By Matthew Kaplan
While the Eagles struggle to find an identity and some parts of the team look to be suffering from Super Bowl hangover, the NFC East remains wide open as the division leaders are only a game and a half up on the second and third place teams and the Eagles are not the only ones struggling to find consistent success. After the depressing fourth quarter of the Eagles game where the birds blew a 17-point lead, there were other important games around the league. Starting with the Eagles next opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars found themselves at home taking on the Houston Texans. The Jaguars would struggle and find themselves on the losing end, 20-7. While their defense kept them in the game, they found themselves without Leonard Fournette and the new trade acquisition Carlos Hyde was unavailable. Because of this the typically run heavy Jags' offense was forced to rely on quarterback Cody Kessler through the air, and that alone should make it quite clear why the offense struggled. Despite Kessler not playing terrible, there was a point in this game where the Jaguars would find themselves going back to regular starter Blake Bortles. They would finish the day a combined 27 for 42 for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception. They were lucky to lose this game by only two scores considering they are a run heavy team trying to throw the ball almost twice as much as they tried to run (only 22 rushing attempts for 70 yards). They would be done in by the versatility of Houston's offense featuring a dynamic Deshaun Watson who had by far his worst game this season, spreading the ball around to his two deep threats Deandre Hopkins and Will Fuller among others for 139 yards and one touchdown. They would get two big assists from running back Lamar Miller, who would rush 22 times for 100 yards and one touchdown and Kai Fairbairn, who would hit two 40+ yard field goals early to kick start the offense.
Later in the day the Texans next door neighbor would look to share their success as the Dallas Cowboys would go on the road to take on the Washington Redskins. This game would be taken control of early by the Redskins and they would never give the Cowboys an opportunity to play with a lead. As a result, the Redskins would win, 20-17. In victory, they would be led by their defense as they held Ezekiel Elliot to only 42 yards from scrimmage and, as previously discussed in the past, with an ineffective Elliot comes an ineffective Cowboys offense, even though Prescott would keep them in this game with both a passing and a rushing touchdown. The Cowboys will hope that a bye week and the addition of Amari Cooper will help them address this issue before they take on the Tennessee Titans at home in week nine.
While the Redskins defense played well their offense was led by the two old men, Adrian Peterson and Alex Smith. Without dynamic play-maker Chris Thompson due to injury, Peterson would carry the ball 24 times for 99 yards. I know that doesn't look all that impressive, but it would help the offense control time of possession and pace of the game. Peterson's partner in this win was Alex Smith. Smith's ability to play a clean game and spread the ball around to six different targets would make all the difference. Smith would throw the ball 25 times and complete over 50% of his passes for 178 yards and one touchdown and, while the Cowboys will hope to change their fortune, the Redskins will hope to turn this into momentum as they await yet another important divisional match-up in the Meadowlands against the Giants next Sunday.
The Giants went to Atlanta on Monday Night to take on the Falcons, in what many expected to be a second straight blowout loss. While the Falcons would win, the game at a glance does not look like a blowout as the final score was, 23-20. The Falcons would control this game never surrendering the lead. The only time this game was even tied was at a zero-zero score. The Falcons of course were led by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones. Ryan would complete 31 of his 39 passing attempts for 379 yards and one touchdown and would connect with Jones on nine of those completions for 104 yards. When Ryan couldn't find Jones (for example in the end-zone) he found nine other targets over the course of this game.
The Giants, while not happy with this result, can find as much good in it as they can bad. The good mostly came in the passing game. Eli Manning would not throw an interception in this game as he threw the ball 38 times for 399 yards and one touchdown. 310 of those yards would go to Odell Beckham and Sterling Shepherd as they consistently found gaps in the defense. Also, despite being a non-factor on the ground with only 43 yards, Saquon Barkley would score another touchdown and catch nine passes for 51 yards (90% of Eli's passing yards went to three players). The Giants will hope their luck changes soon as they fall to six losses through seven games and need to win out to even have a chance at the playoffs.
As Eagles fans look forward to waking up bright and early next week for the Eagles game in London, we have to remind ourselves of a couple things. First and most importantly, the NFC East is weak and still completely up in the air. Also, the Eagles have five divisional games after the bye week. Finally, with a win this week we will be at the .500 mark at the midway point of the season, which is not a record that is unheard of among playoff teams throughout history. All they have to do is make the playoffs and anything can happen, let last year be the proof behind that statement.