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September 19, 2017

The Eagles can take a Giant step and bury a division rival on Sunday

We’re only two games into the regular season – and still without an up-close-and-personal home-field look at the 2017 edition of the Philadelphia Eagles – and already there is a clear division of thought about the team’s direction.

The Eagles will open their home season on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field against the New York Giants and there will be plenty of fans with binoculars trying to figure out if what they have seen during the first two weeks indicates that the glass is more than half full … or if it will be empty by the time autumn rolls into the early weeks of winter.

More than half full?

That’s what these eyes are seeing and some of that has to do with the team that is arriving in Philadelphia on Sunday. For those who missed it, the Giants looked just awful on Monday night when they lost at home to the Detroit Lions, 24-10.

By the time the post-game comments had ended, the team’s coach was questioning the play of veteran quarterback Eli Manning, who could not get a fourth-and-goal play off on time. It certainly would seem logical that a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback would be above such rebuke, but things have not gone well for the Giants and the pressure is on all involved.

The Giants will arrive in Philadelphia for game three of the season in an absolute must-win scenario for them. Lose three in a row and the howling will turn into a call for someone’s head on a Thanksgiving holiday platter.

In fact, the whole thing might turn into a pumpkin patch of discontent by Halloween, never mind Thanksgiving.

Yep, while the Eagles split their first two games on the road, the team’s two top rivals were having all sorts of issues.

Sweet as it might be to revel in the woes of the New York Giants, it is even more delicious to watch things unravel in Dallas. Those Cowboys looked discombobulated on Sunday night when they were left gasping in the thin air of Denver after a 42-17 whipping at the hands of the Broncos.

It’s a fair point to suggest Denver is a tough place for anybody to win, but it wasn’t just the loss that spells trouble for the Cowboys – it is the way it all played out in typical Dallas bigger-than-life fashion.

The Cowboys simply did not show up with a high compete level and worst offender was none other than Ezekiel Elliott. The ultra-talented running back who wowed the NFL in his rookie season has not followed it up with any sort of greatness.

Elliott has already been sent a warning shot by the NFL and he is only playing because of some legal wrangling over his pending suspension over claims of domestic abuse. Rather than play with the sort of passion to make people put those issues aside for at least the time it takes to play a football game, Elliott has put himself in an even darker light.

During Sunday’s game, Elliott flat out quit after Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott threw an interception. Elliott made no attempt to even make a fake effort to chase down the defender.

Instead, he stood flat-footed and looked very much like a loafer and a guy who just doesn’t get it. For a player who should be putting his best foot forward, all Elliott has done is make you wonder why the Cowboys don’t put a swift kick in the direction of his rear end to get him motivated.

Coach Jason Garrett is now charged with trying to talk some sense into Elliott in the attempt to get the Cowboys’ season back on a winning track.

Maybe it can be done, but it certainly appears that the Cowboys are facing as many demons from within as from the competition, while the Giants are on teetering on an early-season cliff.

The other team in the division? Why that would be the Washington Redskins, and the Eagles have already scrubbed away their recent failures against them with an opening-day victory in Washington.

So, why even suggest the glass isn’t more than half full this early in the season?

Well, despite playing well enough in Kansas City to stay even with the powerful Chiefs for a half, and still almost tieing the game on a last-second Hail Mary, there are looming issues with an offensive line that is putting franchise quarterback Carson Wentz in peril several times a game.

There is also the lack of a legitimate running game. Head coach Doug Pederson simply has not even attempted to get the running game untracked, and he is being vague as to whether the reason has more to do with the play of the offensive line or the fact neither LeGarrette Blount nor Wendell Smallwood can hit the holes in time.

Then again, it could be that Pederson simply will not live with a series of failed attempts early in order to prime the engines of both the running backs and the linemen to get them hitting on all cylinders as the game continues.

Given the current status of the NFC East, the addition of prime-time receivers for Wentz to target, and the rising tide of a defense that looks like it will become a real bully force as the weather gets colder, things really should be looking up for the Eagles and their fans.

But these are fans that are not fooled often, and they have a very real fear that this high-octane quarterback will be running on empty, or wind up in the breakdown lane if the running game does not develop.

Run over the Giants, and all will be full of optimism next Monday.