GOLDBERG ON FOOTBALL: Overrated underachievers? Print
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Thursday, 09 October 2008 10:40
NFL Headline News

 Donovan McNabb apologized this week for the Philadelphia Eagles' 2-3 start, blaming himself more than his teammates.
Maybe he should have blamed all the people who thought the Eagles would be a power this season.
Like a number of teams, they aren't as good as the preseason hype and never were. What looks good on paper never plays out unless a team avoids injuries and/or a brilliant rookie or newcomer emerges.
Though the Eagles have a potentially brilliant rookie, they haven't avoided injuries and they were never as good as the Giants or Cowboys. Their loss at home to the Redskins last week after taking a 14-0 lead suggests they aren't as good as Washington, either.
A capsule look at teams that haven't lived up to expectations:
-Philadelphia (2-3). ``I'm embarrassed with the way we played the past two weeks,'' McNabb wrote in his blog. ``I believe that we lost to teams we should have beaten. Not because I think they are not good - they are. But I still believe we are better; we just didn't show it.''
Sorry, Donovan, but look at the scoreboard.
The Eagles' defense was devastating against Pittsburgh, when it registered nine sacks. But it is light up front and depends on blitzing, which means if an opponent can read the blitzes and block them, it moves the ball.
The offense has one true threat: running back Brian Westbrook, who missed the Chicago game with an ankle injury and might be out this week with broken ribs. The injuries are why he's averaging 3.6 yards a carry and 6.9 yards a reception. In 2007, those marks were 4.8 and 8.6.
Receiving? Only rookie DeSean Jackson scares opponents. He also scares the Eagles. Rookies make mistakes. He's made big plays and bad plays, both as a wideout and on special teams.
Short yardage? The Bears and Redskins both stuffed Philadelphia at the goal line. Blame the lack of a big back and a big offensive line that plays with finesse more than power. The Eagles miss injured guard Shawn Andrews badly.
Sure, the Eagles belong in the top half of the league. In the NFC East, that means last place.
-Dallas (4-1). Yes, Dallas. That's because everyone had the Cowboys in the Super Bowl and a retired wide receiver who used to wear No. 19 suggested on television the week before they lost that they were likely to go unbeaten.
s also unclear who's calling the plays: Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett or some combination of the above.
Then, there's the combustible cast of characters JJ has assembled.
Who knows what will become of the former Pacman after his alleged fight this week with one of his team-hired bodyguards? At the very least, commissioner Roger Goodell, who reinstated Jones a week before the season, will review it. At the most, he'll be suspended or cut - as respected columnist Randy Galloway suggested this week.
Then there's T.O. showing signs of turning his third season in Dallas into replays of San Francisco and Philadelphia.
After being involved in a third of the plays in the loss to the Redskins two weeks ago, Terrell Owens complained he hadn't gotten the ball enough. In a win over the Bengals that was closer than it should have been, Owens made a 57-yard TD catch, then went through a strange postgame routine in which he talked about religion, cried and didn't take any questions.
This week, T.O. said he was concerned about the death of a family member, something he didn't mention after the game.
Compare how the Cowboys handle these things to what the Giants do. They dumped Jeremy Shockey before the season, suspended Plaxico Burress last week and won 44-6 without him.
and Redskins (maybe). You can't argue that New York and Washington aren't better teams.
-San Diego (2-3). The Chargers can point all they want to last season, when they also started 2-3 and reached the AFC title game. But this team is not as good.
Playing without the injured Shawne Merriman, one of the NFL's top defensive players, is a big reason San Diego is 28th in overall defense and last in pass defense.
LaDainian Tomlinson, playing on a sore toe, is averaging 3.7 yards a carry. Philip Rivers, only 13-of-28 for 159 yards in Miami last week, has had passer ratings of just 58.8 and 76.3 the last two weeks, ending a string of six straight regular-season games in triple digits.
Norv Turner is a wonderful offensive coordinator but a so-so head coach. That's probably because general manager A.J. Smith wants someone compliant after feuding with Marty Schottenheimer. Smith is great at acquiring players. Not so great at hiring coaches.
-Minnesota and New Orleans (2-3). Anyone who watched these two try to hand each other a game Monday night saw the problems firsthand.
Coughlin) who looks in the mirror when his job is in danger and adjusts to the circumstances.
The Saints can blame injuries, too - although they should have noted when they traded for Shockey that he's never been healthy for a full season. With Deuce McAllister clearly not the old Deuce, they also lack what Philadelphia lacks: a back who can get a yard on third-and-2 feet.
-Indianapolis (2-2). Started at least 7-0 in each of the last three seasons, but no mystery here. The Colts are the perfect demonstration of why an extremely well-run organization can't always field a champion: injuries and age.
-Jacksonville (2-3). Same situation as Indy - a well-run organization done in by injuries, especially on the offensive line. They also need a better pass rush - rookies Derrick Harvey and Quentin Groves were drafted to go after quarterbacks, but Groves' 1 1/2 sacks are the total for both.
-Seattle (1-3). It's not clear if the Seahawks are underachievers or just bad. Their only win is over St. Louis, so draw your own conclusions. They signed Julius Jones, who brought Dallas with him to the Northwest - before the Giants game, he was belittling the NFC East. OK, 61 yards on 17 carries, and ... New York 44, Seattle 6. Not the best way for Mike Holmgren, a good guy and a good coach, to go out.
. ``Everyone talks about it. The way they started and the way they finished gives everybody hope.''
Jackson is talking about New York's 0-2 start last season before the turnaround and Super Bowl win. He's suggesting that the Browns, who play the Giants Monday night, might do the same.
Dream. Dream, dream, dream. Dream.
---
DIRTY DOZEN: The top six and bottom six teams in the NFL, based on current level of play:
1. New York Giants (4-0). Fewer expectations than some of the above. A lot of skeptics picked them third in their division, assuming the Super Bowl run was a fluke. It wasn't.
2. Tennessee (5-0). No style points with Kerry Collins running the offense, but 5-0 speaks for itself.
3. Washington (4-1). Six weeks ago, Jim Zorn was considered over his head as a head coach.
4. Dallas (4-1). Given the expectations, No. 4 is underachieving.
5. Pittsburgh (4-1). Ben Roethlisberger might be the MVP of the season's first quarter. Takes a beating behind a shaky offensive line and still makes plays.
6. Carolina (4-1). Julius Peppers decided to show up this season.

27. Seattle (1-3). The defense has allowed 111 points in three losses.
28. Cincinnati (0-5). Vying with Houston for the honor of being the NFL's best winless team.
29. Cleveland (1-3). Yes, the Browns beat the Bengals. But Carson Palmer didn't play in that game.
Larry Johnson went from 198 yards rushing against Denver to 2 on seven carries in Carolina.
31. Detroit (0-4). With Matt Millen gone, will the Lions' next coach finally have a surname that begins with a letter other than ``M?'' Millen to Mornhinweg, Mariucci and Marinelli.
32. St. Louis (0-4). Look at the schedule and see if you can find a win there.
 

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