A weekly NFL column that heads in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.
PHILADELPHIA - Thoughts from a baseball and football-crazy Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday...
1. Resist the temptation to label the Philadelphia Eagles the front-runner in the NFC East because of their 40-17 win over the Giants on Sunday. The final score does not indicate where these teams stand in comparison to one another.
Philadelphia's big plays early put New York in a tough situation because the Giants couldn't turn to a running game they know can pound the Eagles into submission. While the Eagles deserve credit for executing on offense, their early scores felt fluky - a 41-yard TD scamper by fullback Leonard Weaver and a score set up by a bad Eli Manning interception.
We know the Eagles can't count on getting those big plays every week - just look at their loss to the Raiders. When Philly visits the Meadowlands in the cold weather in Week 14, expect a different game.
2. Now that most of the NFC East teams have gotten through their preseason games against the Kansas City's and Tampa Bay's of the world, a bona fide three-way race is shaping up between Dallas, New York and Philadelphia. But before you get too fired up about the Cowboys -- who beat up the Seahawks on Sunday in Dallas -- look at the upcoming schedule. Let's see if that offense can keep rolling in trips to Philly, Green Bay, New York and New Orleans. That's not even taking into consideration Dallas' annual December swoon. Even though the Giants and Eagles still have plenty of flaws, one of the pair is in the best position to capture the division.
3. You want your quarterback to be steady and not too high after wins or too low after losses. That seems to be the common trait of great quarterbacks. But someone has to grab Eli Manning and shake some life into him right now. His postgame "Aw shucks, what are you gonna do?" press conference was way out of sync with his current slump and the Giants' three-game skid.
After a brilliant start to the season, Manning is inexplicably sailing balls all over the place. Manning says it's not the foot injury. He could have ended up with two or three more picks on Sunday. And he can't point to running back Brandon Jacobs struggling or the absence of Plaxico Burress this time. Jacobs showed he can be effective and Burress wasn't catching balls that were thrown three feet over his head. Manning's quiet confidence has worked before, but he needs to try something new before this brief hiccup turns into a subpar season.
4. The Eagles offense actually might be better without Brian Westbrook, who was out with a concussion on Sunday. They had become too reliant on the shifty running back over the last couple of years, and now have a dangerous receiving corps for the first time since T.O. was in town back in 2004. Credit the Eagles for drafting well at receiver and tight end with DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and Brent Celek. As their best offensive weapon, Westbrook, declines, they've become more of a headache for opposing defensive coordinators who have to account for the whole field. Jackson has six touchdowns for over 50 yards already this season and is developing into the NFL's premiere deep threat. Westbrook, meanwhile, could still help this team, although he seems to be headed into that post-30 running back slide.
5. Considering Darrius Heyward-Bey was the first receiver taken, this has been a surprisingly strong crop of wideouts. The 49ers' Michael Crabtree, who had six catches for 81 yards in a loss to the Colts, is contributing quickly after that long holdout. The Vikings' Percy Harvin was the key difference in a big divisional win over the Packers. First-rounders Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks and Kenny Britt look very promising, while later-round finds like Austin Collie, Mike Wallace and Johnny Knox could develop into stars.
6. The Dolphins' Ted Ginn provided another example of why the NFL needs a rookie salary cap by returning two kickoffs for touchdowns. If the Dolphins could have drafted him and not had to pay him like a star, every-down guy, he could have been a potent return threat and an occasional weapon in the passing game ... and we'd all be talking about how well Ginn has played. There's way too much pressure on teams to make something out of their high picks.
7. The Texans, who have won three in a row, face the Colts in two of their next three games. Any other season, and they'd lose both and fall out of playoff contention. This year is different for Houston, despite an injury to star tight end Owen Daniels. The Texans will win at least one of their showdowns against Indy and ride that momentum into the playoffs.
8. Good to see the old-fashioned animosity around the NFL this week. The Vikings-Packers, Jets-Dolphins, Eagles-Giants hatred, both on the field and in the stands, was refreshing. Rivalries have been en endangered species because of free agency and the league's stance against anything spontaneous. Bitterness can be good as long as it doesn't get violent.
9. The Brett Favre story may have obscured some of the problems in Green Bay. Someone has to take the heat for all the sacks. The offensive line isn't good, but coach Mike McCarthy didn't have a great game plan on Sunday.
10. The Vikings fans laugh now ... wait until Favre rolls into the Twin Cities in a Lions uniform two years from now.