Wednesday, December 21, 2011
All-NFC East Team: Week 16 update
By Dan Graziano
You can't have as bad a game as Eli Manning had Sunday and keep your spot on the NFC East All-Division Team. Not when your closest competition is playing at such a high level. So we switch quarterbacks again this week, with Tony Romo ascendant. This has been a very close race all year, but statistically Romo is now pulling away. He's well ahead in passer rating and completion percentage. He has six fewer interceptions and one more win. All Manning has on him is yards and a head-to-head victory in which Romo played extremely well. So it's Romo with two weeks to go.
The disclaimer that no one will read: This is an All-Division Team based on overall performance this year to date. It is not -- repeat, NOT -- simply a list of the top performers from this past week. That's why Brent Celek isn't on it. Romo vs. Manning has been a running debate all year, and the main reason Romo has the QB spot this week isn't their relative Week 15 performances but rather the fact that Romo's season has been better than Manning's. Week 15 may have nudged him back ahead, but it's not the sole reason for the change.
I'll get to more explanations after the list.
Quarterback: Tony Romo, Cowboys (Last week: Eli Manning)
Running back: LeSean McCoy, Eagles (McCoy)
Wide receiver: Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz, Giants (Nicks, Cruz)
Tight end: Jason Witten, Cowboys (Witten)
Fullback: Tony Fiammetta, Cowboys (Fiammetta)
Left tackle: Jason Peters, Eagles (Peters)
Left guard: Evan Mathis, Eagles (Mathis)
Center: Will Montgomery, Redskins (Montgomery)
Right guard: Kyle Kosier, Cowboys (Kosier)
Right tackle: Tyron Smith, Cowboys (Smith)
Defensive end: Jason Pierre-Paul Giants; Trent Cole, Eagles (Pierre-Paul, Cole)
Defensive tackle: Cullen Jenkins, Eagles; Jay Ratliff, Cowboys (Jenkins, Ratliff)
Outside linebacker: DeMarcus Ware, Cowboys; Brian Orakpo, Redskins (Ware, Orakpo)
Inside linebacker: London Fletcher, Redskins; Sean Lee, Cowboys (Fletcher, Lee)
Cornerback: Josh Wilson, Redskins; Asante Samuel, Eagles (Wilson, Samuel)
Safety: Kenny Phillips, Giants, O.J. Atogwe, Redskins (Phillips, Gerald Sensabaugh)
Kicker: Dan Bailey, Cowboys (Bailey)
Punter: Steve Weatherford, Giants (Weatherford)
Kick returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
Punt returner: Brandon Banks, Redskins (Banks)
- I almost put Jason Babin in at defensive end. Everybody always complains about Babin not being on here, and with six sacks in two games he's now tied for the league lead in the category. He merits strong consideration, and he gets it every week. My question to those who don't like it is: Which guy do I bench for him? Cole's still the better all-around player on Babin's own team, still having the better all-around year, playing the run as well as the pass and drawing double-teams while Babin sells out for the sack on every play. And Pierre-Paul is basically the only thing the Giants have right now on defense, and he's been brilliant. So I put it to you, dear readers: Which of my starting DEs should be dropped for Babin? As of now, my answer is "neither." But he's getting real close. And it's no insult to the guy to rank him behind these two.
- It was a tough week for Nicks and Cruz, but they're not being challenged, really. The Eagles' receivers continue to muddle along, and the Cowboys are spreading it out too much. Nicks and Cruz are leading the division in catches and, by a healthy margin, receiving yards. Their 2011 seasons have been the best by any receivers in the division. I will offer honorable mentions to Dallas' Dez Bryant, who's been very consistent, and Washington's Jabar Gaffney, who ranks third among division wideouts in catches with 58 and yards with 842.
- You know how I feel about cornerback. Nobody in the division is playing it well. Thought about putting Corey Webster back in there, but whatever. He was covering Redskins receivers, and the Redskins picked up every third down. The Cowboys' secondary is a mess, too, which is why Atogwe got the safety spot this week over Sensabaugh. I almost put him in over Phillips, but I think Phillips' 2011 body of work is still better than Sensabaugh's. I've got my eye on that Giants' secondary, too, though. When you break down that much every week, everybody shares responsibility.
So what'd I get wrong?