By Jonathan Comey
Cold, Hard Football Facts Gentleman Caller (@colonelcomey)
1. The Eagles’ offense is legit.
We all had some fun at Chip Kelly’s expense as the Eagles struggled to win games past that amazing first Week 1 vs. Washington.
Revolutionizing the game? Looks like Eagle football to me #sameoldphilly
But the Eagles have been pretty flippin’ awesome on offense game in and game out – here’s their yardage totals in six games: 443, 522, 431, 450, 439, 425. That’s pretty impressive, for its consistency as much as anything, and most teams don’t play as well with their No. 2 as they do with the No. 1 like the Eagles did this week with Nick Foles in Tampa.
They’re averaging over 6.5 yards a play (up from 5.3 a year ago), and LeSean McCoy is quietly putting up Adrian Peterson numbers, in the meantime – he’s on pace for 2,323 yards from scrimmage, which would tie him for the seventh-best season of all time.
Will the defense keep up? Probably not. But if the offense clicks like this all year long, there’s reason to believe the Eagles will be the 9-7 playoff team no one wants to play in January.
2. New England’s secondary is something special.
All’s well that ends well, but there was a whole lot of not-so-great stuff going on at Gillette Stadium Sunday for the New England Patriots in their 30-27 win over New Orleans.
Tom Brady was scattershot, again; if he doesn’t lead that game-winning drive, the heat was going to be higher than it had been on him for a decade. His receivers dropped the ball all over the field, again. The run defense looked eminently gashable, allowing 131 yards on 5.0 a crack. The pass rush couldn’t get any heat on Drew Brees (one sack in 37 dropbacks, few pressures).
But oh, that secondary. It’ll be a shame if No. 1 corner Aqib Talib, who’s been a slam-dunk first-team All-Pro thus far, will have to miss time with a reaggravation of the hip injury that took him out last year, because the Patriots have been a revelation in the back.
The change started with the move of Devin McCourty to the secondary last year, but the play has reached new levels in 2013.
On Sunday, Brees (17 of 36, 236 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) finished under 50 percent on completions for the first time since Week 1 of 2012, and only the third time in his New Orleans career. He finished with a 75.6 rating, in keeping with the Pats’ 71.67 Defensive Passer Rating coming into the week.
Even the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown came against spectacular coverage by Alfonzo Dennard, who swatted at the ball and made Kenny Stills come up with a great play on the 34-yard score.
For all of the talk about Bill Belichick having lost his touch drafting for the secondary, he’s managed to assemble one of the league’s best units. Unlike some coaches, he doesn’t keep draft picks around that can’t play – he moves on, and lets free agents (Kyle Arrington) and seventh-rounders (Dennard) take their jobs.
3. Here’s a vote for Dennis Allen as coach of the year.
Yes, the Raiders are 2-4. Yes, they lost to Kansas City 24-7 Sunday. No, Dennis Allen is not going to garner any type of postseason honor, and might in fact wind up getting fired.
But he’s doing a hell of a job.
The Raiders came into the season with as little optimism as any team, thanks to a depleted roster full of dead money, no established QB, no names on defense, nothing to hang their hat on.
Allen, though, has had this Raiders team playing hard, and he’s gotten the most out of what little talent he’s got. Terrelle Pryor was no match for the Chiefs Sunday, but the game was close until late in the fourth when Allen had to take the reins off and let Pryor throw. That Pryor – who was barely a good college QB – is as good as he’s been is a tribute to his work ethic and Allen’s tutelage.
As for the defense, it’s been extremely good thus far and was again on Sunday, allowing just 3.5 yards a play. You have to hope the Raiders will stick with Allen and keep building through the draft, instead of re-setting every two years.
Of course, the actual Coach of the Year seems destined to be Andy Reid’s – he’s done what Allen has done, only with, you know, talent to work with. At 6-0, the C.O.T.Y. is his to lose (with an assist to the pure terribleness of last year's Chiefs).
4. The Lions are starting to look all grown up.
The old Lions would have lost in Cleveland Sunday, little doubt about it. After a great win at home against the Bears, they would have traveled to Ohio, committed a couple of key turnovers, missed a field goal or two, piled up 585 yards in a loss and flown home in seething silence.
Instead, they were a model of efficiency against Ray Horton’s tough defense, and won the game going away, 31-17.
Calvin Johnson wasn’t right (two catches), Reggie Bush never got loose, but they kept on grinding. They were 8-of-14 on third down, 3-for-3 in the red zone, added a 51-yard field goal. They had 22 fewer penalty yards than Cleveland (always a bonus on the road), and only turned it over once.
At 4-2, they’ve already played four road games, and are home the next two weeks against the Bengals and Cowboys. With the Packers and Bears both looking a bit shaky, the Lions would hardly be an underdog choice in the NFC North.
Yes, the Detroit Lions.
5. And now, ladies and germs, give it up for News and Notes!
Carolina is the best of the sub-.500 crowd right now. They flashed the dominant defense today, Cam Newton is a top-10er when he’s on, and there are just a lot of good things happening down there. They’re still probably going nowhere, but they’re doing it with style. …
That 26.5-point line in Denver was beyond ridiculous, and it was pretty clear that Jacksonville was going to cover early on. Denver’s defense is not good – at all – and the return of Justin Blackmon (and absence of Blaine Gabbert) were huge boosts for this team. Jacksonville put up 362 yards of offense, and was more than respectable on defense. Greatest 16-point loss ever. …
All the Steelers needed to beat the Jets was Bill Cowher in the announcer box and a confident Ben Roethlisberger on the field (23-30, 264, 1 TD, 0 INT). They held the Jets to 4.7 yards a play and six points, and more importantly moved the ball against a tough NY defense. The Steelers aren’t going to win the AFC North, but 8-8 won’t be a shock if they play like they did Sunday. …
Minnesota needs to get on the phone and build for next year. The Vikings are not ready for prime time – this is the year they were supposed to have in 2012 – but they have two very desirable pieces in 2014 free agents Jared Allen and Kevin Williams. Dealing one or both of the 30+ defensive linemen could bring in a high pick to add to the extra third-rounder they got for Percy Harvin. With three washout QBs on the roster, it’s all about the future. …
Guess Carson Palmer isn’t the answer for the Cardinals. He’s a step above last year’s mess in the desert, but 11 interceptions in six games is not what the defense-first Cardinals need. Perhaps if they could run the ball well for the first time since the 1970s (not even kidding here), it might help. They did go for 109 yards Sunday vs. San Fran, but threw it 42 times and only ran 21.
Russell Wilson’s streak of not ever losing by more than 7 is still alive. … The Packers’ 19-17 win in Baltimore felt like it should have been a blowout; with all the injuries in Green Bay, they’ll have to be more efficient to pull out the NFC North. … Give it up for Buffalo fill-in Thaddeus Lewis (19-32-216-2TD, 0 INT, one fumble lost), who played better against the Bengals than Tom Brady did the week before. They lost in OT, but good move by coach Doug Marrone elevating Lewis over deer-in-the-headlights Jeff Tuel. ... Huge win for the 4-2 Bengals, although it never should have gotten to overtime. Tough to tell how good they are – all six games have been within 10 points, and they’ve looked like a different team every week. … The Saints can’t be sweating their road loss to New England too much, with Tampa out of it, Atlanta on life support and the Panthers eternally mediocre.