Six points for Week 2: Romo’s injury makes NFC East a free-for-all

The memes, GIFs and Vines were flying shortly after 7 p.m. ET Sunday. It was comedy hour on Twitter and Facebook, and the NFC East was the butt of the joke.

"The best quarterback in the NFC East," one declared, alongside a picture of a smiling Brandon Weeden. Not bad.

"State of the NFC East," another read under a picture of Robert Griffin III, with his mouth open and his eyes rolled back in his head. Too easy.

"Live look at the NFC East," said one caption of a dumpster fire. Overused. Yawn.

The winners were the GIFs of disastrous ends to speed-skating contests (like this one from Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post), with the first three skaters wiping each other out, only to have the guy who was in a distant fourth cruise across the finish line for the victory. That lucky skater represented the Washington Redskins.


The truth is the Redskins, a mess of an organization that hasn’t been able to get out of its own way for years, just might just have it as good as anyone in their division right now. They’re relatively healthy, they finally have a settled quarterback situation, they believe in Kirk Cousins and they have one more win than the allegedly Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles.

Still, all four NFC East teams have so many issues only two weeks into the season that trying to project the eventual division champ is a flat-out guess.

So let’s take a look at each team and three reasons why it can and can’t win the division. And since snark was the rage following Sunday’s games, we’ll start with the negative for each:


Three reasons they can’t

1. Projections on Dez Bryant’s timetable to return from injury are all over the place, in large part because no one knows how quickly his foot will heal. As for Tony Romo, the details of his collarbone injury will be known Monday after scans give a fuller picture of his injury. But it’s safe to say the Cowboys will be without both players until at least late October, with Romo likely out longer than that.

2. There still isn’t a lot of depth in the secondary. The Cowboys’ pass defense hasn’t been challenged by a legit passing game. Let’s see how it stacks up once it is.

3. Weeden got one start in Romo’s absence last year, and it was an ugly performance in a 28-17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals at home.

Three reasons they can

1. Bryant and Romo will be back. Neither’s injury is a season-ender. The Cowboys just have to find a way to stay afloat.

2. The offensive line still looks to be as good and deep as it was last year. If you have to plug in Weeden and hope wide receivers Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Devin Street pick up the slack for Bryant, it’s nice to have the best group of blockers in the league creating space and time for those guys to work. Rookie La’el Collins looked very good in spot duty Sunday. He even showed his athleticism in the fourth quarter, when he chased down Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell after a fumble recovery. That underrated play saved a touchdown that could have cut the Cowboys’ lead to 13-10. Instead, the Eagles gave the ball right back on their next play and never pulled within one score. And just a reminder: Collins was the Cowboys’ third-string guard in Week 1. This is a stellar offensive line.

3. While losing their top two players, they went 2-0. Plus, four of Dallas’ next six games are at home, including matchups with the Patriots and Seahawks. That’s much better than playing at Gillette or CenturyLink. If they can steal one of those games, they just might survive being Romo and Dez-less better than many think.


Three reasons they can’t

1. Tom Coughlin’s teams are supposed to make smart plays late in games, not blow 10-point leads in the fourth quarter in back-to-back weeks. And Eli Manning used to be a clutch quarterback. Now, this team is tripping all over itself with the game on the line. After the Week 1 clock debacle, Sunday’s loss to the Atlanta Falcons featured an inexcusable delay-of-game penalty as the Giants were trying to nurse a three-point lead and then some ugly throws and protections on their final drive, a failed comeback attempt.


2. Injury issues at offensive tackle are killing them. Veteran Will Beatty is recovering from a torn pectoral muscle, and impressive rookie Ereck Flowers has been hampered by an ankle issue the last two weeks. Flowers had to leave Sunday’s game, and Coughlin is left to hope it won’t be a recurring issue.

3. A fully healthy and effective Jason Pierre-Paul is not walking through that door any time soon despite what his camp might want people to believe.

Three reasons they can

1. The Giants always seem to pop up when you count them out. Well, they used to, anyway. And prepare yourselves for constant reminders leading up to Thursday’s game against the Redskins that they started 0-2 in 2007 and that turned out just fine.

2. Odell Beckham Jr. is still making sensational plays, even with two and three defenders around him. If Victor Cruz can come back and be close to his former self, the Giants will still be able to throw the ball with the best of them.

3. If they beat Washington on Thursday (Vegas has the Giants as four-point favorites), they’ll then get 10 days to put a dramatic September behind them and regroup. With some time to take a breath, they might make peace with what they left on the field and realize there is plenty of opportunity ahead of them.


Three reasons they can’t

1. The running game is a mess. DeMarco Murray, who was caught by FOX cameras barking about a lack of carries after one series, on Sunday became the eighth player since 1960 to rush for two or fewer yards on 13 or more carries. But it’s not Murray’s fault. For all of the talk about the skill-position guys Chip Kelly traded away, maybe the biggest mistake he made was releasing guard Evan Mathis. The Eagles’ offensive line has been vulnerable up the middle.

2. There is serious concern about the nature of linebacker Kiko Alonso’s knee injury that knocked him out of Sunday’s game. It’s the same knee in which he suffered a torn ACL before last season. Alonso was the Eagles’ return on the LeSean McCoy trade and a major bright spot in Week 1 when he made a spectacular one-handed interception.

3. Cornerback Byron Maxwell got a lot of money for very little production so far. The route he took to try cutting off Terrance Williams on the Cowboys’ final touchdown and the effort he displayed in doing so were both brutal. That won’t fly in that town, Byron. Just ask Cary Williams.

Three reasons they can

1. Despite how bad his offense looks, Kelly remains a very good coaching mind. Maybe Sam Bradford and a few more of the team’s new additions simply need some more live reps together.

2. They have too much talent to not be a factor. Murray, Ryan Mathews, Darren Sproles, Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz on offense; Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham and more on defense. That’s enough guys to make enough plays.

3. Their final four games: Three straight at home — against the Bills, Cardinals and Redskins — and then at the Giants to close it out. Remember that stretch if and when they’re at or near the top of the division in November.


Three reasons they can’t

1. Because they can’t.

2. They can’t.

3. They just can’t.

Three reasons they can

1. OK, maybe they can. Maybe Cousins just continues to get comfortable. And maybe no one even notices Griffin’s presence and he never becomes a distraction

2. And maybe DeSean Jackson gets healthy and doesn’t aggravate his hamstring once he returns. And maybe the stout defensive front dominates. And maybe the other three teams continue to fall all over themselves.

3. Nah. This isn’t speed skating.


That was the progression for Jameis Winston in the public eye.

The Week 1 overreaction was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had drafted the wrong quarterback, when No. 2 pick Marcus Mariota and the Titans delivered a beatdown. But Winston was calm and effective in Sunday’s upset of the New Orleans Saints. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards, one passing touchdown and one rushing. He made a terrific play in the third quarter to roll away from pressure, buy time and hit Louis Murphy for 54 yards.

"For sure, man, Jameis is the No. 1 pick, he’s the No. 1 (rookie) quarterback. He’s going to have a great career, he’ll do great things, set records and I believe he’s going to be a Hall of Fame player," Murphy told FOX Sports by phone from a victorious locker room. "You can’t put the carriage before the horse. He’ll be fine."


Kam Chancellor believes the Seattle Seahawks have been making him offers during his holdout and thinks the sides are only $900,000 apart. The team, as coach Pete Carroll said last week, claims they’ve merely had "conversations."

I explained on "FOX NFL Kickoff" (11 a.m. ET on FOX) the reason for the difference in opinion. It goes back to a meeting that occurred in August but had been kept under wraps. Sources say the meeting, which was held in Virginia, was between Seahawks GM John Schneider and Chancellor and Chancellor’s agent, Alvin Keels. Schneider mentioned some hypothetical scenarios but told Chancellor and Keels the team wouldn’t be scared by a holdout and would only discuss changes to Chancellor’s contract if he returned to the team.

The Seahawks remain adamant they won’t redo the deal until Chancellor reports. They also have shown little interest in trading him, though that could change as the trading deadline (Nov. 3) approaches. 



Derek Carr got injured at the tail end of a 61-yard passing performance in the Raiders’ Week 1 loss to the Bengals. He then practiced through the pain of his bruised hand to prove to new coach Jack Del Rio he could come right back and play in Week 2 against the Ravens.

On Sunday, Carr shook off a bad interception that set up the Ravens’ go-ahead field goal to go 6-for-8 for 56 yards and the game-winning touchdown — a 12-yarder to receiver Seth Roberts.

Carr battled through a good amount of adversity last week. That’s a great sign from a young quarterback.

"That’s how you change a culture now. That’s how you fight, bro, that’s how you do it," Carr told his teammates in the postgame locker room. “Against that team? That’s a great job. Hey, guess what, let’s get ready for the next one. This is what we do, man. This shouldn’t be a big surprise. We’ve been doing this all offseason. This is what we do."


The thought by many going into the Cleveland Browns’ game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday was it would be Johnny Manziel’s chance to steal the starting job from the concussed Josh McCown. The notion was Manziel would either flame out again or turn in a sensational showing similar to what he did in his Texas A&M days.

But Manziel’s performance (8-for-15 for 172 yards and two touchdowns) was somewhere in the middle. He made two great throws for long scores to Travis Benjamin. Other than that, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot.

The Browns have done a fantastic job of bringing along Manziel slowly this year. This offseason, coach Mike Pettine declared McCown to be "firmly the No. 1" and stuck by it. That took the pressure off Manziel and allowed him to work on himself and his skills without the need to be game-ready for Week 1. Sunday was another positive step. So if McCown is cleared this week, why not allow Manziel to put that in his pocket, build his confidence and continue to work with McCown in the film room and meeting room?

The Browns have been slow-playing things with Manziel, and it’s been working out very well. They should stick to the plan, and it might very well pay off in the long run.


In this space last week, I questioned the Jaguars’ effort in a Week 1 loss to the Panthers. With high hopes surrounding this team this year, that was a dud of a performance.

Well, Sunday’s upset of the Dolphins was more of what the optimists were expecting from the Jags, coach Gus Bradley and quarterback Blake Bortles, who wasn’t sacked by a very good Dolphins pass rush despite being without left tackle Luke Joeckel.

Now, after two home games out of the chute, it gets a little more challenging for the Jags. Their next three games are on the road — at New England, Indianapolis and Tampa Bay. If they’re really making progress down there in Duval County, we’ll know by mid-October.