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Eagles ready to take over NFC East
The Eagles are winning the NFC East.
The Texans are making the playoffs.
The Patriots got exposed.
Pete Carroll again shows he can’t coach his way out of a paper bag.
Philip Rivers can’t get out of his own way.
Todd Haley can rock the “cold man looking for soup” look as long as they win in KC.
Let the insanity begin, Schein 9 style.
1. The monologue
The Eagles manhandled and humbled the Cowboys on Sunday night. They were fresh coming off of the bye week, now 13-0 after the bye under Andy Reid. They were confident after beating the Redskins in Washington two weeks ago. The win against the Cowboys will prove to be the beginning of the beginning. The Eagles are going to win the NFC East.
Dallas is flawed and will prove to be a seven- or eight-win non-factor. They aren’t ready for primetime. The defense was absolutely gashed, unable to stop the run or pass. The play selection is poor. The offensive line is spotty. And we haven’t even mentioned Tony Romo in crunch time.
Eli Manning should’ve put on a Superman cape for Halloween because he rescued the Giants from an epic disaster. The Giants beat the winless Dolphins 20-17 because of Manning’s 349 yards, two touchdowns, (including the go-ahead score to Victor Cruz with six minutes to go to give Giants their first lead of the game) and most especially no interceptions. On a day the Giants couldn’t run, couldn’t stop the run and trailed Miami 14-3, they needed Eli’s heroics. But the game most certainly illustrated New York’s shortcomings. And the 5-2 Giants have a near impossible schedule coming up. They are in New England, in San Francisco, home against the Eagles, at the Saints, and then host the Packers. When are they going to win next?
The Skins (more on them later) are a total mess.
The Eagles outgained the Cowboys, 495-267. They showed off their incredible talent with Michael Vick and the passing attack and genius of LeSean McCoy. Andy Reid coached a great game. Jason Babin and the defensive line wreaked havoc right from the first Dallas drive. Nnamdi Asomugha made plays, right from the second Cowboys drive. This is exactly who we thought they were.
Philly got its confidence back. The rest of the division should be on notice.
2. Color me impressed
I will scream it from the rooftops. It is the year of the Texans. They will finally make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, winning an awful AFC South. They have everything it takes to make the tournament and make some noise.
The Texans have a history of folding. I was curious to see how Houston responded when Maurice Jones-Drew ran in a touchdown to make it 21-14 Houston with 5:15 to go. The answer showed me this is a different Texans team. The Texans drive started at the Houston 20-yard line, and behind the best offensive line in football, the Texans took 4:57 off of the clock, marched down the field for the dagger field goal to go up 10. It was absolutely perfect. It was telling. It wouldn’t have happened in the past.
And don’t gloss over my line on Houston having the best line in football. Eric Winston, Chris Myers, Duane Brown, Wade Smith and Mike Brisiel are really good players who have been playing together for a while. Talking to tight end Owen Daniels on the SiriusXM Blitz, he credits their “chemistry, nastiness and versatility, able to open up holes for (Arian) Foster, (Ben) Tate, and pass protect for Matt Schaub.” And he’s absolutely correct. Eliminate the history. Forget about the Tony Boselli injury or David Carr lying on his back a historic number of times. It’s a new era. And no offensive line is playing better in 2011.
Foster is a star running back, the ultimate blend of power and speed. Schaub has survived a stretch of playing without Andre Johnson and has played well and become the leader of this team.
And we haven’t even reached the biggest difference.
Wade Phillips has turned this defense from inept to difference-making and clutch. This Houston defense, for the first time in franchise history, is legit and a strength. Free-agent corner Johnathan Joseph is a play-maker and a major upgrade. Having star DeMeco Ryans healthy and Brian Cushing back and focused is a huge boost. Young pups like J.J. Watt, Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin have turned a corner.
This summer, I appropriately gave Gary Kubiak the lowest ranking for any head coach in the NFL. Thus far this year, he’s done an excellent job. He hasn’t made in-game gaffes like last year.
Now, the key for the Texans is to get over the November swoons. They lost every game in November in both 2010 and 2009. That’s staggering and totally unacceptable.
But it’s a new year. I am all in. I’m buying into Houston changing the culture. They have the formula with their offensive line, their stars on offense. Johnson is an elite game changer, meaning Houston is only getting better when he gets back on the field. He gives them a new dimension.
Go through the schedule. Houston is 5-3. The Texans will finish 11-5, minimum. It’s not about wondering if they make the playoffs. We need to talk match-ups and seed and potential bye. Seriously.
3. Can’t make it up
The maligned Patriots pass defense was completely exposed and torn apart by Ben Roethlisberger. There was no doubt what the Pittsburgh game plan was. Ben attempted 50 passes, completing 36 for 365 yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, including exposing a mismatch with Heath Miller early in the game. Roethlisberger and Miller kept moving the chains in the first quarter, holding the football for nearly the entire frame. Tom Brady can’t execute when he’s on the sideline. The Steelers dominated the line of scrimmage and third downs, and had the football for almost 20 more minutes than New England.
Forget the final score of 25-17. It wasn’t remotely that close. Pittsburgh truly bludgeoned the Patriots.
In fact, the effort and execution on defense was so putrid, Bill Belichick oddly called for an onside kick with 2:35 to go, armed with all of his timeouts and the two-minute warning. I hated the call.
The Pats’ offensive line was manhandled. It was a bad game for the Patriots, my pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. They got exposed. They got outplayed and outcoached. Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau eschewed the trademark zone in favor of man-to-man and Ike Taylor threw a blanket on the dangerous Wes Welker.
Outplayed and outcoached? You never write that about the Patriots.
4. Amateur hour
A Mike Shanahan-coached team got shut out for the first time in history. They got totally embarrassed and humiliated by the Buffalo Bills in Toronto. The Bills came in with six sacks on the season. They sacked John Beck nine times.
Shanahan, say hello to rock bottom. Actually, it is only getting worse.
Beck is a backup. So is Rex Grossman. The Redskins don’t have a legit quarterback on the roster. That must change for next year. The offensive line is in shambles. The receiving corps is weak. They don’t have a legit No. 1 NFL running back. They looked ill-prepared and inept for four quarters on Sunday. Washington earned that grotesque shutout. And that’s on the head coach.
5. Backseat coaching
Boy, I picked a great week last week in my Schein 9 to blister Pete Carroll for being totally overmatched.
I went bonkers watching Carroll manage the game at the end of the second quarter. He opted to go for it on a fourth-and-2 from the 3-yard line with 14 seconds left in the half! Hey Pete! Kick the field goal! Marshawn Lynch ran for a couple of yards and time ran out. Unreal. It was like Carroll never coached a game before. After the game, Carroll had the nerve to say, “We learned about what happens when a coach gets hormonal and tries to jam it down their frickin’ throat for the touchdown.” Really Pete? Hormonal. You are a head coach in the NFL. Act like it.
Oh yeah. To address all of the Carroll supporters who read the column last week and commented and tweeted. Did you watch Chuckles Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson? First guess this spring: Carroll should’ve drafted Andy Dalton in the first round, not an offensive linemen with a second-round grade. I’m sure Seattle fans loved seeing Dalton make plays in the great Northwest on Sunday.
6. I’m a genius/moron
Kansas City winning at home was my one upset special this week on Cosmic Schein. I’ll take it. Todd Haley can keep looking like a homeless person begging for change on the sideline as long as they win. Haley has shut up the critics at 4-3. And KC has Miami and Denver the next two weeks.
7. My guys
Marvin Lewis: The maligned Bengals coach has Cincy shocking the world at 5-2 this season and Lewis is very much in the mix for coach of the year. This team is legit. They play great defense and the Andy Dalton/A.J. Green rookie combination continues to impress.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: We wrote in September that Fitzpatrick was a “franchise quarterback” in Buffalo. The Bills rewarded him with a deserved mega-bucks, long-term deal on Friday. Fitzpatrick went out and tossed a couple of touchdowns in a shutout win over the Skins
Frank Gore: The Niners are 6-1 and in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 seed in the NFC (think about that for a second), thanks in large part to Gore’s fourth straight game of more than 125 yards rushing and a touchdown.
Steven Jackson: Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis told us on the SiriusXM Blitz, “Steven is the face of the franchise. Before the game, he told us that when you get hit in the mouth you can either go in the corner or you taste the blood and hit back. He said don’t worry about playing perfect football. Play hard and punch back.” And Jackson went out and gashed the Saints run defense in a stunning upset special. That’s awesome.
Eli Manning: Give him credit. Eli has 100 percent backed up his preseason chatter about being elite.
8. My goats
Tim Tebow: It was a total disgrace.
Philip Rivers: The fourth-quarter fumble in Arrowhead with his team driving to kick a go-ahead field goal was unreal. It’s been a terrible season for Rivers.
Sean Payton: He rightly questioned his team’s effort after the Saints' debacle against St. Louis. It was an unacceptable follow to a 62-7 win. That’s on the coach. The defense looked inept.
Rob Ryan: The Dallas defensive coordinator mocked the Eagles, calling them the “all-hype” team. It was foolish and ironic because he coaches for the Dallas Cowboys. And the Eagles went out and totally humiliated the Dallas defense. Fitting.
9. Three nuggets of wisdom
1. I wrote last week how the Titans coaching staff was fed up with Chris Johnson’s practice and play. Johnson has done nothing since pocketing the Titans’ cash after his selfish holdout. No surprise that Mike Munchak, trying to win, is starting to run the ball with Javon Ringer.
2. I stayed up late on the East Coast and watched Andrew Luck. What an awesome performance. I loved how he shook off the pick-six in the fourth quarter and dominated the rest of the way. It’s worth repeating how John Madden, on our Madden Football show on SiriusXM NFL Radio, called him the “surest thing in the NFL Draft.”
3. It’s easy, and accurate, to always fault Kevin Kolb, who’s had a miserable season at quarterback for the one-win Cardinals. But if you watch the team play, you know that tackle Levi Brown is overmatched and the biggest underachiever on the team. And to think he was drafted ahead of Adrian Peterson!
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