The Dallas Cowboys have been the biggest surprise of the 2014 NFL season, which, of course, can only mean one thing: We’re all losers. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Apparently the Cowboys don’t suck this year. Actually, the Cowboys look to be really, really good. I liked the 2014 NFL season better when it appeared only a miracle would get Dallas to four wins. Sadly, those days are gone. We must now learn to exist in a world where Tony Romo and the Cowboys are considered contenders – and perhaps even favorites – in the all-of-a-sudden wide-open NFC.
All joking aside, what Dallas did to Seattle IN Seattle on Sunday was, at least to me, nothing short of shocking. The Cowboys winning was a big story. The biggest story, though, was HOW Dallas won. They simply bullied the Seattle Seahawks. Read that line again. THEY BULLIED THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS. Huh?!?! The Seahawks are the NFL’s bullies. They’re not supposed to get pushed around, and they’re definitely not supposed to get manhandled in front of their home fans. Dallas’ defense smothered Russell Wilson. The Cowboys’ offensive line had its way against Seattle’s vaunted (albeit overrated) front seven. Dallas running backs continually reached the 2nd level of Seattle’s defense and often untouched. While the “Legion of Boom” did enough to keep Tony Romo and Dallas’ passing attack in check, they surrendered too many big plays, including crucial 3rd down conversions. The tackling in the secondary also left a lot to be desired.
Before we get carried away with the Cowboys’ greatness, let’s pump the brakes and remember we’re only six weeks through a 17 week season. Plenty can go wrong or change over the next three months. DeMarco Murray has yet to finish a full NFL season. Dallas’ defense, despite Sunday’s performance, has looked dreadful at times, etc., etc… For now, though, the Cowboys look like a handful for the rest of the NFC. Worst of all, we live in a world where the only logical response to a gloating Cowboy fan is; “Jerry Jones is still your owner.”
I’m still riding the Seahawks bandwagon. It’s much emptier now than it was a week ago. Put it this way, Russell Wilson played the worst game he’s played in nearly a year, the defense was outmatched by a bigger and stronger offensive line. Even the reliable Seattle secondary was subpar Sunday. Despite all that, Seattle still had a chance to tie the game in the closing minutes. Yes, absolutely credit the Cowboys for either forcing such a lousy performance or at the very least, exploiting it. Whichever you choose, the Cowboys deserve credit. But I’m not giving ALL the credit to Dallas. Seattle, especially the offense, had a bad game. Wilson lost his precision. Pete Carroll inexplicable ignored Marshawn Lynch for too much of the game. The defense missed tackles and couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs. Bad days happen. What would worry me if I were the Seahawks is the Percy Harvin factor. Dallas made it a point to eliminate Harvin from Seattle’s offense. Outside of kick returns, Harvin totaled six touches for -1 yards. Perhaps Harvin, and not Wilson, is the key cog in Seattle’s offense. Regardless, one loss at home doesn’t change the talent and depth on Seattle’s roster. I still think they’ll finish as the best team in the NFC. It’ll just take a little bit more effort than originally expected.
Dallas’ win in Seattle overshadowed another NFC East team moving to 5-1 with an impressive victory of their own. The Eagles finally went wire-to-wire and shutout the New York Giants in one of the most lopsided and boring affairs in the rivalry’s history. As a realist, it’s only natural to point out the flaws after such a convincing victory.
1. Nick Foles isn’t good enough yet. The Eagles can’t make a deep playoff push with Foles’ current level of play.
2. Foles still can’t throw the ball deep. For every perfect ball he throws (like the TD to Zach Ertz), Foles airmails or overthrows five more. If you’ve watched the Eagles this season, you’ll notice Chip Kelly’s play calling is contingent upon Foles’ play. If he’s having a good day, the ball will be thrown deep downfield. If not, the ball typically stays within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage. Sunday night was one of those nights were the Eagles almost never attempted to stretch the defense. That’s discouraging.
3. Foles’ mechanics break down when the pocket collapses. Both his awful interceptions were thrown off his back foot.
4.The injury to Darren Sproles will be interesting. He’s been the offensive MVP thus far for the Eagles. When the Eagles have been flat, Sproles has been the ignition switch. If the running game is chugging, I doubt the Eagles miss Sproles. If LeSean McCoy and the ground game struggle? Yeesh. That’s when Sproles’ absence will loom large.
The Patriots have played like one of the league’s top teams in recent weeks. Tuesday they learned their defensive leader and top running back would miss the remainder of the season. Obviously, that’s bad news. The New England defense struggled without Jarod Mayo in 2013. The resurgence of the Patriots defense has been a key part to the team’s success, especially while the offense struggled over the first four weeks. Tom Brady and the limited offensive talent around him are not good enough to compete for a conference title without a formidable defense. Likewise, the loss of Stevan Ridley will once again force the Patriots to be a lopsided offense. Brady is already hurting. Without Ridley, New England needs to find another downfield back. Shane Vereen is not that back. While Ridley has had his struggles, he was a crucial part of the 2012 Patriot offense that looked unstoppable at times. Ridley’s 2013 season was a disappointment due to injuries and fumbling issues, but the Patriots had hopes of Ridley returning to form this season. Up until his injury, he displayed some signs of returning to that 2012 form. Not anymore. The weight of New England’s season now falls heavily and almost entirely on Brady’s shoulders.
Even though Cam Newton doesn’t have the gaudy numbers like Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers or Aaron Rodgers, he deserves to be in the MVP conversation. Newton carried the Panther offense Sunday against the Bengals. Unlike 2013, Newton no longer has a defense to fall back on. On Sunday, Newton continually gave Carolina the lead only to watch his defense give it right back. And each time, Newton either regained the lead or erased a deficit. He’s the grittiest QB in the NFL right now. Bum ankle, broken ribs and still rushing for over 100 yards. Nearly every one of those rushing yards ended with a hit or Newton at the bottom of a pile. This wasn’t Russell Wilson running out of bounds or avoiding contact. Newton ran downfield into a pile of mayhem. Though the Panthers defense is M.I.A. this season, Carolina will have a shot in every game simply because Newton is that good. However, I don’t care how good you are, Cam, please don’t wear this ever again:
Power Rankings time! For those that don’t know, I critique NFL.com’s Power Rankings every week. A hardworking innovative individual would create his own rankings. I’m not that guy. It’s easier to criticize someone else’s hard work than work hard myself.
— NFL (@nfl) October 14, 2014
It’s hard to argue with the Broncos and Chargers atop the rankings. At 5-1 it’s also hard to argue against the Eagles and Cowboys at 3 and 4, respectively. Though, I should disclose that I don’t feel either team is that good. All in all I have very few beefs with this week’s rankings. The Cowboys leap-frogging the Packers and Colts may be excessive but winning in Seattle provides a lot of momentum for moving up the rankings. Also, I don’t have Arizona in my top 10. Against 30 other quarterbacks they would have lost Sunday. Kirk Cousins just insisted on giving Arizona the football. Without further ado, here are my Week 6 Power Rankings:
- San Diego
- Green Bay
- San Francisco
- New England
Aaron Rodgers is fantastic. No question he’s the best in the league, even better than Peyton Manning. His work in the 4th quarter in Miami was nothing short of breathtaking. But please, enough with the “genius” of the fake kill-the-clock play. If Cortland Finnegan isn’t a fool and hugs the sideline to force the receiver to the middle of the field, it’s likely the clock runs out before Green Bay runs another play. Instead of a painful defeat, the Dolphins win and Rodgers faces questions all week about his ill-advised decision. Rodgers is the best in the game for so many reasons. That misdirection play is not one of them.
Jacksonville botched the final seconds in their attempt to shock the Titans. Down two scores and already in field goal range with 92 seconds left, the Jaguars opted to forgo a 43 yard field goal and pursue the touchdown. Jacksonville eventually scored a touchdown but lost nearly 50 seconds of valuable time. The correct call in that situation, which coaches never actually do, is to get points as quickly as possible and preserve as much time as possible. If you need a field goal and a touchdown, you take the field goal as soon as it is available.
A. The Bengals and Panthers both blew a victory due to missed field goals.
B. Steeler Nation? Are you out there? (Crickets.)
C. So Joe Flacco had a nice week, no? On a related note, does Lovie Smith know he’s coaching this season? Should someone remind him?
D. Atlanta isn’t any good. Matt Ryan got thrown around like a rag doll Sunday by the Bears defensive line. So long, Mike Smith.
E.Don’t want to jinx anything, but a certain QB that sounds like “Hey Butler” is having a career season… by a mile. His 2014 numbers are astronomically better than any previous season.
F. If Philip Rivers played in New York or 15 other markets not named “San Diego” he’d be all over our televisions and computers. That guy has been incredible the last two seasons.
G. The Eagles had team photos this week before parting for their bye week. Why do I share this? Because Chip Kelly is hilarious, that’s why:
“We had to coach the photographers a little bit because they were… they wanted to… one of the guys thought he was Ansel Adams. We said ‘Let’s get this thing taken and let’s go,’ you know what I mean? It’s not like it’s going to be hanging in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s going to go in someone’s office somewhere, so let’s just get it done.”
H. A depressing reminder that the NFL used to be this (big ups to Brady for bouncing right up. Baller.):
MVP: Cam Newton.
Runner Up: Tom Brady.
Not on the ballot: New York Giants