NFC East: One game separates all four teamsBy David A.
The NFC East is going to be a dogfight all season. After four weeks of the regular season, one game separates all four teams. The Philadelphia Eagles have taken over the top spot with a 3-1 record, whole Dallas, New York and Washington are all one game back at 2-2. This week the NFC East teams have great matchups.
Division leading Philly has a Keystone State showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Philadelphia is 6-2 SU over their past eight games against the Steelers. However, the teams have not played since 2008, when the Eagles won 15-6 in the third week of the season. Philly has only won twice in the last six games against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. That figure dates all the way back to 1968. With a win today, the Eagles can increase their record to 4-1 and it will mark their first 4-1 start since 2006.
Here is an oddball stat that is worth taking note of. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are first and second in the league, in the lowest percentage of completions allowed on passes that are 15 yards or more this season. Philadelphia is giving up a completion percentage of just 28%, while Pittsburgh is giving up 33%.
The two teams are loaded with talented receivers who can catch the ball short and make extra yards following the catch. Last weekend Robert Griffin III, the rookie quarterback for the Washington Redskins authored his first drive for a game-winning score against Tampa Bay. This week the Redskins face the Atlanta Falcons and the Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan has orchestrated 17 game winning drives since he started playing for the Falcons in 2008.
NO QB has more than Ryan does since Ryan started playing in Atlanta. The game today should be close right down to the wire and could be decided by one of the two quarterbacks orchestrating yet another late game drive for the win. Griffin III is not only getting more and more confident with each game, but becomes more confident during each game. Griffin, once he learns about the defense he is playing against, has started to throw downfield more often late in games.
During the first quarter of games, Griffin’s receiving targets are 1.5 yards downfield, during the second quarter, they became 6.6 yards down the field and during the second half of games, and his receivers are an average of 9.4 yards downfield when they catch the ball. What is strange is usually the ball is thrown downfield in the second half because the team is behind and needs to score. In the Redskins’ case, in three of their four games they have started the second half of the game leading.
The New York Giants will face Cleveland this week and will be looking to bring huge pressure against the Browns’ quarterback Brandon Weeden. After four weeks of the season, the Giants are only 17th in the league in sacks. Last season the Giants had the third most sacks of any team in the league.
However, the Giants might not be sacking the quarterback, but at least they are pressuring him. The opposing quarterbacks are under pressure 21% of the time in drop back situations and that is the league’s fourth best percentage. One reason the Giants might not have the sacks they are accustomed to, is the type of quarterback they have faced.
Thus far, in the first four games the Giants have faced Tony Romo, Cam Newton, Michael Vick and Josh Freeman. All four are mobile and can scramble. Therefore, they are pressuring opposing QBs just not sacking them. The Browns offense has averaged over 40 passes per game so the Giants defense will have plenty of chances of increasing their number of sacks this weekend.
Dallas has a bye week this week and will use the time to regroup after a subpar start.