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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
NFC East Stock Watch

By Dan Graziano

NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

1. The Giants' run game. The Giants are 13th in the NFL in rushing attempts, so it's not as though they don't want to run the ball anymore. They're just not doing it well. New York is 28th in the league in rush yards per game (83.8) and 31st in the league in yards per carry (3.2). Those are dreadful numbers for a team that has Ahmad Bradshaw and until this past week had the bruising Brandon Jacobs in the backfield with him. The Giants' inability to generate consistency in the run game is one of the things that kept the Seahawks in Sunday's game, and it's clear that Tom Coughlin, the coaching staff, the offensive line and everyone in the organization is baffled and frustrated about why it's been so hard for the Giants to find running room. You'd like to think they could get it going this week against the Bills, who rank 29th against the run, but they've already played the Eagles (who rank 30th) and the Rams (32nd), so it's not as though they've been facing tough run defenses all year.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick has regressed this season, holding the ball too long and making poorer decisions.
2. Michael Vick. We're seeing real regression here. The stories last year were about his development as a quarterback, and how the issues that kept him from fulfilling his potential in Atlanta were being worked and educated out of him by Andy Reid and the Eagles' coaching staff. But while he's clearly capable of putting up spectacular numbers when he actually finishes the game, Vick is holding the ball too long, forcing throws into coverage, making poor decisions and generally doing the same things he was accused of doing when he was a young player. He seems to once again be relying on his athletic ability to get it done, and his mistakes are outweighing his successes. No, the four interceptions Sunday weren't all his fault, but they weren't his only bad throws, either. Entering this season, the key question about Vick was whether he would continue to treat the quarterback position as a craft he needed to work to hone and improve. He doesn't appear to be doing that, and he's 1-6 in his last seven games dating back to last year's big December comeback in the Meadowlands.

3. Andy Reid. The walls are closing in on the longtime Eagles coach, and if Philly loses in Washington this Sunday it's hard to see a way back for this year's team. Reid, whose record during his tenure in Philadelphia has been exemplary, has already been the target of much fan criticism for his failure to win a Super Bowl despite that record. If this season's team continues to plummet toward rock-bottom the way the Cowboys did last year, the Eagles could be facing a major overhaul in the offseason.

RISING

1. Cowboys health. Top receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant both practiced Monday. The secondary looks as though it's back to full strength with the projected return of Orlando Scandrick. Tony Romo got an extra week to rest his busted ribs. And while the Cowboys were sitting home Sunday, the Eagles and Giants both lost. Dallas comes out of its bye week with a 2-2 record and still behind Washington in the division, but the Cowboys have reason to believe they're positioned for big things the rest of the way. Certainly, the opportunity is there.

2. Redskins run game. Who will get the start? Tim Hightower, the starter from the first four games? Ryan Torain, the dazzling sub from Week 4? Roy Helu, the talented rookie? Each is eager to get at that Philadelphia run defense, and whether one of them is the bell cow or all three share carries this week, Washington coming off its bye will have a perfect opportunity to do exactly what it wants to do against the Eagles' soft defense -- run, run and run some more.

3. Jason Pierre-Paul. Amid the mess that was the Giants' inexcusable home loss to Seattle was another stellar game by the Giants' second-year pass-rusher. With Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck both missing time so far because of injuries, Pierre-Paul has been a mainstay at defensive end and a key reason the Giants' pass rush has remained the strength of its defense. Another 2.5 sacks Sunday gave him seven for the season, and even when Umenyiora and Tuck are healthy together, it's going to be hard for the Giants to take Pierre-Paul out of the defensive line rotation much, if at all.