Final Word: NFC East

September, 29, 2012
9/29/12
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Look out for an air show: The odds favor a lot of passing yards in Sunday's game between the Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The teams rank as the two worst pass defenses in the league this season. Washington is giving up 9.1 yards per pass attempt, tied with the Saints for second-worst in the league, better than only the Giants (9.3 yards a pass). The Bucs are allowing 8.9 yards per attempt, fourth-worst. The Redskins rank 31st in the league in passing yards allowed per game, and the Buccaneers rank 32nd. So although Washington and Tampa Bay rank only 22nd and 30th, respectively, in passing offense so far this season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see both passing games get on track Sunday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeArizona Cardinals
Jennifer Stewart/US PresswireTo win Sunday, Michael Vick and the Eagles must avoid turnovers against the opportunistic Giants.
Here, you take it: The New York Giants have forced eight turnovers this season, third-most in the NFL through three weeks. On Sunday night, they play the Philadelphia Eagles, who have committed 12 turnovers. My friend and colleague Mike Sando emailed Thursday night to tell me the Eagles have turned the ball over more times this season than have the Falcons, Patriots, Redskins, Texans, Seahawks and Jaguars combined, and two more times than the 49ers did all of last season. That's completely ridiculous, and if the Giants can get any kind of pass rush against Michael Vick and force him to make the kinds of bad decisions that have characterized his season so far, it's not likely to get any better Sunday night.

Something's got to give: According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" numbers, the Eagles' pass defense has allowed only five completions on throws more than 10 yards downfield so far this season. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has averaged seven such completions per game. Manning's completion percentage when throwing the ball more than 10 yards downfield this season is 60.0. The Eagles' defense is allowing a completion percentage of just 18.5 on such throws. Manning is the toughest test yet for an Eagles pass defense that has made its bones against Brandon Weeden, Joe Flacco and Kevin Kolb. But on the flip side, Manning hasn't faced a tough pass defense since the Cowboys in Week 1. He's put up huge numbers the past two weeks against Tampa Bay and Carolina.

Romo on the run: According to our "Next Level" stats, the Chicago Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks in spite of sending four or fewer rushers on 77.5 percent of opponents' dropbacks. Especially against the Dallas Cowboys' porous offensive line, the Bears are likely to generate considerable pressure on quarterback Tony Romo in the "Monday Night Football" matchup. If Romo can avoid sacks, however, this could be a good thing for Dallas. Since 2010, Romo has thrown 12 touchdown passes without an interception when throwing from outside the pocket. That's the highest total in the NFL over that time.

Defensive struggle: Unlike that Bucs-Redskins game on Sunday, Monday night's game looks as though it could be a low-scoring affair. The Cowboys are allowing an NFL-low 250 yards per game this season. The Bears' average is sixth-best in the league at 279 yards allowed per game. If someone can get on the scoreboard early, it could have a distinct advantage the rest of the way.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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