Friday, September 14, 2012
Final Word: NFC East
By Dan Graziano
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:
Pivotal odds week. Three of the NFC East's four teams won in Week 1, which means the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles each have a chance to start the season 2-0. Teams that have started the season 2-0 since 1990 have reached the postseason 63.7 percent of the time. Teams that have started the season 1-1 over that time have reached the postseason only 41 percent of the time. A 1-1 record is the best for which the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants can hope, and they certainly don't want to start 0-2. Since 1990, teams starting the season 0-2 have reached the playoffs only 12 percent of the time. And of the 46 Super Bowl champions, only three have started their seasons 0-2. Of course, the last Super Bowl champ to do so was the 2007-08 Giants, several of whom remain on the current team. So it's not as though you could count them out.
LeSean McCoy gained 76 rush yards before first contact last Sunday but faces a stiff test against the Ravens.
Two different backs. According to ESPN Stats & Information's "Next Level" stats, Baltimore's Ray Rice and Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy are ranked second and third in rushing yardage in the NFL since the start of the 2011 season. However, Rice has collected 80 percent of his yards and all of his touchdowns in formations that include a fullback, while McCoy has picked up 88 percent of his yards and 10 of his 17 touchdowns out of single-back sets. The Eagles rely on aggressive blocking by their offensive line to clear room for McCoy. His 76 rushing yards before first contact were the most of any running back in the NFL in Week 1.
Giants must wrap up. Sticking with that theme (and those Next Level numbers), the Giants allowed 66 rushing yards after contact to the Cowboys in Week 1, the fourth-highest total in the league, though 49 of the 66 came on one DeMarco Murray run. Tampa Bay rookie Doug Martin, whom the Buccaneers traded up to select one pick before the Giants took David Wilson at the end of the first round, was fourth in the league in Week 1 with 55 rushing yards after contact.
The new Redskins' offense. Mike Shanahan said he would change his offensive scheme to fit rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and in Week 1 he was true to his word. Griffin used play-action on 16 drop-backs last Sunday in New Orleans, which is the second-highest total of play-action pass plays since Shanahan became the Redskins' coach. Griffin was 11-of-14 for 237 of his 320 yards on play-action passes. Washington also operated out of a shotgun or "pistol" formation on 54.9 percent of their offensive plays Sunday, which is the second-highest such percentage during Shanahan's time as their coach and just the second time they've been over 50 percent under Shanahan. In his first two years in Washington, the Redskins operated out of shotgun or shotgun-variation sets just 28.2 percent of the time.
Keep up the blitz. The Cowboys had a lot of success when they sent five or more pass-rushers at Eli Manning in Week 1. The Giants' quarterback was only 3-of-7 in those situations, a far cry from the way he abused the Cowboys when they blitzed him last year. As they continue to rely on the improved coverage by their defensive backs, the Cowboys could blitz more going forward, and Sunday's game in Seattle might be a good time to try it. Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson was 6-of-18 and took three sacks last week when the Cardinals sent five or more pass-rushers at him.