Wednesday, September 24, 2008

ESPN Knows The Score

ESPN’s power rankings are an absolute fiesta of NFC East power- with the Cowboys, Giants and Eagles clocking in at the top three positions.

The Eagles find themselves there with a pretty thorough drubbing of Pittsburgh- at least on defense. Its funny- but the Eagles entered the game with real questions in the defensive secondary. Any witness will tell you, Dallas utterly torched that group the proceeding week.

So while Pittsburgh couldn’t do anything on offense all day- the game never answered any questions about the pass defense. The Steelers completely failed on the singular fundamental football question: can we block people?- that no rational observer could make any determination about whether the Eagles could now cover people. Did the ‘backers and safeties that looked so bad versus Dallas secondary receivers get better? Who knows? Roethlisberger never had a chance.

So that question will wait for another week.

As to the Eagles offense... well, with Westbrook, pretty good! Baskett seems to have improved in his second year, and DeSean Jackson seems to be a credible NFL player, and McNabb is as ever an efficient, high percentage, low risk, distribution machine.

Without Westbrook, not too good. Once he departed, Pittsburgh immediately got real passive on defense, played those extra defensive backs at any opportunity- and the Eagles lack, again, a receiver who can generate his own space. LJ Smith continues his regression and Lorenzo Booker is not yet a plus player in either the run or pass game. Plus, he missed a key block. Buckhalter clealry deserves a tip of the cap for stepping up to play a ton of snaps as the back-up to the in-game hurt tailback and fullback- and his catch-and-run for the games only score was a nifty play.

But let’s face it, the Eagles scored one touchdown, were thoroughly mediocre-to-bad on offense because guys like Buckhalter and Baskett are key players, not in spite of them.

Ultimately, they’re stuck in a tough division, with real liablilities: the third best team in said division, real vulnerable to a skill position injury. Frankly, anything other than a season long struggle to the wild card is hard to imagine. The combination of their brutal division schedule, couple with some other soft NFC divisions (which will keep some second place NFC team on a route to ten wins), means the Eagles need a healthy offense and three wins in their remaining five division games just to get in the play-offs.