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10 Things, NFL Week 8

This guy went into Dallas and took down the previously 6-1 Dallas Cowboys. What happened? (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

TEN
I didn’t pick the Redskins to win in Dallas but I wasn’t surprised either. The Cowboys have been overrated. The defense isn’t half as good as its been given credit and the team is still coached by Jason Garrett. Three reasons Dallas lost: First, Washington wisely came out in the 2nd half determined to run the football. For some reason I cannot understand or explain, Washington only ran the football 8 times in the 1st half. Why Jay Gruden thought Colt McCoy was the key to beating the 6-1 Cowboys is beyond me, but this much was obvious, the Redskins were poised to get blown out if they didn’t commit fully to running the football. They did so in the 2nd half (and beyond), rushing 23 times and controlling the clock at a 2:1 ratio. Breaking news: Relying on the ground game makes the life of your 3rd string QB easier. Who Knew? (Sometimes I wonder how these guys are head coaches.) Second, Dallas fell out of love with the ground game. The Cowboys own the leagues best running game. DeMarco Murray often goes untouched until he’s three or four yards past the line of scrimmage. That Dallas offensive line is 2nd to none when it comes to the ground game. Pass protection? Not so much. Dallas’ quarterbacks were under heavy pressure and still Dallas threw the football. It’s not often your ground game averages more yards per attempt than the passing game. Dallas’ did by more than a yard. The timing of certain play-calling was also atrocious. For example, in overtime Dallas ran the football for 8 yards on 1st down. They proceeded to throw the football the next three downs, ultimately losing the game. Best running back? Check. Best rushing offensive line? Check. Run the football in short yardage? No thanks. Huh? Monday night was a Jason Garrett special. He thought too much. I hear the case to not overuse Murray, but winning is kind of important, too. 19 carries were not enough in a game where Murray should have had at least 30, especially considering your starting quarterback missed most of the 2nd half.

NINE
Speaking of disappointing performances in the NFC East, let’s give it up for the completely underwhelming Nick Foles. Sad reality: The Eagles are not an NFC contender with Nick Foles under center. He’s simply not good enough. He can’t anticipate anything; what the defense is doing, where his receiver is going, where the ball should be thrown; nothing. It’s laughable how often he throws the ball in the wrong place. For example, on Philadelphia’s desperation drive at the end, Foles had Zack Ertz matched up in single coverage against a smaller corner. Foles threw the football three seconds too late and didn’t put enough air on the football to allow Ertz to use his size advantage to make a play. In that situation, you lead your receiver into the end zone. Foles doesn’t throw guys open like great or even good quarterbacks do. Also, Foles has happy feet in 2014. He panics when he doesn’t need to and he hangs in the pocket when he shouldn’t. On the final play of the game Foles backpedaled 15 years before releasing the football. Quarterbacks that make plays in the NFL hang in the pocket. Foles does not. Foles’ mechanics are also broken. He throws off his back foot, he throws off balance, and he rarely uses his hips to add torque to a throw. This happens regardless of whether he’s in or outside of the pocket. The only hope for the Eagles is the return of Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis. If the running game can return to its 2013 form, the play-action could save Foles. Otherwise, the entire season is at the mercy of a sloppy, noodle armed, panicked quarterback.

NINE A
Chip Kelly deserves heat, too. Why he didn’t challenge the goal line spot after a 2nd down run is inexplicable. Chris Polk may have even scored on the play, but at the very least, he got a 1st down. Arrogance or incompetence is the only explanation here. Either Kelly didn’t care, assuming they’d score on the next play, or their replay review strategy is fatally flawed. One way or another, it likely cost the Eagles a win.

NINE B
Someone please remind Chip Kelly it’s ok to play traditional football. Shotgun formation on 3rd and 1 is moronic. The defense gets a half second head start, the running back isn’t charging to the football when he receives the carry and there’s no lead blocker (not that there really ever is in Kelly’s offense). Instead of the shotgun, why not ask your 6’5 quarterback to snap the football and fall forward for a 1st down. You know how we know this works? BECAUSE TOM BRADY HAS BEEN DOING IT SUCCESSFULLY FOR OVER A DECADE, that’s how. Also, Andy Dalton did it twice earlier in the day. We know you’re a wizard, Chip, but sometimes the Hobbit way is the right way.

NINE C
Congratulations to Nate Allen for biting on a double move while protecting a three point lead in the final minutes. In that situation, your safety has one job and only one job; keep everything in front of you. Again, Chip Kelly deserves heat here. With the exception of Bennie Logan, Kelly hasn’t drafted difference makers contributors on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from Logan, only Beau Allen has cracked the defensive rotation. 2/10 in two drafts is not ideal. Furthermore, Kelly’s 2014 1st round pick can’t even get on the field. He’ll never get credit for it, but the Eagles are reaping the benefits of Andy Reid’s 2012 draft.

I need to hurry this up…

EIGHT
Tom Brady did not care for being called “washed up.” Since that point, Brady’s thrown 14 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Advanced statistics also credited Brady with a perfect game Sunday against Chicago. Of Brady’s 35 passes, only five were incomplete and each was due to a dropped pass. It’s also no coincidence that Brady’s play and statistics have improved as Rob Gronkowski has returned to full health for the first time since 2012.

SEVEN
Poor Ken Whisenhunt. He’s found himself rudderless in the NFL seas once again as he searches for a starting quarterback. If you recall, Whisenhunt had the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl behind Kurt Warner. Then Warner retired a year later and Whisenhunt has failed to find a consistent, reliable quarterback since. Here’s the list: Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, Zach Mettenberger. You can’t win in the NFL with that list.

SIX
You’re right, NFL, this is definitely not a horse collar tackle. You guys are the best.

Riley Cooper Horse Collared

FIVE
Six of my top seven lost last week. I think that means I’m really bad at this. You’re right, I should know by now I’m really bad at this. Oh well, let’s keep being really bad at this. The NFL’s Power Rankings are below and my top ten are below that. I won’t even critique the NFL’s rankings this week because my top ten performed so badly. Just know that I hate including the Cardinals. That offense made two plays all afternoon and sat back and watched the Eagles beat themselves. (Yes, that’s 100% bitter fan analysis. And I don’t care.)

  1. Denver
  2. New England
  3. Arizona
  4. Philadelphia
  5. Green Bay
  6. San Diego
  7. Dallas
  8. Kansas City
  9. Indianapolis
  10. Detroit

 

FOUR
The Indianapolis Colts got beat at their own game. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers put the Colts under an aerial assault, and though he made it interesting, even Andrew Luck couldn’t overcome the attacks. Were the Colts simply due for an off week or was this a cause for concern moving forward? I lean to the concerned side. Indianapolis’ defense has gotten by the past six weeks by beating average or subpar offenses. White Pittsburgh may not be elite, they have the weapons to light up the scoreboard when Roethlisberger is on his game.

THREE
Speaking of the Steelers, are they a team we’ve overlooked because of one fluke loss? If the Steelers don’t choke away a win against Tampa Bay, they’re sitting in 2nd place in the AFC at 6-2 with the Patriots. Are they as good as New England, Denver or even San Diego? Probably not. Pittsburgh’s defense has allowed the fourth most points in the AFC, and while the offense looked great Sunday, they’re still prone to lackluster outings similar to their performances in Jacksonville and Cleveland in consecutive weeks.

TWO
I don’t understand throwing passes to defensive players. Julius Peppers is certainly a great athlete. However, he’s paid to chase people carrying the football, not catch it himself. Please explain to me how targeting Peppers in the red zone is a strategic advantage because I just don’t get it.

TWO A
The Bengals played a great game for 53 minutes. Fell apart for the next three minutes. Then played well enough in the final four minutes to pull out a much needed victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Andy Dalton has struggled mightily with AJ Green sidelined, but give him credit for rallying Sunday. Dalton committed turnovers on back-to-play plays late in the 4th quarter that turned a 6 point Cincinnati lead into a 4 point deficit. Then Dalton led the Bengals on an 80 yard game-winning drive in which he scored on a QB sneak on 4th and goal from the 1. (DID YOU HEAR THAT CHIP KELLY?! THE QB SNEAK WORKS!!! IT WORKS!!!!)

TWO B
It’s somewhat amazing how the Saints are all-of-sudden in the NFC South’s driver seat despite playing horribly for the first seven weeks of the season. I know they’re technically in 2nd place, but the rest of the division continually slides backward while New Orleans is finally showing improvement.

TWO C
The NFL is in an unprecedented era on the offensive side of the ball. Thanks to rule changes and offensive ingenuity, teams are scoring and racking up yardage at all-time highs. However, too often teams are more concerned with tricking defenses than lining up and beating them. Misdirection plays are the new norm in short yardage situations. I’d be extremely interested in seeing the conversion success rate of misdirection plays compared to simply lining up and pounding the football straight ahead.

TWO D
How’s it going Cowboy fans? Having a good week? No? Oh.Sad Cowboy

ONE
MVP: Tom Brady. (But really, it was Colt McCoy)
Runner Up: Ben Roethlisberger.
Not on the ballot: Geno Smith.

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