On The Edge Blog

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Eagles take control of the NFC East ... for now

Well one Philadelphia team handled its business on Sunday, Nov. 1, but sadly it wasn’t the Phillies.

Because Cliff Lee and Chase Utley managed to send the World Series back to New York with an 8-6 win over the Yankees in game 5 on Monday, this column will focus on the first place Philadelphia Eagles, and their 40-17 pounding of the Giants.

Coming into this game, each team needed to come away with a victory to show that they were for real, as both had suffered bad losses at the hands of the New Orleans Saints, and most of their wins were against the NFL’s version of Division II football teams.

Three hours later, the Eagles had shown they were for real, despite a lifeless loss to the Oakland Raiders two weeks earlier, and the Giants were left scratching their heads as they stumbled to a third loss in a row.

The Eagles, despite playing without Brian Westbrook, looked like the explosive offense that we all envisioned before the season. Donovan McNabb tossed three touchdown passes, and behind a healthy (finally!) offensive line, had enough time to draw up new plays while waiting for his receivers to get open.

While DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek are doing a great job of getting open for Donovan McNabb, the offensive line is finally starting to gel, which will be the single most important factor in the Eagles’ success this year.

Now that Todd Herremans and Stacy Andrews have gotten healthy on the offensive line, McNabb will be able to go through his progressions and find the open man among all of the weapons at his disposal.

For this reason, the Eagles’ terrible loss to the Raiders can be forgotten, because they were playing with three backups on the line, and McNabb was running for his life. Now, completely healthy, McNabb had plenty of time to pass, despite squaring off against the talented defensive line of the Giants.The offensive line even managed to open up big holes in the running game, as Leonard Weaver and LeSean McCoy scampered for touchdown runs of 41 and 66 yards, respectively.

As the Eagles ride a two-game winning streak into a showdown with the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants are headed in the wrong direction, having lost three in a row since starting the season with five consecutive victories. The schedule won’t provide the Giants with any breaks, as their next three games are against San Diego, Atlanta and Denver, who have combined for a 14-7 record.

The Giants’ problems this season are completely related to turnovers. The defense isn’t causing them, and the offense is giving up too many.On defense, the Giants forced six turnovers in their games against Dallas and Oakland, but in the other seven games, they have managed just nine turnovers in their other six games.

By not forcing more turnovers, and giving up big plays, including three plays of more than 40 yards against the Eagles, the Giants are forcing Eli Manning to lead the offense on longer drives, instead of just managing the game.

With more pressure on Eli’s shoulders, he has reverted back into the turnover machine from early in his career. He started the season with 10 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in his first five games. However, in his last three games, he has tossed just three touchdowns, but threw six interceptions, giving him eight on the season in eight games, and now 82 throws to the wrong team in 81 career games.

He has also completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the last three games, so I don’t know whether teams have figured out how to stop his wide receivers or if he is reverting back to his former self. Whatever the problem is, he needs to correct it because the Giants could be 6-5 or worse at the end of November if he continues playing this way.

As the Giants search for answers, the Eagles are tied for first place right now, but they need to continue this strong play on Sunday, when the Cowboys come to town, or else they could find themselves in third place on Monday morning, with a new set of questions to answer.

Prediction: Eagles win with a late touchdown, 27-20, and improve to 3-0 in the NFC East.

Like the “On the Edge” blog? Hear more of my opinions about Philadelphia sports every Friday at 3:30 p.m. on WBCB 1490 AM during the Coffee with Kahuna show. This week, we will recap the World Series, and preview the Eagles’ Sunday night battle with the Cowboys.


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Name: Matthew Fleishman, Yardley News Editor
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