Final Word: NFC East

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
4:00
PM ET

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 8:

 
 Rich Gabrielson/Icon SMI
 Jay Ratliff could be key to the success of the Cowboys' pass rush on Sunday.
Eli Manning has to do a better job managing this offense on Sunday. I thought he was really bad against the Cardinals -- and I'm not simply talking about the interceptions. He's at his best when the Giants are controlling the tempo of the game. With all that pre-snap mess he was involved with, the Giants weren't able to find any rhythm. Manning's been really good on the deep ball this season, but I'm not sure there will be a lot of opportunities against the Eagles. The Giants need to commit to the running game early and keep Donovan McNabb off the field. When they throw the ball, I think tight end Kevin Boss could be a really good option. There's a good chance that rookie safety Macho Harris will be out for the Eagles and new middle linebacker Will Witherspoon's still trying to get up to speed after joining the Eagles before the Redskins game. I think offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will try to get Boss in a mismatch situation.

Everyone talks about DeMarcus Ware but the Seahawks need to watch out for nose tackle Jay Ratliff. In the little bit that I've seen from the Seahawks, I don't like the way center Chris Spencer responds to power up the middle. He's getting pushed around too much, and I think he'll need help against Ratliff. If Ratliff controls the line of scrimmage and beyond, look for things to open up for Ware and Anthony Spencer in the pass rush. Matt Hasselbeck's still a good quarterback but pressure up the middle will cause him to make mistakes. I don't like this matchup for the Seahawks at all.

This is a game when the Cowboys can unleash their two tight end formation. The talented Martellus Bennett finally showed signs of being a threat last week against the Falcons. The Seahawks struggle at safety with Deon Grant and I've never been a huge fan of Jordan Babineaux's work back there. If Bennett gets matched up with one of those players or linebacker David Hawthorne, I like his chances. Look for either Jason Witten or Bennett to have a big game. I could see them combining for nine or 10 catches easy. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett needs to unleash one or both of them in the red zone in this game.

I sense that either Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyiora is about to have a huge game. I know that Winston Justice has been decent at right tackle for the Eagles, but this matchup brings back nightmares. At least he won't see his old nemesis Umenyiora quite as much in this game. Tuck will line up across from Justice a lot of the time -- when he's not moving inside. Tuck and Umenyiora have taken these two losses personally, and they want to get as many hits on McNabb as possible. It wouldn't shock me at all if they combine for four or five sacks and a forced fumble in this one. I just don't like the Eagles' situation at left and right tackle right now. Jason Peters hasn't really settled into a good rhythm on the left side. And if he's not ready to go Sunday, Umenyiora will make him pay.

Believe me, McNabb's watched a lot of film of what the Saints did to the Giants. The Eagles' receivers might not be as good as the Saints' at winning jump balls but they have plenty of speed. If the Eagles' line is able to give McNabb enough time, you'll see either DeSean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin running free at some point. The Eagles will find safety C.C. Brown on the field and try to throw right at him. Brown certainly can't hold up against Jackson and Maclin, but the real problem will be tight end Brent Celek. I think Andy Reid is starting to realize that he may have a Pro Bowl tight end on his hands. Celek is deceptively fast and he's doing a nice job of running after the catch. We may be watching a star in the making.

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