The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
The bye week was kind to the Redskins. Going into Week 4, the Redskins had the same record as the Eagles at 2-1, but were in 2nd place in the division by virtue of the Redskins loss to the Colts, who were beaten by the Eagles.
While on vacation, the Redskins moved into sole possession of first place in the division, a half-game ahead of the Cowboys and Eagles, thanks to our division foes going 1-2 for the week. The Cowboys actually surged past the Eagles and into second place with their win over the Lions, despite having been outscored by ten points (67-77) through four games. The Giants have maybe a week or two to fix their season; as I mentioned in yesterday’s 5 o’clock club post, with a pair of wins in Weeks 5 and 6, the Giants could actually find themselves leading the division.
That said, not many people are expecting the Giants, who have been outscored by 22 points in the first quarter of the season, to turn things around, and April next year could see the team with a top-5 draft pick for the second year in a row, allowing Dave Gettleman to recover from his failure to select a quareterback in the 2018 draft. Assuming that happens, the Giants could be a force to be reckoned with by, say, 2020.
For now, I thought it would be a bit of fun to simply enjoy the misery that our division rivals have lived through in Weeks 3 & 4, and frolic in the joy of leading the division. After all, when all the games have been played on Sunday, no matter the outcome, the Redskins will still be in sole possession of the division lead, and the Cowboys, Eagles and Giants will still be bringing up the rear.
1 October 2018
Giants lose again, appear headed nowhere
At the quarter mark of their season, this much is obvious: The New York Giants are a franchise headed to nowhere. They’ve changed coaches (multiple times in the past few years), have a new general manager and boast plenty of shiny, explosive weapons.
It all means nothing at this point. All the changes have done nothing to alter the perception or their fate. In fact, it has only been further validated.
The Giants (1-3) are meandering in the wilderness of insignificant teams after their latest loss, a 32-18 setback at MetLife Stadium to the New Orleans Saints. Barring a miraculous turnaround, they seem destined to miss the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years with a flawed roster, stumbling offense and aging quarterback. Not exactly an encouraging trifecta.
After four weeks, the Giants are already in last place in the NFC East. Right back where they ended last year.
They are 0-1 in the division and 0-2 in the conference. More importantly, they are a team with too many holes to see them turning it around anytime soon.
It’s time for the Giants to take a long, hard look in the mirror. They have to figure out where this franchise is headed, who will be their quarterback, and what is a realistic timeline for them to be relevant again. Because right now, they’re not.
1 October 2018
Inability to protect Carson Wentz costs Eagles
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz spent his afternoon under siege.
The Tennessee Titans’ pass rush was coming over the walls from every direction, harassing Wentz from the front side, the blind side and right up the gut. The inability to protect the franchise quarterback, who is coming off a multi-ligament knee injury, is a big reason why the Eagles’ 17-3 advantage evaporated, leading to an eventual 26-23 loss in overtime.
The defense needs to wear some of this as well. Letdowns in the secondary, which was operating without Rodney McLeod (knee) for the first time, led to some big plays in key moments. The Titans converted on fourth down three times in overtime, setting up Marcus Mariota’s touchdown throw to Corey Davis to end it. But that unit has carried the Eagles over the first quarter of the season while the offense tries to round into form, and it appeared gassed at the end.
Wentz was sacked four times and absorbed 11 hits as the Eagles dropped to 2-2.
The Eagles’ offensive line is regarded as one of the best in the league and created plenty of push on Philly’s lone overtime possession, but on this day was unable to solve what defensive coordinator Dean Pees was throwing at them for the most part, especially when he dialed up the blitz.
In order to regain the heights reached in 2017, and more importantly, to avoid another serious injury to the QB, the leaks up front need to get fixed and quick. Next up is a desperate Minnesota Vikings team that will be looking to re-establish their defensive dominance at Philly’s expense.
What's happened to Vikings' vaunted defense since NFC title game and how do they fix it?— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) October 4, 2018
Last season's No. 1 defense is reeling, with a trip back to where it all started next.https://t.co/LCiCLblh73
24 September 2018
Looking to assign blame on Cowboys’ offense? Start with everybody
Three games into the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys have scored four touchdowns.
On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints (thanks to overtime) scored five touchdowns each in their respective games.
If you’re looking for whom to blame for the Cowboys’ poor offensive start to the 2018 season, which is really a carryover from the poor finish to the 2017 season, start with ... everybody.
It’s easy to pick on the quarterback, Dak Prescott, and the playcaller, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, but when things are as bad as they have been, everybody involved deserves a share of the anger.
In their first three games, the Cowboys have had 33 possessions. Four have ended in touchdowns. Four have ended in field goals. Three have ended by taking a knee to end a half or a game. Twenty have not gained more than 25 yards. Only 12 have traveled from Dallas territory to the opponent’s side of the field.
“We’ve got to find exactly our go-to in the passing game and not necessarily am I speaking on a player,” said Prescott, who failed to reach 200 yards passing for the ninth time in the past 11 games. “That’s the thing we’ve got to find out.”
They’ve got to find out fast.
A season hangs in the balance.
ESPN has a feature that runs occasionally where all 4 network beat writers answer the same question about the division. Here are some cherry-picked excerpts from the October 3rd version of this ‘ask the beat writers’ series.
Resetting the NFC East: Has Eagles’ slow start opened up the division?
Is the NFC East suddenly wide open?
The assumption was that the Philadelphia Eagles would be the first NFC East team to repeat as division champs since Andy Reid’s Eagles in 2003 and 2004, but early indications aren’t very encouraging.
Philadelphia finished the regular season last year at 13-3 and won the Super Bowl, but the Eagles have gotten off to a slower-than-expected start, with two losses already.
Has the Eagles’ start opened up the division race to the Washington Redskins, New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys?
Our reporters covering the NFC East take a look:
ESPN Eagles reporter Tim McManus:
It will be a tighter race than most projected. It’s fair to say the Eagles have been fighting a Super Bowl hangover. It is not easy to completely drain yourself for 19 games and have a full tank by September. The focus, coaching and discipline simply haven’t been at 2017 levels. And the run took a physical toll.
Facing a difficult first-place schedule (games against the Vikings, Saints, Jaguars and Rams loom), it will be hard for the Eagles to gain a lot of separation in the division.
The feeling here is that the Redskins pose the biggest threat.
Note from BiB: I’d just like to point out that playing the Saints and Jags has nothing to do with a “difficult first-place schedule” for the Eagles; every team in the NFC East will play every team in the NFC South and AFC South this season. The ‘first-place schedule’ consists entirely of the Vikings and Rams. The Redskins’ two NFCN & NFCW games for this season are the Cardinals and the Packers.
ESPN Giants reporter Jordan Raanan:
There is opportunity for someone other than the Eagles to win the NFC East. Philadelphia hasn’t looked good early and has remaining road games against the Jaguars, Saints and Rams. That’s not easy, even if the Eagles were playing at a Super Bowl level, which they’re not.
The Redskins might be the most likely to threaten this season. They have a veteran team and appear strong up front on both sides of the ball.
The Giants are the long shot. They need a mini miracle. They’re not strong enough on defense to ride that group, and they’re held back offensively by their quarterback and offensive line. The combo of those final two is so toxic that the Giants could be 2-6 before they blink.
ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim:
Before the season opener, Redskins running back Chris Thompson talked about the need for a fast start. Every team wants that, of course, but Thompson knew it was important. Here’s why: “The Eagles have some guys waiting to get healthy, so they may miss guys in a couple games.” And the inference was simple: The Eagles might start slowly, so take advantage.
They are starting slowly; they’re 2-2 and with a few swings here or there they could be 0-4 (or, in fairness, 4-0).
The problem is, when you look long term in the division, who will challenge them? The 2-1 Redskins could make a big statement with a victory at New Orleans on Monday.
The more Wentz plays, the better the Eagles should become. However, with three of their next four games against Minnesota, Carolina and Jacksonville, the Eagles are in a precarious spot.
ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer:
Maybe a Super Bowl hangover is a real thing for every team except the New England Patriots. It is early, so there is no need to panic, but given the schedule at the start of the season, not too many people would have thought the Eagles would be 2-2.
The Cowboys seem to have returned to the 8-8 train they were on after Jason Garrett took over as coach in 2011. Can they get off the win-one, lose-one path and challenge the Eagles? Does any team have the consistency to match up with Philadelphia in the division?
The Redskins appear better suited to make a run than in the past with quarterback Alex Smith, and running back Adrian Peterson might have some tread on the tires.
The Giants should be better, but quarterback Eli Manning’s best days are long gone.
Reaction:— NFL (@NFL) October 4, 2018
The BEST jukes, spins, stiff arms, and hurdles so far this season! pic.twitter.com/SwgDfaQ7mc
Which team has the best chance to unseat the Eagles as division champions in 2018?
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The Eagles are currently 2-2. What will their record be after they play the next 4 games (Vikings, @Giants, Panthers, @Jaguars)?
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The Cowboys are currently 2-2. What will their record be after they play the next 4 games (@Texans, Jaguars, @Redskins, Titans)?
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The Giants are currently 1-3. What will their record be after they play the next 4 games (@Panthers, Eagles, @Falcons, Redskins)?
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