Last week: 2-2
On the season: 5-2
The NFL schedule makers made it easy for me, as I only need to pick two games, since there are a couple “bEast-offs” this week.
Sunday 1pm, Giants-Eagles: I look at this game and I see an overwhelming number of matchup nightmares for the Giants, which I’ll list here:
– The Giants secondary vs the Eagles receivers – Redskins’ and Rams’ receivers were running wide open in each of the Giants’ first two games. Sam Bradford threw for 331 yards to guys like Danario Alexander, Mike Sims-Walker, and Brandon Gibson Week 1. Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards to a group of receivers that aren’t exactly striking a ton of fear into defensive coordinators. Meanwhile, not that much needs to said of the explosive weapons the Eagles have an offense. Obviously, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin present all sorts of issues with their speed, and if the Eagles decide to spread the Giants out with 4 WR sets (bringing Jason Avant and Steve Smith onto the field), the Giants’ depleted secondary simply doesn’t have the man power to match up. It could get ugly.
– The Eagles’ DL vs the Giants’ OL – Getting to Eli Manning isn’t easy. Rather than take a sack, Eli would rather throw the ball into the turf and take his chances with a possible intentional grounding call, or throw the ball in the general direction of a receiver and risk a pick. That’s one major reason the Giants were tied for 1st in the league with the Colts last season for allowing the least amount of sacks, with 16. This season, opposing defenses have been getting to Eli with much more regularity, as they’ve already brought him down 7 times. Last week, Trent Cole abused Falcons LT Sam Baker repeatedly by simply pushing the over-matched tackle back into Matt Ryan, while his defensive line teammates cleaned up when Ryan moved from his spot. William Beatty is too physical to be pushed around like Baker was, but Beatty could be susceptible to Cole’s speed around the edge. Expect Beatty to get a ton of help with Cole in this one, which could leave the Eagles’ interior rushers with favorable 1-on-1 matchups. The Giants do not want to see David Diehl locked up with Cullen Jenkins, and Jason Babin’s speed could present problems for RT Kareem McKenzie.
– The Giants receivers vs the Eagles’ secondary – We all know by now that Hakeem Nicks is an excellent player. Unfortunately, he’s pretty much the only viable weapon for the Giants in the passing game. Eli thinks highly of Brandon Stokely, but Stokely is solely a slot receiver, and will be used as such, which means that the start on the outside will likely go to Victor Cruz. On paper, that trifeca of WRs is grossly over-matched by the CB trio of Nnamdi Asomugha (the most overrated player in the game, to some), Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. One area where the Eagles have been deficient for years has been their inability to cover TEs. Fortunately for the Eagles, that’s less of a concern this week, as they’ll be facing the likes of Jake Ballard, Bear Pascoe, and possibly Travis Beckum (if healthy). Those three players aren’t exactly Tony Gonzalez.
On offense, I would expect the Giants to try to run the ball early and often, regardless of the success they’re having. The perception is that the Eagles were gashed in the run game last week, but the majority of the Falcons’ production was on one play, the 61 yard rumble by Michael Turner. We don’t take plays away in the NFL (they all count), but if one were to ignore that one long run, the Falcons rushed for a paltry 2.75 yards per carry the rest of that game. The point here is that the Falcons didn’t exactly have their way with the Eagles defense all games long when they ran the ball.
On defense, the Giants seemingly would have 2 choices. Do we blitz heavily and leave ourselves susceptible to the big play on the back end, or do we allocate more personnel to the back end and only rush four? Obviously, we’ll see both approaches from the Giants’ D, but I would expect Perry Fewell to more often than not just say “screw it,” and send the house at Vick, hoping for the Eagles to make a few of the kinds of big mistakes they made last week in Atlanta.
Prediction – The Giants are just too thin. Eagles big.
MNF, Redskins-Cowboys: This game is just so hard to call right now. So many questions:
The huge one is… Is Tony Romo OK? Save for two well-publicized gaffes at the end of the Week 1 game in NJ, Romo has played like a bona fide Top 5 QB. There’s a perception that Jon Kitna can come in and play well if need be. I certainly didn’t see it last week. The Cowboys are basically forced to throw their offensive gameplan out the window when Kitna is in the game. They tried to continue to do what they were doing when Kitna entered last week, and that backfired, as Kitna turned the ball over twice. There’s a major dropoff from Romo to Kitna, which should be fairly obvious, but isn’t for some.
But the questions don’t end there. Miles Austin has been a flat-out star player this season – Who’s going to step up in Austin’s absence? Is Dez Bryant even going to play, and even if he does, can he relied upon to play 60 minutes? How about Felix Jones? How effective can a still dinged up Terence Newman be in his return to the secondary, opposite another dinged up (and struggling) CB in Mike Jenkins? Who the hell is starting at LG? At C?
Meanwhile, the Redskins are about as healthy a team as there is in the NFL. The defense is led by their 4 LBs (Kerakpo and McInfletcher), who never come off the field, while the offense has done well to control the football. Last week the Redskins had 85 offensive snaps. The Cardinals had 50. That’s extraordinary.
Honestly, I have no idea in the world how the point spread in this game is hovering around 5 or 5.5 in favor of Dallas, even if Romo plays. If I were a horrible person that liked to wager on sporting events, I’d be banging the Redskins hard on that one. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the Cowboys aren’t good, mind you. I just think the Redskins have shown so far that they’re better. Add in that the Cowboys have as many questions as I noted above, and it’s tough to feel really confident about them, even at home.
Prediction – The Redskins believe, and so do I. Skins… outright… in a close one to go to an improbable 3-0.