in position to kick a go-ahead fourth-quarter field goal but he threw a blind, falling-backwards pass towards the end zone that was easily intercepted. But the reality is Cousins isn’t putting up his usual big numbers despite a solid ground game.
LOL. Everything about the Giants’ offense is amusing right now. All off-season we read how adding Brandon Marshall, Evan Engram, Paul Perkins and a couple of blocking tight ends to Eli Manning was going to turn big blue into an offensive juggernaut. Instead everything has gone wrong.
Manning looks every bit the old, washed up, overrated QB he was in 2016; Marshall has done nothing; Paul Perkins looks like the pedestrian runner he was in 2016. More importantly, none of those players can do anything while their offensive line offers no more resistance than a turnstile. Ereck Flowers has solidified his reputation as the worst OT in the NFL. It’s hard to understand how the Giants’ braintrust believed going into another season with their woeful OL unchanged could be successful.
All of the division’s passers are struggling. Wentz has put up some strong numbers but he’s been incredibly lucky. Quite a bit has been made over Wentz’ prolific number of “interceptable” passes. Less noted has been his penchant for fumbling. Wentz has now fumbled 17 times in 18 NFL starts. Luckily (for Eagles’ fans) his team has recovered 14 times but, call me cynical, I don’t think an 82% recovery rate is sustainable. Combine his proficiency for both fumbling and tossing up interceptable passes and you can make a strong argument the second-year player is the most turnover-prone player in the league.
Prescott’s early-season struggles have been dissected to death on BTB. My lone comment is he looks nothing like the player we saw in preseason when he seemed laser-focused and hyper-accurate. I’m simply surprised at how many missed throws he’s had. If that doesn’t improve the Dallas offense will struggle. I have every confidence Dak will turn it around.
This is the area for serious concerns. Dallas has invested so much draft capital in the offensive line and the running back position that it seems inconceivable that after two games the team’s would rank near the bottom third of the league in running the ball. What happened in Denver exposed a flaw of some kind. I’m not sure what; it could be a lack of commitment, it could be a scheme problem; it could be the talent simply isn’t what we thought it was. Regardless, under no circumstances should the Cowboys have 10% lower rushing attempts than the NFL average. The zero touchdown runs is also concerning when you consider the teams’ anemic 35% scoring rate on red zone opportunities. The simplest path to success for the Dallas Cowboys is for the offensive line to return to it’s best-in-league status and for Ezekiel Elliott to again start racking up Madden-like rushing numbers.
We see also that the Eagles struggle to commit to running the ball. They have the 12th highest yards per rushing attempt but rank 24th in rushing attempts. Also, the Redskins have been surprisingly good at running the ball. Robert Kelly, in particular, has looked effective and yet Cousins hasn’t been able to use the strong rushing attack to affect a healthy passing game.
Here is how each team’s offensive points ranking compared to last year:
Yes, we know Dallas has declined relative to last season. But it was surprising Washington finished only 12th last year. We already discussed why its unlikely the Eagles can continue to be a top-10 scoring offense. It’s also shocking that the Giants offense ranked 26th last year...and are even worse this year.
In short, it’s fair to say no NFC East fan base is happy with their team’s offensive performance thus far in 2017. Which team is able to improve moving forward will tell us much about who will emerge to win the NFC East title in 2017.
Look for a review of the NFC East’s defensive performance soon.