We’re only one week into the season so any “trends” that we report are are pretty meaningless. Nevertheless, we endeavor to give our loyal readers comprehensive coverage of all things Cowboys so today we take a look at the state of the NFC East.
Opening week saw the division split their four games, with no head-to-head matchups. Washington looked the most impressive, scoring a convincing 24-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Each of the rest of the teams in the division found themselves in ugly, defensive battles where the teams looked like they were shaking the rust off a long offseason.
The most significant thing about the above table is that Philadelphia and Washington won their games while Dallas and New York lost theirs. It’s been noted by some that early games in the NFL’s regular season now serve as preseason for many teams, with players getting their first exposure to real NFL action. Thus, results are very important (after all, there’s only sixteen games in a season) but performances shouldn’t be given too much weight.
Similarly, statistics and rankings mean little at this time of year but still, they’re fun to check out:
Offensively we see Dallas, New York and Philadelphia really struggled to move the ball (each ranking in the bottom ten of the league). Washington, however, put up over 400 yards against the Cardinals. Really, all you need to know about the offenses this last week are the current quarterback rankings for each:
Alex Smith of the Redskins picked up right where he left off last season when he led the league in quarterback rating while playing for Kansas City. Otherwise... some very, very ugly numbers for the remaining quarterbacks. The average QBR is 50 and three of the East’s QBs put up numbers below 30. Yuck.
Defensively we see a much different story. All four teams had good defensive games. Only the Giants surrendered more than 300 yards and the teams, on average, gave up only 278 yards. All four teams currently rank in the top eight in terms of yards given up and in the top eleven in points surrendered. It will be interesting to see if the division can keep up these impressive defensive numbers.
The Cowboys were very bad offensively on opening weekend and that has been analyzed to no end. However, the defense was quite good, recording three sacks, forcing a turnover and holding the Panthers to 16 points and 293 yards. Were it not for the team’s inability to reign in Cam Newton’s running in the first half those numbers would have been even better.
The troubles on offense were numerous: the offensive line broke down several times and committed multiple penalties. Ezekiel Elliott didn’t show the elite vision he usually displays. And Dak Prescott simply had a horrific game. We’ll see if that improves moving forward.
The team has some injury issues heading into the Giants game. Randy Gregory suffered a concussion in the team’s opener and did not participate in Wednesday’s practice. Nor did Demarcus Lawrence, Xavier Woods or Datone Jones. Lawrence is expected to play but Woods and Travis Frederick are expected to be absent. It’s disappointing we didn’t get to see Lawrence and Gregory together much against the Panthers; hopefully we’ll see them together Sunday.
New York Giants
The Giants and Cowboys face an early season “must win” in that teams that start 0-2 have only a 11% of making the playoffs. So Sunday’s outcome will largely shape both team’s future.
The Giants didn’t look much different than the Cowboys Sunday. They did put up 100 more yards than the Cowboys on offense, but Ereck Flowers looked absolutely horrible at right tackle and, as a reward, gets to face All-Pro Demarcus Lawrence Sunday.
Eli Manning, who finished 2017 as the 25th ranked quarterback in the NFL, started 2018 as the 20th ranked quarterback. His days as a top ten QB are long behind him. But he does have good targets to throw too with Odell Beckham, Jr back joining Sterling Shephard and Evan Engram. Engram, however, had one official drop Sunday and two more that were negated by penalty. This after he finished 2017 with the most drops of any tight end in the league (eleven).
The Giants offense suffered many of the same struggles that plagued the Cowboys. They were four of thirteen on third down (31%) and had five offensive penalties that stalled five different drives.
Of course, the most exciting element of the Giants’ offense was Saquan Barkley’s eye-popping 68-yard touchdown run, where he looked every bit as advertised.
Beyond that run, however, Barkley was largely held in check, averaging barely two yards per carry on his other 17 attempts.
Defensively it’s hard to know what the Giants have. Cornerback Eli Apple had a tremendous game Sunday, looking a lot more like the impressive rookie from 2016 and not like the disinterested, chaotic second-year player from 2017. If Apple can return to form, he makes an imposing tandem combined with Landon Collins.
Outside linebacker Olivier Vernon was expected to return to action this week but was only “out there” at Wednesday’s practice, riding a bicycle and not participating in on-field activity. His absence Sunday would be a big blow to the team’s defense. The only other noteworthy name on the “did not participate” list was Shephard but he’s expected to play Sunday.
Honestly, the Eagles didn’t play any better than the Cowboys in week one. But much more importantly, they managed a win despite not playing well. That’s money in the bank and at the end of the year no one will remember that the Eagles looked completely inept on offense throughout most of the game. In fact, they gained the exact same number of yards as the Cowboys.
The Eagles continue to struggle with ongoing injury concerns. Carson Wentz and Alshon Jeffrey both returned to practice Wednesday but neither is expected to play Sunday.
This means Nick Foles will again be the team’s starting quarterback. The clock apparently struck midnight on Foles as he returned to being a (far) below average quarterback in the team’s opening week victory after playing like, well, a Super Bowl MVP during the team’s unlikely championship run last year.
Coaching “genius” Doug Pederson’s schemes couldn’t overcome Foles’ ineffectiveness and the Eagles looked like an ordinary team against the Falcons. Next week, however, they get to face a Buccaneers team that just surrendered 40 points and 475 yards against the Saints in a surprising 48-40 victory. This should be a good indicator if the problems that plagued the Eagles’ offense in week one might linger longer into the season.
Everyone who had the Redskins with the best showing of any NFC East team in week one raise their hands. No one? No? Yeah, me either.
The Redskins put a pure beat-down on the Cardinals. The 24-6 final wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. The Redskins basically did whatever they wanted. Late pickup Adrian Peterson looked vintage, running for 96 yards and catching two passes for another 70 yards while reaching the end zone once. Zillion-dollar quarterback Alex Smith compiled an 118 passer rating in very efficient fashion, throwing for 255 yards and two touchdowns on only 30 attempts.
It was the kind of offensive performance Redskins’ fans haven’t seen too often over the last... oh... 25 years. But let’s be honest. They were playing an obviously rebuilding Arizona team that wasn’t expected to do to much this season.
Still, you have to play the team on the schedule and the Redskins took care of business in very impressive fashion. Next up is an Indianapolis squad that looks much more competent than the Cardinals.