Where Do The Eagles Rank?
By Lance Epstein
After the Philadelphia Eagles week one loss to the Green Bay Packers, it is hard to grasp where exactly the Philadelphia Eagles rank in the NFL.
On the positive side, the young Eagles played a close game against one of the best teams that the NFC has to offer. The defense put pressure on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and created two turnovers off one of the best QBs in the game.
Moreover, the Eagles nearly pulled off the improvable comeback against the Packers after being down by 17 points (twice) in the game. Additionally, RB LeSean McCoy looks like he could be the second coming of Brian Westbrook with his ability to patiently set up his blockers on screen passes.
On the other hand, the Kevin Kolb Era got off to an abysmal start. In the first 28 minutes of the game, the offense had zero yards to its credit. More importantly, Kolb looked awful as he telegraphed throws and nearly threw three interceptions. The cherry on top was Kolb being knocked out of the game by Packers LB Clay Mathews in the second quarter.
While Michael Vick was impressive and electric, he is not the future of the Philadelphia Eagles. He brought the Eagles offense back to life, but it is hard to get too excited when Kolb is the face and future of the organization.
It is not just the Kolb situation that is worrisome, but the injuries that pilled up on the Eagles. Losing fullback Leonard Weaver and center Jamaal Jackson is tough. Losing both for the entire season is nearly impossible to overcome.
At the end of last year and during the preseason, the absence of Jackson was noticeable. The blitz recognition was porous and there was immense amount of pressure coming from opponent’s interior defensive lines. Expect the Eagles to see more blitzes up the gut by defenses and even more pressure on the quarterback.
The loss off Weaver significantly hurts the Eagles in two specific areas. First in pass protection, where McCoy still struggles from time-to-time. Weaver was one of the best at picking up oncoming rushers. Second, the Eagles lose a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield. One of the most underrated facets of Weavers’ game is his ability to receive the ball out of the backfield. Now the Eagles must rely on Owen Schmitt to fill the void.
Finally, the last reason for pessimism is due to the Eagles horrifying kickoff coverage. In three consecutive kickoffs in the second half, Packers return-man Jordy Nelson took the ball out to mid-field. In addition, he was one tackler away from returning kick for a touchdown. The Eagles defense might be much improved, but it is hard for them to stop teams when opposing offenses only have to go 20 yards to be in field goal range.
So, with the good and bad, where do the Eagles rank? Here are this week’s power rankings:
1. New Orleans Saints (Previous week: 1)
One of the toughest things in sports is to repeat as a champion. However the Saints came out last Thursday and took it to the Vikings. For a game that was supposed to be a shootout, the Saints won a defensive slugfest. The Saints defense might be the most underrated defense in the NFL.
2. New England Patriots (Previous week: 6)
The most impressive team on Sunday may have been the New England Patriots. Not only did Tom Brady destroy a very good Bengals defense, but also his defense put on a clinic. In 2009, the Pats defense was abysmal, but after week one they look like a Bill Belichick coached squad.
3. Baltimore Ravens (Previous week: 3)
All that talk by the New York Jets and yet the Ravens beat their former defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at his own game. The defense is not young anymore, but they just keep coming up big for head coach Jim Harbaugh. If QB Joe Flacco and RB Ray Rice can give the defense 20 points a game, they are a very dangerous team.
4. Green Bay Packers (Previous week: 4)
While the Packers earned an impressive road win in Philadelphia, QB Aaron Rodgers showed some chinks in the armor. He made some bad decisions with the football, which may have been caused by his offensive line allowing a ton of pressure. Also, the defense, which ravaged Kevin Kolb struggled mightily against the experienced Michael Vick.
5. Indianapolis Colts (Previous week: 2)Peyton Manning has his lazer-rocker-arm on display against the Texans, but the rest of the team failed to show up. Additionally, safety Bob Sanders might be lost for the year with a torn biceps tendon. Do not be surprised if the Texans sweep the Colts this year and win the AFC South crown.
6. Minnesota Vikings (Previous week: 5)
Losing to the Saints by five points on the road to kick of the season is nothing to be ashamed of. The Vikings offense will get better as Brett Favre gets into a rhythm. A major dilemma for the Vikings is that they could have beaten the Saints if Favre didn’t decided to play musical chairs with his retirement decision.
7. New York Giants (previous week: 13)
The most impressive team in the NFC East on Sunday was the Giants. However, they also had the easiest game out of all three teams. Nevertheless, the defense looked much improved considering Carolina ran all over them last year. This week’s game against the Colts will show just how good the Giants really are.
8. Houston Texans (Previous week: 15)
What a gameplan by head coach Gary Kubiak. Run the ball, run the ball and run the ball some more. And it worked. The Texans offense might be more explosive this year due to a good ground game, which will allow QB Matt Schaub to use more play action. A very scary team in the AFC.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers (Previous week: 16)
It is amazing that the Steelers were able to pull off a dramatic overtime victory against everyone’s sleeper squad the Atlanta Falcons. However it should not be that surprising, because the Steelers are a tough-nosed football team that brings it on every play. The Steelers are halfway to being 2-2 in Big Ben’s absence, which is the best-case scenario.
10. Dallas Cowboys (Previous week: 7)
The fancy pick to win the NFC this year was Dallas. While they still might do that, they are not going to unless they vastly improve their offensive line. Most of the struggles on offense were due to a below average offensive line. It also didn’t help that offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was miserable.
11. Tennessee Titans (Previous week: 17)
Yes it was only a victory over the Oakland Raiders, but the Titans have constantly been overlooked. At the end of last year, Vince Young nearly took a 0-6 team to the playoffs. The AFC south is going to be very competitive this year. The Titans under head coach Jeff Fisher can potentially be a sleeping giant.
12. Miami Dolphins (Previous week: 12)
The Dolphins barely squeaked out a win against their division rival Buffalo. However, they did what they had to do and won on the road. Chad Henne must be better than he was on Sunday if they expect to beat the Patriots and win the division.
13. San Diego Chargers (Previous week: 9)
The loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was brutal. What makes it even worse is that with Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeil in uniform the Chargers probably win that game. Unfortunately, neither appears to be ending their holdout anytime soon. Nonetheless, Rivers did find a new favorite target in WR Legedu Naanee.
14. Cincinnati Bengals (Previous week: 10)
Adding Terrell Owens was supposed to improve the offense right? Well against the Patriots, the Bengals had three points at halftime. Then the offense came to life after the Pats went prevent for the rest of the game. If the Bengals lose to the Ravens this week to go 0-2, will the T.O. show begin?
15. Washington Redskins (Previous week: 20)
The biggest story this week in Washington is the Redskins beating the Cowboys. The missing story is that QB Donovan McNabb struggled for the fourth consecutive game against the Cowboys. While his receivers did not help him, he should be grateful to the refs and his defense for shutdown Dallas’ offense.
16. New York Jets (Previous week: 8)
The Jets defense looked great, but lost DT Kris Jenkins to a torn ACL. The Jets offense did nothing. QB Mark Sanchez was once heralded as the savior of the Jets franchise, but over the preseason and the first game, he has looked incompetent. He and Kevin Kolb are vying for the most uninspiring performances of week one and the preseason.
17. Atlanta Falcons (Previous week: 11)
Is it too early to call the Falcons the most overrated team in the NFC? Without Big Ben in the game, the Falcons should have forced Steelers QB Dennis Dixon to throw the ball in order to beat them. Instead they let the Steelers running game decide their fate. Bad move!
18. Philadelphia Eagles (Previous week: 15)
Already a quarterback controversy in Philadelphia? Say it ain’t so. Kolb is going to be given this year as a test run to see if he can be a legit QB in the NFL. However, if he fails to show improvement in his decision-making by season’s end then he might not be around in Philly for too long.
19. Seattle Seahawks (Previous week: 30)
Can Pete Carroll win the NFC West in his first year? It is possible. They beat the snot out of the San Francisco 49ers. Give credit to Carroll on reviving former first-round bust WR Mike Williams’ career. He should have had a touchdown on Sunday. Williams went vintage USC on the 49ers and looks motivated to stay in the league.
20. Kansas City Chiefs (Previous week: 26)
Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs were the worst team in the division. After one week of football, they sit alone in first place. Yes they are not great (especially Matt Cassel), but they have a good ground attack with Jamal Charles and defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel has the defense playing inspired football.
21. Arizona Cardinals (Previous week: 23)
The Cardinals should have lost to the St. Louis Rams if it was not for WR Steve Breaston’s spectacular strip. The Cardinals should woo Kurt Warner with a massive deal to come out of retirement after Derek Anderson’s poor performance. On the positive note, Larry Fitzgerald can catch touchdowns with anyone throwing to him.
22. Chicago Bears (Previous week: 22)
Is there a team luckier than the Bears after the first week of the season? First, head coach Lovie Smith goes for it on fourth-and-one from the one yardline when he should’ve kicked the field to make it 16-14. Then when the Bears take the lead, he is saved due to a bad interpretation of a rule on Calvin Johnson’s touchdown reception.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars (Previous week: 27)
This is a good news bad news scenario for the Jaguars. The offense looked good as they beat the Broncos on the ground and through the air. Bad news, the defense gave up a lot of passing yards to Kyle Orton. Now they must face an angry Phillip Rivers.
24. Carolina Panthers (Previous week: 19)
The Panthers lost QB Matt Moore to a concussion against New York Giants, which is never good. However it gives the Panthers a chance to check out rookie QB Jimmy Clausen. Clausen has a big arm and possesses a running game that could make him very successful as a rookie.
25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Previous week: 28)
Quarterback Josh Freeman did not have his best game, but managed to lead a comeback against the lowly Browns. Again the Buccaneers have the players in place, they just need some time to develop.
26. San Francisco 49ers (Previous week: 18)
Mike Singletary may have been right when he said he couldn’t win with them. QB Alex Smith regressed against an average Seahawks defense. If the Niners are going to win then they must get the ball into the hands of Michael Crabtree and pound the rock with Frank Gore.
27. Denver Broncos (Previous week: 24)
There are only two questions surrounding the Denver Broncos. One, when will the Tim Tebow Era start? Should be relatively soon. Two, when will Josh McDaniels be held accountable for ruining the franchise by trading Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler away?
28. Oakland Raiders (Previous week: 21)
While running back Darren McFadden finally showcased his talents that made him a top 10 pick, the rest of the offense struggled. The offensive line gave no protection against the Titans pass rush. The defense was not much better.
29. Detroit Lions (Previous week: 25)
Does any franchise have worse luck than the Lions? They lose a game on a controversial call and lose their starting quarterback Matt Stafford for the next couple of weeks. It is tough being a Lions fan.
30. St. Louis Rams (Previous week: 29)
In his first career start, QB Sam Bradford almost led his Rams to upset over the two-time division champs in the Arizona Cardinals. Bradford would have earned the victory if not for Breaston’s touchdown saving strip. Still, it gets tougher for Bradford as Steven Jackson’s knee is already bothering him.
31. Buffalo Bills (previous week: 31)
Many believed that RB C.J. Spiller could be a difference maker on offense for the Bills. Unfortunately, not having a quarterback or an offensive line will stunt that. Some positive news for Bills fans, the defense didn’t look half bad
32. Cleveland Browns (Previous week: 32)
Jake Delhomme had the Browns in position to win. Then he did what he has been accustomed to over the past two seasons, throwing costly interceptions. The Browns were close climbing out of the cellar, but instead take the honor of last place for the second consecutive week.