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NFC East: Division Defenses Get Torched In Week 2 Setbacks
If you’re looking for silver linings in the 17-16 loss to Kansas City, try this one on for size: the Cowboys didn’t lose any ground in the NFC East, as all four division teams lost on Sunday. We’re only two weeks into the season, but everyone in this division looks to have equal amounts of ability and incompetence.
Another fun stat: along with the AFC North, the NFC East is one of just two divisions in the NFL without an undefeated team. I’m not trying to predict how the season will play out, but it looks likely that nine or 10 wins will be enough to grab the division championship.
Honestly, not that it’s what anyone is striving for, but a .500 record might be enough. We’ll see how everyone improves (or regresses) as the schedule moves along.
Here are some impressions from a look around the division after Week 2.
Make a tackle: The Kansas City Chiefs are 26th in the league offensively, with 302 yards per game. So I’m not going to pat the Cowboys’ defense too hard on the back. But goodness, the NFC East played some atrocious defense Sunday.
In their three losses, the Giants, Eagles and Redskins surrendered 416, 413 and 580 yards, respectively. Some of that can be attributed to turnovers, as Eli Manning once again chucked up a bevy of interceptions. But what about the Eagles, who grabbed a 27-23 lead against San Diego with seven minutes to play, only to surrender two long scoring drives in a heartbreaking loss.
The Redskins really and truly skew the stats. I’ve written in this space about how improved their pass rush should be in 2013, and that seems to be holding true. Washington sacked Aaron Rodgers four times Sunday and has seven sacks through two games – tied with Dallas and Tennessee for third in the league.
That’s about the only good thing to say about the Redskins’ 38-20 decimation at the hands of Green Bay, though. Rodgers diced through their patchwork secondary for 480 yards – 335 of which came in the first half – and five touchdowns. The Packers, who lost rookie running back Eddie Lacy to a concussion thanks to a questionable hit from safety Brandon Meriweather, also gashed Washington for 139 rushing yards.
It’s early yet. But to this point, every team in the NFC East is in the lower half of the league in yards allowed per game. Washington and Philadelphia rank 32nd and 30th, respectively. Yikes.
Common opponent: There’s going to be a lot of talk this week about Thursday night’s Chiefs-Eagles game in Philadelphia, naturally, as it is Andy Reid’s first game back since leaving the organization.
I don’t really care about off-field storylines like that, though. Mainly, I want to see how the Eagles fare running the ball against the Kansas City front seven.
Nobody is running the ball as well as the Eagles are in Chip Kelly’s new offense. They’re average 176 yards per game on the ground, and LeSean McCoy has all the makings of a Pro Bowl selection if he stays healthy.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have the second-best rushing defense in the league after stuffing the Cowboys for 37 yards on the ground. Is this a legitimately fearsome defense, or is it a classic example of two favorable matchups early in the season?
If the Eagles gash the Chiefs, then we may have an idea of how much trouble the Cowboys’ ground game is in. If the Chiefs stymie McCoy and Co., then maybe there’s hope for some production from Dallas running backs.
Watching Washington: Through two games, the Redskins are probably the hardest team in the division to get a read on. Why? It’s probably because they’ve fallen behind by more than 20 points in each of their first two contests.
I said in the offseason I thought the Redskins would regress slightly from the 10-6 performance that saw them claim the division last year. But it’s totally unrealistic to expect any NFL team to continue getting blown out week in and week out.
So, on paper, you’ve got the Redskins as the No. 6 offense in the league, with 402 yards per game. But the vast majority of that has come during second half rallies, as the Redskins trailed by a combined total of 50-7 at halftime of their first two games. Let the magnitude of that first half futility sink in for a second.
Washington ran 24 plays in the first half against Green Bay, with one eight-play drive (which ended in an interception) providing the bulk of those snaps. The Redskins gained 64 of their 158 first half yards on that possession, as they went to the break trailing 24-0.
Same as in the loss to Philadelphia, things opened up in the second half, as Washington racked up 264 yards and 20 points in the second half. But with the Packers predictably playing to protect a large lead, it’s hard to tell who to give credit to.
Robert Griffin III will undoubtedly feel better about his Week 2 performance, as he completed 65 percent for 320 yards and three touchdowns. That said, his lone pick came near the Green Bay red zone with a chance to cut the Packers’ deficit at the end of the first half.
This might be a yearlong trend for the Redskins, particularly if their defense can’t find a way to improve. It will be hard to get a good gauge on their offense until it isn’t playing catch up. Read