New York Giants: Emmitt Smith

Final Word: NFC East

November, 4, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

From the Dept. of Sore Subjects: The Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks have met twice since the famous 2006 playoff game that Tony Romo blew with a botched hold on a field goal, and I'm sure it comes as little comfort to Cowboys fans to know that Dallas has won both. Even if the Cowboys win and improve to 4-4, this will be the second straight season in which they made it through the first half with a non-winning record. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the last time that happened was 2001-02. They were 2-6 after eight games in 2001 and 3-5 in 2002. Last season, you might remember, they were 1-7.

[+] EnlargeJohn Beck
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireRedskins QB John Beck needs better protection from his offensive line.
Timing John Beck: Is the Washington Redskins quarterback to blame for the 10 sacks he took last week? ESPN Stats & Information has a "next level" number that indicates the issues might lie up front with the offensive line. According to S&I, Beck takes an average of 2.57 seconds to release the ball after it is snapped, which is a league-average figure. Last week, six of the 10 sacks the Bills recorded against Beck and the Redskins happened before that 2.57-mark. So while it was nice of Beck to come out and take responsibility for some of the sacks, the overall problem is, I believe, that banged-up offensive line in front of him. The good news is that offensive lines tend to improve as they play together, so maybe it'll be better this week?

Manning protecting the ball: New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been interception-free in four of his past five games. He had only four games all of last season in which he didn't throw at least one interception. After throwing a league-leading 25 interceptions in 2010, Manning has just five so far this season through seven games. Additionally, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Manning in 2010 had 14.1 percent of his passes either picked off or tipped by a defensive player, which was the sixth highest such figure among qualifying quarterbacks. This season, he's had only 9.1 percent of his passes intercepted or tipped by a defender, which is the 33rd highest such figure among qualifying quarterbacks.

Shady finds the end zone: Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has scored a touchdown in each of his team's first seven games this season. That's the sixth time since the merger that a running back has accomplished that feat. Four running backs -- Dallas' Emmitt Smith in 1999, Washington's George Rogers in 1986, Washington's John Riggins in 1983 and Buffalo's O.J. Simpson in 1975 -- have scored touchdowns in each of their team's first eight games. Also, incidentally, since rookie Danny Watkins took over at right guard for the Eagles in Week 5, Philadelphia is gaining 6.3 yards per carry as opposed to the 5.4 it was gaining with Kyle DeVan as the starter at that spot.

Rematch fun: The Giants-Patriots game is the ninth game this season that has been a rematch of a Super Bowl. The team that won the Super Bowl in question is 6-2 in those games, including the Giants' victory against the Bills in Week 6. The only two that have gone the way the Super Bowl didn't go were the Bills' victory last week against the Redskins and the Packers' Week 4 victory against the Broncos.

Final Word: NFC East

October, 28, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

Trouble getting started: According to the ESPN Stats & Information Group, a big part of the New York Giants' problems running the ball this year have had to do with what happens before their running backs ever get hit. SIG's "next level" stats show that the Giants, who are averaging 3.3 yards per carry this season after averaging 4.6 yards per carry over the previous three seasons, are only gaining 1.6 yards per rush before initial contact. The league average of yards per carry before contact is 2.4, and only the Cleveland Browns (1.3) have a lower number in this category than the Giants do in 2011. Makes you think that maybe Ahmad Bradshaw's complaints about the offensive line weren't far off.

When is home not really home?: The Buffalo Bills have a 3-0 record at home this season, but this week's game against the Washington Redskins is in Toronto. It's the fourth year in a row the Bills have played a home game in Toronto, and they're 0-3 in the games so far. This is good news for the Redskins, who have lost five straight to the Bills since beating them in Super Bowl XXVI and who haven't won in Buffalo since 1987.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
Dale Zanine/US PresswireEagles running back LeSean McCoy is off to a hot start, but faces a Dallas defense ranked No. 1 against the run.
Irresistible force, immovable object: The Philadelphia Eagles rank first in the NFL with 170 rush yards per game, which SIG says would be their highest total for a season since 1950. Star running back LeSean McCoy ranks seventh in the league with 569 rush yards, and quarterback Michael Vick ranks 21st with 372. However, the Dallas Cowboys rank first in the NFL at stopping the run. Dallas allows just 69.7 yards per game on the ground and just 3.3 yards per carry. So it will be interesting to see which side wins out -- and especially interesting to see whether the Eagles stay committed to the run if they're not having success with it early.

Keep it safe, Tony: Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did not throw an interception last week against the Rams, breaking a streak of three straight games in which he'd thrown at least one. Since Romo became the Cowboys' starting quarterback, the team is 17-6 in games in which he does not throw an interception, and 25-19 when he throws at least one. The Eagles have intercepted seven passes in their first six games, but four of those seven came in their most recent game, two weeks ago against Rex Grossman and the Redskins.

Touchdown Shady: McCoy has scored a touchdown in each of the Eagles' first six games this season. He's the first Eagle ever to do that and the first player on any NFL team to do it since 2007, when both Plaxico Burress and T.J. Houshmandzadeh did it, according to ESPN Stats & Info. The only other running backs in the past 15 years to score touchdowns in each of their team's first six games of a season were LaDanian Tomlinson of the Chargers in 2005, Emmitt Smith of the Cowboys in 1999 and Robert Edwards of the Patriots in 1998. Smith did them all one better, scoring in each of the Cowboys' first seven games that season.