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Dallas Cowboys bye week: 7 things we learned from Sunday’s NFL games

We review Sunday’s NFL action and marvel at the ineptitude of the Eagles, wonder what to make of Washington, hate a little on the Giants and share some other random observations.

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

1. After seven weeks, the NFL really isn’t as tight or balanced as you’re being led to believe.

In the NFC East, the Cowboys didn’t even play this week, but still managed to maintain a 3.5-game lead over all three of their divisional opponents, who are all tied for last in the division.

1. Cowboys: 5-1

4. Washington: 2-5

4. Eagles: 2-5

4. Giants: 2-5

In the rest of the NFC, the top teams have also created quite a bit of separation already.

  • Green Bay (6-1) has a 2.5-game lead over the second-best team in their division
  • Tampa Bay (6-1) has a 2.0-game lead.
  • Arizona (7-0) and the LA Rams (6-1) also rule their division, with the Cardinals sporting a 4.5-game lead over the third-placed team, and the Rams 3.5 games ahead.

Of note though, all five NFL teams with less than two losses (Cardinals, Bucs, Packers, Rams, Cowboys) play in the NFC.

The AFC picture is a bit more murky, but they have six two-loss teams (Bills, Ravens, Bengals, Titans, Raiders, Chargers).

2. The Eagles are a joy to behold

Here’s NBCSports Philly on the Eagles’ performance against the Raiders (don’t be fooled by the final 33-22 score, it was a 30-7 game going into the fourth quarter):

When you reach this level of ineptitude, nobody involved should be able to look at themselves in the mirror and not feel like they played a role in this disaster. They can’t score. They can’t call plays. They can’t stop anybody. When they finally do something right, somebody ruins it with a turnover, mistake or penalty. Top to bottom, a catastrophe.

You liked that? There’s more where that came from. No holds barred at PhillyVoice:

The brand of 2-5 football that the Eagles have played has been ugly, boring, often times illogical in terms of the coaches’ schemes not fitting the strengths and weaknesses of the players. The offense is predictable, and the defense offers no resistance whatsoever, almost by design.

ESPN doesn’t mince any words either.

The Eagles had several days of extra rest after playing on Thursday night in Week 6 and supposedly used that time to self-scout and make improvements on both sides of the ball. Yet the product on Sunday was the worst it’s been. The defense continues to play passively — it was pitch-and-catch underneath all day for Carr — while the Eagles’ offense stuck to a run-heavy game plan until late in the game despite trailing by a significant margin for much of the day. Coach Nick Sirianni & Co. appear overmatched, and the Eagles look broken.

Some see the remaining schedule as something that could help the Eagles. But The Athletic wonders whether the Eagles opponents now view Philly as an easy win.

If one’s looking for a reason for optimism, it’s that the remaining schedule includes Detroit (0-7), the Jets (1-5), the Giants (2-5) twice and Washington (2-5) twice. But with the way those teams are playing, they might be thinking that at least they have the Eagles on their schedules.

And then there’s also this:

3. A rude awakening in Washington.

Remember this?

Or this?

Perhaps this?

Well, that was then, and this is now:

Washington is ranked 32nd in the NFL in points allowed.

4. The legacy of Eli Manning in New York.

As a passer, Eli Manning had the best season of his 16-year career in 2015, when he posted 93.6 passer rating, almost 10 points above his 84.1 career average. For Manning, coming in slightly above the 2015 NFL average of 88.4 was already quite an achievement, considering that he’s been a below average passer for most of his career.

Manning led the league three times in interceptions thrown, and has never in his entire career been in the discussion for league MVP.

And with Daniel Jones, the Giants seem intent on maintaining Manning’s legacy. Jones has a career passer rating of 84.2, just a smidgen above Manning’s. He’s ranked just 35th in career passer rating among all active QBs with at least 500 pass attempts, narrowly beating out such QB giants as Joe Flacco (84.1), Jacoby Brissett (84.0), or Mike Glennon (83.1).

The Giants seem to think it’s injuries that are holding the offense back. Hopefully they continue believing that.

5. Notable fourth-down decisions

Early in their first drive against the Giants, the Panthers found themselves with a 4th-and-1 on their own 36-yard line. They went for it and converted.

The announcers liked it.

“A risky play early from Matt Rhule, trying to set the tone.”

“Matt Rhule. No fear. Gosh, from inside his own 40. That’s a gutsy call.”

As did the social media commentariat.

Compare that to last week’s Cowboys game. On their opening drive against the Patriots, the Cowboys found themselves in a very similar situation, a 4th-and-1 on their own 34-yard line. They went for it, did not convert, and McCarthy got blasted for the decision to go for it.

Key takeaway here seems to be that aggressive play-calling is good - but only if you succeed.

Regardless, the Cowboys are on the right side of the analytics equation on this one:

6. Remember these guys?

Man, I love the RedZone Channel. Here are some guys that popped up during RedZone on the afternoon.

  • 2018 Cowboys fifth-round draft pick Mike White did not have a single regular season NFL snap to his name until yesterday. Then the Jets sent him in for an injured Zach Wilson against the Patriots and White promptly threw a TD pass on his first career throw. The rest of the day was less spectacular, with 20-for-32 passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs and a 64.8 passer rating.
  • Maliek Collins, in Dallas from 2016-2019 and now with the Texans, drew a roughing the passer penalty against the Cardinals. Strange call, because Kyler Murray ducked right into the arms of the rushing Collins, but a hit to the head is a hit to the head, regardless of how it happens.
  • Rich Bisaccia, Cowboys special teams coordinator from 2013-2017, is now 2-0 as the Raiders interim head coach, and leads a team with a 5-2 record. He might stick around.
  • Saw Nick Folk (Dallas 2007-2009) kicking a field goal for the Patriots. The Cowboys have been through umpteen kickers since they released him, and he’s still kicking in the NFL.
  • Much harder to spot: Jaylon Smith and his 10 snaps for the Packers on Sunday. That’s already down from the 17 snaps he played last week. The trend is not your friend, Jaylon.

7. Who invented National Tight Ends day?

And perhaps even more importantly: WHY?