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Thursday, October 1, 2009
Did we overrate the Beast?

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

 
  Getty Images
 Quarterbacks Donovan McNabb and Jason Campbell lead the two most overrated teams in the Beast.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


It's much too early to make any sweeping statements about the '09 season, but I'm planning to do it anyway. The NFC East is overrated.

I know the division is still showing up atop ESPN.com's Power Rankings -- now syndicated in more than 100 nations -- but that will soon change. The NFC North, commonly referred to as the Favre Division, is on pace to overtake the Beast by next Tuesday -- especially if John "The Professor" Clayton continues to rank the mighty New York Giants sixth overall.

As a former power rankings panelist, I believe the Giants are the best team in the league heading into Week 4. But after that, all bets are off. The Cowboys are 2-1, but our four distinguished voters don't even have them in the top half of the league (No. 17). And only by the grace of God and Clayton did the Redskins end up at No. 26 overall. They deserved much worse after their performance in Detroit.

Now let's take a look at all four teams to see where we may have overrated them. We'll assign them an overrated score on a 1-10 scale. The teams with the highest scores are the most overrated. If you're confused by this ranking system, please skip to the next blog entry:

Anyone who says they have the Eagles figured out is not being truthful: Seriously, how in the world are we supposed to have any feel for this team? They opened by destroying Jake Delhomme's fake elbow and the rest of the Panthers. Now that the Panthers are 0-3, that win doesn't seem quite as impressive. And the Eagles' defense, an alleged strength after Week 1, was awful against the high-flying Saints. The Eagles bounced back with a dominating performance against the Chiefs, but that's a team most teams should dominate.

Eagles coach Andy Reid has brought in the prototypical Wildcat quarterback in Michael Vick, but the formation had nothing to do with the Eagles' win over the Chiefs. The Eagles have an aging star quarterback recovering from a cracked rib and an aging star running back trying to bounce back from an ankle injury. There are simply too many uncertainties in Philly to make any logical guess as to where this team is headed. Reid made the mistake of banking on the highly unpredictable Shawn Andrews to start at right tackle. That's already backfired and I'm not convinced Winston Justice is the answer. Some of us thought the Eagles might have one of the better offensive lines in football heading into the season. That doesn't appear to be the case now.

Overrated factor: 7

I'm pretty sure the Cowboys' pass rush is overrated: The Cowboys are about to face one of the worst 3-0 teams (Denver Broncos) since the merger. After wins over Denver and Kansas City, Dallas will head into a bye with a nice-looking 4-1 record. But there are still some flaws that have emerged. A year removed from leading the league in sacks, the Cowboys were shut out the first two games. They had three sacks in the Monday night win over the Panthers, but two of them came after the game had already been decided.

The Cowboys won't win many games scoring 14 points on offense, although they pulled it off against Carolina. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett seems to be realizing that this team has a new identity. In the post-T.O. era, the Cowboys' best chance for success is in a run-based offense. When Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are all healthy, the Cowboys potentially have the most dangerous running attack in the league. Unfortunately, Jones and Barber appear to be injury prone at this point in their careers. This may sound crazy, but I think the Cowboys are actually the most underrated team in the division right now. Our power rankings specialists put them at No. 17, which seems ridiculously low.

If this team can find anyone to rush the quarterback opposite DeMarcus Ware (hello, Anthony Spencer?), the Cowboys could get on a roll.

Overrated factor: 3


Why do we always fall for the Skins' offseason tricks? Most of us had the Redskins finishing fourth in the division, but a few brave souls (Mort) felt like they belonged in the playoff conversation. The signing of All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was supposed to make this an intimidating defense. But when Lions rookie Matt Stafford calmly picks your defense apart in a 99-yard drive early in a game, you have some problems.

Redskins owner Dan Snyder spent an enormous amount of money on Haynesworth and cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the offseason, but he neglected other areas. Take the offensive line for instance. The Skins brought in Derrick Dockery to address one of the guard spots and they plucked Mike Williams from the Duke weight loss program. The Skins' other starting guard, Randy Thomas, is already out for the season with a triceps injury and he's been replaced by a former third-round pick who appears to be nothing more than a stopgap.

Throw in the team's embattled head coach/quarterback guru Jim Zorn and you have the recipe for a 6-10 season.

Overrated factor: 9.3

At least the Giants are pulling their weight. Unlike some other coaches in the Beast, Tom Coughlin never makes excuses for his team. This a locker room that has battled through a lot of adversity over the past couple years and it seems to inspire the team rather than bring it down. Losing safety Kenny Phillips to a season-ending knee injury is a big deal because he was on his way to becoming a star, but this team will recover.

Eli Manning's also gaining confidence in his young receivers each week. We spent a large portion of the offseason tracking rumors about Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards, but the Giants are getting it done with in-house players. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have already made some clutch plays this season. I think beating the Cowboys in a close game in front of more than 100,000 fans is something that gave this team a huge boost.

The Giants have definitely replaced the Eagles as the Beast's flagship team. And I don't see that changing any time soon.

Overrated factor: 3.2