Tag Archives: Green Bay Packers

The Redskins vs. The Eagles preview: A Game to Define a Season?

A game in the middle of October – win or loss – rarely dictates the rest of the season is going to unfold for a given team. Heck, at this point last year, the Green Bay Packers were a .500 team coming off back-to-back overtime losses, and looking up at the Chicago Bears in their own divisional standings. Yet three and a half months later, they stood in the center of that gaudy monstrosity in Dallas, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.

But when the Philadelphia Eagles visit FedEx Field this Sunday to take on the Washington Redskins, this mid-October game will be different. Because, depending on what the outcome is around 4:30pm that afternoon, we’re going to learn a whole lot about both teams, and their prospects for the 2011 season.

Let’s start with the much-discussed Eagles. For them, this isn’t a “must win” game; it’s a “can’t, under any circumstance, lose” game. If the Eagles lose this game and get to 1-5, barring some miraculous rally later on, it could very well cost Eagles coach Andy Reid his job. When your notoriously frugal franchise goes and blows insane amounts of money to acquire Nnamdi Asomugha, Cullen Jenkins, Jason Babin, Ryan Harris, Steve Smith, Ronnie Brown, and Vince Young, all in hopes of gearing up for a Super Bowl run, it always follows that anything less than the goal in mind is considered a failure. But to even think about the Super Bowl, you actually have to make the playoffs, the odds of which will be dramatically lowered for the Eagles should they lose on Sunday. In the modern Super Bowl era of the NFL, only one team has started their season 1-5, only to make the playoffs: the 1970 Colts. And that was 41 years ago, so it’s not exactly like there’s any precedent handy to draw from.

When juxtaposed against the bevvy of problems and flaws that this Eagles team has shown, Young’s comment referring to this squad as a “Dream Team,” before they even played a preseason game, is nothing short of completely asinine. Their offensive line is terrible. Their defense might be worse; they can’t stop the run to save their life (3rd worst in the league), and they’ve given up over 85 yards rushing to an opposing running back in every single game they’ve played this season.

And that high-priced secondary, with those three Pro Bowl cornerbacks (Asomugha, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Asante Samuel)? All sizzle, and no steak. They’ve allowed the second most touchdown passes in the NFL and the third highest average opposing quarterback rating. They’re in the bottom third of the league in interceptions (three), opponent’s completion percentage, and opponents yards per attempt.

But there’s also one more problem with this squad, which everyone conveniently forgets to talk about: Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.

Whatever your opinions of him may be due to his off-the-field issues and legal troubles, the following are indisputable facts: since Thanksgiving weekend of last season, Vick is 4-7 as the Eagles starting quarterback (4-8 if you count the playoff losss against the Packers). This season, he’s has the most turnovers of any player in the NFL (14). I don’t care how many bounced passes or bad breaks he’s had: seven interceptions and seven fumbles in five games is laughably ridiculous. Vick may be the most gifted playmaker in the entire league, but it’s a complete joke in the way that the Philadelphia fan base that refuses to acknowledge this fact, just like they refuse to acknowledge how much they were against signing him in the first place, only to change their tune once he replaced Kevin Kolb as the starter and started winning games.

Let’s be honest: you’re damn right if i’m relishing the current demise of the Eagles. For years, us Redskins fans had to hear the taunts from Philadelphia fans about how we’re the “offseason Super Bowl winners” and “paper champions.” Watching the Eagles try to buy themselves a Lombardi Trophy, i’m firmly enjoying being the kettle who calls the pot “black.”

And yet, there’s a reason that this 1-4 Eagles team is favored, on the road, against a division leading team with a 3-1 record – the first time that’s ever happened in NFL history. If the Eagles do find a way to stop self-destructing – please, Lord, just push this off for one more week – this is a damn scary football team. It’s essentially the same offense that punched us in the gut, slapped us in the face (repeatedly), stole our lunch money, and gave us an atomic wedgie, a couple of wet willies, and a swirlie on national television last November – only slightly better.

With Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin, they’re arguably the most explosive offense in the entire NFL. I hate using cliches, but the Eagles literally can score from any part of the field on a single given play. Their team speed on offense is ridiculous; when a guy like Jeremy Maclin – someone who runs a sub-4.5 40 yard dash – is one of your middle of the pack speed receivers (and slower than your quarterback), that’s saying a lot. And being honest: McCoy scares the living crap out of me. I don’t know if there’s a more elusive, dangerous runner in the open-field, this side of a healthy & productive Chris Johnson.

The Eagles players know that they’re basically playing for their coaches jobs; many of the Eagles are supposedly dedicating their performance this Sunday to saving Reid’s job. But for the Redskins, this probably isnt the most important game of the season for the Redskins – just the most telling.

Here’s what we know about the Redskins: they took care of business in the season-opener, beating a depleted Giants team by two touchdowns. They had to come back in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona, who looks to be a lot crappier than we thought they’d be. They pummeled a horrible Rams offense and pulled out a victory in St. Louis on the backs of the Defense (essentially inspite of quarterback Rex Grossman’s abysmal performace). And on National Television, they both blew a fourth quarter lead and completely choked at critical moments, allowing the Cowboys to beat them.

So, there’s a reason for the skepticism and disbelief about this team being a legitimate threat in the NFC East, let alone the NFC. In four games, they have only one “quality” win. Grossman is simply not a good quarterback (i’m not even sure if we can call him “serviceable”); he’s played two-and-a-half lousy games of football, and the season is only four games old. The offensive line play is inconsistent. The offense has no true playmaker or game-changing threat that scares opposing defense.

But a win this Sunday, over Philadelphia? That changes things. If the Redskins really have the ability and the killer instinct to put their foot on the throats of this vastly overrated “dream team”, and put them (and Reid) out their misery, that will speak volumes, even if it’s against a team that’s well into their self-destruct sequence. To beat a extraordinarily talented and dangerous team, who’ll be playing with their 2011 season and possibly several coaches jobs on the line, would be an enormous “building block”-type win. The last time a Redskins squad had only one loss through six weeks of the NFL season was the last time they won the NFC East (1999).

If the Redskins lose (as everyone predicts they will), to steal a quote from Dennis Green: “they are who we thought they were” – a resurrected franchise with an infusion of young talent mixed with smart free agent signings, but still with plenty of work to do, before they’re truly “legitimate.” But even if it is just one game in October, a win changes all of that. We’ll have ample reason to believe that the corner really has turned for this team.

But they have to beat Philadelphia first.

So by bedtime this Sunday, we’ll know whether the 2011 Eagles will either remain on life support or need their last rights delivered, and we’ll have a much better clue as to what we can realistically expect from the 2011 Redskins.

This column has been cross-posted on RedskinsGab.com

Advertisements

The Pundit’s Predictions and Picks for the 2011 NFL Season

For those of you who don’t know – and who am I kidding, that’s probably everyone reading this blog – I (somehow) managed to correctly predict the participants of Super Bowl XLVIbefore the season started. Yeah, I was batting around .500 in terms of predicted division winners (thank you, Mike Singletary and Norv Turner), Wild Card participants (another thanks to Wade Phillips and Tony Sparano), and completely whiffed on my rookies of the year predictions, but hey, who’s counting?

Oh, right. You are.

Nevertheless, here’s my attempt to make lightning strike twice (because clearly, that happens very often), by providing you with my predictions for the upcoming 2011 NFL season, for your reading pleasure.

NFC East

Philadelphia       11-5
Dallas                    10-6*
Washington        9-7
NY Giants            5-11

NFC North

Green Bay          11-5
Minnesota         9-7*
Detroit                9-7
Chicago              7-9

NFC South

New Orleans     12-4
Tampa Bay        9-7
Atlanta               6-10
Carolina             4-12

NFC West

Arizona                10-6
St. Louis               8-8
Seattle                  5-11
San Francisco   2-14

NFC Wild Card Round

Green Bay over Minnesota
Dallas over Arizona

NFC Semi-Finals

Green Bay over Philadelphia
New Orleans over Dallas

NFC Championship

New Orleans over Green Bay

AFC East

New England      12-4
NY Jets                11-5*
Buffalo                  6-10
Miami                   4-12

AFC North

Pittsburgh          11-5
Baltimore           10-6*
Cleveland           9-7
Cincinnati          6-10

AFC South

Indianapolis      9-7
Houston              7-9
Tennessee          7-9
Jacksonville      6-10

AFC West

San Diego            11-5
Kansas City         7-9
Oakland                7-9
Denver                 6-10

AFC Wild Card Round

Baltimore over Pittsburgh
NY Jets over Indianapolis

AFC Semi Finals

New England over NY Jets
San Diego over Baltimore

AFC Championship

New England over San Diego

Super Bowl XLVII

New Orleans over New England

In homage to Peter King’s “Ten Things I Think I Think” section of his weekly “Monday Morning Quarterback” column, here are 10 thoughts, notes, and comments about my predictions, as well as the upcoming season in general:

1. The Redskins are close, but they’re not ready for the playoffs yet. They’re certainly not going to be nearly as bad as some publications have predicted they’d be, but I think between the amount of youth this team has, plus a brutal 2011 schedule, the Redskins will be outside looking in, in terms of the postseason.Regarding the schedule, just take a look at the last seven games of the Redskins season: at home against Dallas (who I think is going to be a damn good team this year), at Seattle (even if they’re terrible, that’s the toughest place to play in the NFL), at home against the Jets (one of the top three teams in the AFC), at home against New England (my Super Bowl pick from the AFC), at New York (Washington hasn’t beaten in the Giants in New York since 2007), at home against the Vikings (they’ll be a playoff team under Leslie Frazier, even if their offensive line is terrible), and at Philadelphia (who will still have something to play for; namely, playoff positioning, and holding off Dallas from stealing the NFC East crown). That’s six games against playoff-caliber teams, out of seven.Let the kids get another year of experience, let John Beck (assuming he’s still the opening day starter for this team) get a year of comfort in this offense, and prepare for the big run to happen in 2012. The prevailing rumor is that Shanahan & Allen are preparing to make their big run next year anyway, and things look like they’ll work out that way.

2. The Philadelphia Eagles – aka “The Dream Team” – will be a one-and-done in the playoffs, once again courtesy of the Green Bay Packers at Lincoln Financial Field, for each and every Eagle fan to once again witness in person. The Eagles have some incredible pieces assembled on that team, but I don’t trust that offensive line one bit, and honestly, I trust Michael Vick even less. The amount of hype and attention that Vick has been getting to date is ridiculous, especially for a guy that’s had a grand total of one playoff win in his entire career.His improvisational ability is virtually unprecedented, but if he keeps running around and trying to make something out of nothing, it’s only going to subject him to more hits.

3. The Peyton Manning situation is not good, but there’s no way I’m betting against a team led by him, even if his supporting cast is as thin as it’s been in over a decade. I think he misses a few games – somewhere between two and four is my bet – needs another week or two to get the rust off, but will managed to get the Colts to a nine-win season. That’ll be good enough to win the division (the weakest in the AFC), and to secure a first round exit at the hands of the Jets.

4. I don’t like Houston this year. Between Arian Foster’s hamstring injury and “doesn’t know what, and what not, to say via social media” issues, plus forcing the 3-4 defense on personnel that it’s not necessarily meant for (see Washington Redskins, 2010), there’s no way I can pick them to win the AFC South, even if Peyton Manning misses almost a quarter of the season.

4A. And it will cost Gary Kubiak his job.

5. Lovie Smith won’t get fired…. but there’s going to be a conversation about it

5A. Jim Caldwell won’t get fired because of the convenient excuse of Manning’s neck injury…. but there’s going to be a conversation about it. Jim Caldwell is to Tony Dungy what Rich Kotite was to Buddy Ryan.

6. Norv Turner won’t get fired, but they’ll also have a conversation about it. They axed Marty for the same thing: not being able to take an uber-talented roster to the big game.

6A. That being said, I think Phillip Rivers is going to have a boffo year: something like 4800+ yards passing, close to 35 touchdown passes, and single digit interceptions.

7. Cam Newton starts the season for the Panthers, but won’t play all 16 games. He’ll either be benched, or get injured. Or both. He’s just not ready to start in this league yet. You’ll have to look far and wide to find someone who dislikes Jimmy Clausen more than I do, but he should be the starting quarterback for this team, if nothing else but for the first few weeks of the season, at least until he takes them to something like a 1-7 record. Let’s see how Newton prepares for being the high-priced backup; we’ll learn a lot about him that way.

8. While we’re talking about  #1 overal picks: San Francisco wins the “Andrew Luck sweepstakes” by securing the worst record in the NFL, thus reuniting Luck with his old college head coach, Jim Harbaugh. They’ll narrowly edge Carolina for this “honor,”avoiding a potentially fascinating plotline of what Carolina would have done had they gotten the #1 overall pick, given that they drafted Newton last year. But, with Luck staying in the Bay area, San Francisco will also finally take pity on their fans, and mercifully end the Alex Smith era once and for all.

8A.The Miami Dolphins will get their hands on the consolation prize in the “Luck Sweepstakes”: Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones.

9. Speaking of Miami: every year, somewhere between six and eight NFL head coaches are either fired, resigned, or find new jobs. I think Dolphins Tony Sparano will be the first coach to get the axe after the season is over (if he even lasts that long). Other coaches who I think will get canned: Kubiak (as previously mentioned) Jack Del Rio (one winning season in the last 5 years), and Marvin Lewis (one winning season in the last 5 years). And in a little bit of a shocker, I think Tom Coughlin will retire when the year is over.

10. I think Jason Garrett wins coach of the year – and you have no idea how much it pains and angers me to say that. The Cowboys are a team that few people are talking about, even though you should be. Talent-wise, they’re in the upper echelon of the NFL. They went 5-3 over the last eight games of 2010. And perhaps most importantly: with all the “Dream Team” nonsense going on in Philadelphia, this is the first time in over a decade that the spotlight isn’t shining on the Cowboys. When was the last time you could say that a Dallas team this talented was actually “flying under the radar?” Jerry Jones hasn’t had to made any ridiculous statements or proclamations about the Cowboys upcoming successses, nor has he had to answer endless questions about the coache’s job security.

As a Redskins fan, I don’t like saying anything – and I mean ANYthing – nice about the Cowboys. But if there’s a darkhorse team that nobody in the NFC, or NFL overall, is talking about, it’d be them.