- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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What? What do you want?
Oh, right. Mailbag. In answer to about 65 percent of the very angry questions in this week's mailbag: As I write in the post every single week, the All-NFC East team is a cumulative assessment of the season to date, not just a team of who played the best in the most recent week. That's why.
As for the rest of the questions ...
Rob from Brooklyn is one of many readers asking about this deal where the Philadelphia Eagles are going to keep playing teams coming off bye weeks or extra rest. They got the New York Giants last week after the Giants had had nine days off. They get the Steelers this week coming off the Steelers' bye. They get the Lions next week off the Lions' bye. They get the Falcons in Week 8 off the Falcons' bye (but also their own, and you know that stat, right?). They get the Washington Redskins in Week 11 off the Redskins' bye. Seems kind of unfair, is the general consensus among paranoid fans convinced the league is out to get their team. But what effect do we think it will really have, is the most common actual question being asked about this.
Dan Graziano: We went to the Elias Sports Bureau and found that, since the current divisional format began in 2002, teams that are not coming off bye weeks and playing against teams that are have a record of 123-156-1 (.441 winning percentage). That is obviously somewhat discouraging if you're an Eagles fan looking ahead to this middle portion of the schedule. I mean, look, it's going to be tough. You can't look at it and say it doesn't put them at something of a disadvantage. But as I keep telling my 6-year-old, life isn't fair. It's how we handle our challenges that determines our character. The Giants survived a brutal schedule in the second half of last season and came out of it strong enough to win a Super Bowl title. The Eagles have enough on their roster to beat anybody on any given week, regardless of who's coming off the bye and who's not. If they can pick up a couple of these tougher-looking wins, it only makes them stronger for the division race that follows. And if they can't, well, then how good could you feel about their prospects in the playoffs anyway? You've got to be tough to win in January.
David from North Carolina is a Giants fan who's already looking beyond Sunday's game and to next week's NFC Championship Game rematch against the 49ers in San Francisco. Specifically, David wonders whether the Giants are holding out Hakeem Nicks to make sure he's healthy for that game, and also wonders whether the Giants have improved enough on the offensive line to keep the 49ers off Eli Manning better than they did last year.
DG: No, David, I think if Nicks could go this week against Cleveland, he'd go. They don't take teams lightly, and I assure you they aren't assuming they'll beat the Browns just by showing up. As for the offensive line, the Niners present the toughest test it has yet faced, but it did hold up well against the Eagles' pass-rushers, and that's encouraging. If you can keep Trent Cole and Jason Babin out of the backfield, you have reason to believe you can handle almost anyone. Will Beatty's play Sunday night at left tackle was very eye-opening.
Sean from D.C. is a Washington Redskins fan who asks, if the Redskins beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, whether quarterback Robert Griffin III should join Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the MVP discussion.
DG: Obviously, yes. Given all that he means to the offense, the struggles they're having on defense and the way he's played, if the Redskins have a winning record, Griffin would clearly be a candidate for that award. There's a long way to go, and he's sure to have a bad game at some point because everyone does. But yes, he is playing at that level right now, and there's absolutely no reason for Redskins fans not to enjoy the ride and dream big dreams about what Griffin is capable of doing in the years to come.
Mike from Minot, N.D., is exasperated with Dez Bryant and wonders why the Dallas Cowboys are holding onto him since, as Mike puts it, "the 'he's young give him time' argument doesn't really apply to basics at the position."
DG: Actually, it really does, Mike, and for everything else he deserves to have said about him, Bryant is still only 23 years old. Even for a third-year NFL player, he's quite young. They're holding onto him because of his vast potential, which is not in dispute, and because they like him and feel their hard work with him will pay off. I get that fans are impatient, but somewhere over the past few years, the Cowboys have discovered that patience can be a virtue, and it's one they're determined to exercise. Those who seem certain that Bryant will never get it may turn out to be correct, but they can't know for sure yet, and the Cowboys don't see a good reason not to make him a part of their future plans. They are an organization that is focused on building a long-term winner, and if they believe Bryant will be better over the coming seasons than he is now, they're willing to put in the time to continue his development. I think that's the wise way to go.
And hey, thanks for the feedback on the all-22 video analyses. Seems you like them and want more. I will strive to get better at them and continue them as time and schedule permit.
Enjoy the college games. Talk at you tomorrow from Pittsburgh.