Week 3 in the NFC East provided four games of a very different nature. One team played sloppy but managed to pull out a win. Another played sloppy and got blown out. There was a shootout between two young quarterbackss and the defending Super Bowl champions finally, well, looked like defending Super Bowl champions.
Three of the four teams now share the title of division leader.
Below is a quick recap of the division going into Week 4.
Philadelphia Eagles 2-1
Dallas Cowboys 2-1
New York Giants 2-1
Washington Redskins 1-2
It was pretty tempting after two weeks of football to claim that the Eagles undefeated season included two of the "uglier" wins that a team could earn. But safer judgment said "a win's a win." Well, after Week 3, the only thing that's looking uglier than their two wins is their blowout loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
The good news for Eagles fans is that the 27-6 loss to the undefeated Cardinals is it was the first game in which Michael Vick did not throw an interception. The bad news is that he did lose two fumbles, including one in the red zone that was returned for a 93-yard touchdown to end the first half.
Another storyline in the game was Philadelphia facing Kevin Kolb, the quarterback who they traded to the Cardinals before last season after the emergence of Vick in 2010. Kolb outplayed Vick on Sunday by throwing for 222 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Kolb might not have been able to stand out in his time as an Eagle, but he also never had a target like Larry Fitzgerald who caught nine passes for 114 yards and a touchdown in the victory.
The Eagles still have the playmaking weapons to make them a constant threat, but injuries to their offensive line have made execution very difficult for them. The most consistent thing about the team thus far is their turnovers. They have managed to turn the ball over 12 times in three games.
Last weekend's game against Tampa was supposed to be the game where the world got a little taste of the Cowboys' offensive potential. This was far from the case. The game started off with Tony Romo getting intercepted by Aqib Talib on the first drive of the game. The only times the Cowboys offense was able to score any points was when they received the ball in the Buccaneers' side of the field.
Fortunately for the Cowboys, their defense was probably as impressive as their offense was lackluster, and a Demarco Murray touchdown along with three Dan Bailey field goals was enough to secure a 16-10 victory. The defense stifled Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman, who finished the game 10-of-28 for 110 yards and an interception, courtesy of Sean Lee. The Cowboys adjusted to an injury to safety Gerald Sensabaugh by moving cornerback Brandon Carr to safety on nickel downs. The secondary looked in top form as the move allowed for more playing time for Mike Jenkins.
While the Cowboys' defense did more than enough to earn a victory, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the game from the Cowboys' standpoint was the atrocious performance of the offensive line. Not only did Romo take a number of hits throughout the game, but the majority of Dallas' 13 penalties for 105 yards came from their offensive line. Veteran Doug Free might have been the worst perpetrator, as he was guilty of three false starts and a holding call.
Even with all of the talent that the Cowboys have on offense and the improved performance of their defense, they will not be able to score enough points to beat most teams unless they can get a drastic improvement from their offensive line.
The New York Giants came into week three with a much-anticipated Thursday night matchup with the upstart Carolina Panthers. While the Giants struggled in their first two weeks, they managed to come out and prove without a doubt that they were the better team by beating the Panthers 36-7 and forcing Cam Newton to throw three interceptions.
Perhaps the biggest story within the blowout was the emergence of Andre Brown. When Ahmad Bradshaw went down with a neck injury, it looked like serious trouble for a Giants team that already struggled to run the ball. But Cowboys fans will remember that it was less than a year ago that Demarco Murray was given his chance as the starting running back and it altered the identity of the team in a positive way.
It's not time to get carried away with Murray comparisons, but Brown was consistent throughout the entire game and actually seemed to take pressure off of the passing game more than even Bradshaw typically does when healthy. Brown racked up 113 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. Regardless of when Bradshaw becomes healthy, Brown will likely become a permanent contributor to the Giant offense.
In last Sunday's matchup between the Redskins and the Bengals one of this year's sensational rookie quarterbacks faced off against one of last year's sensational rookie quarterbacks, as Robert Griffin III went head-to-head with Andy Dalton. RGIII and company eventually lost a 38-31 shootout, despite coming back from being down 24-7 at one point.
Griffin had another tremendous performance as he threw for 221 yards and a touchdown and chipped in 85 yards on the ground with a rushing touchdown. He was also able to spread the ball around efficiently and connect with an impressive eight separate receivers.
However, RGIII could not make up for the fact that the Redskins defense was unable to contain the Bengals at any point of the game. They seemed to still be reeling from the crushing season ending injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. The Redskins identity seems to forming rather quickly: RGIII and his supporting cast can make a lot of exciting things happen, but this team can be scored on at a very high rate.
Dallas Cowboys: Last week it was pointed out that the Cowboys were lucky to not have sustained a season-ending injury thus far. That luck ran out against the Buccaneers when starting safety Barry Church went down with a torn Achilles. Church had been one of the defensive stars in the first two weeks. The Cowboys are already working to fill the void he will leave. The other starting safety, Gerald Sensabaugh, is still nursing a calf injury and his status for Monday night's game against Chicago is up in the air.
New York Giants: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw has been cleared to play against the Eagles this week, but the Giants will likely exercise caution considering he is recovering from a neck injury. Right tackle David Diehlis making progress with an MCL strain and might be available this week. Receiver Hakeem Nicksmissed last week's game against the Panthers but expects to start this week despite being limited in practice. Corner back Corey Webster will be available as well, but will have to play with a cast on his broken hand.
Philadelphia Eagles: There is no word on whether or not receiver Jeremy Maclin will be ready to play in Week 4 after sitting out with a hip injury against the Cardinals. The Eagles are still coping with (or attempting to cope with) season ending injuries to their offensive line suffered in Week 3.
Washington Redskins: Left tackle Trent Williams bruised a bone in his knee Sunday, but is hoping to play this week against Tampa. Running back Evan Royster and cornerback Cedric Griffin are both listed as day-to-day with minor injuries. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon has no timetable for his return from a bruised right foot. Safety Brandon Meriweatherplans on practicing this week and hopes to make his season debut on Sunday after recovering from a knee injury.
NFL.com Power Rankings:
5 – New York Giants (previously #9)
10 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #5)
12 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #15)
21– Washington Redskins (previously #17)
ESPN.com NFL Power Rankings:
6 – New York Giants (previously #8)
9 – Philadelphia Eagles (previously #7)
12 – Dallas Cowboys (previously #15)
22 – Washington Redskins (previously #20)
-Rookie Robert Griffin III still has fewer interceptions (one) than any of the other starting quarterbacks in the NFC East.
-The Giants (2nd), Eagles (5th) and Redskins (6th) all rank in the top six in total offense, while the Cowboys are ranked as 20th in the NFL.
-As a contrast to the previous statistic, the Cowboys rank 1st in the NFL in total defense while Philadelphia (5th) is the only other NFC East team that ranks in the top 50 percent of the league in total defense.
Week 4 Schedule:
Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, September 30th, 3:25 CT (FOX
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, September 30th, 7:20 CT (NBC)
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys
Monday, September 24th, 7:30 CT (ESPN)