Week 7 in the 2014 season featured last-minute wins, upsets, a reinforcement of the top team in the AFC and some clarity in an NFC East that features the Eagles and Dallas on top looking down.
We watched from the vantage point of a bye week, one that ends with the Eagles starting a week of preparting for a huge game against Arizona, one of the best teams in the NFL. A peek around the NFC saw Green Bay and Detroit continuing to roll, New Orleans continuing to stumble along with the rest of the NFC South, the 49ers taking a beating in Denver (and losing a key offensive lineman in the process), Seattle losing its second consecutive game and Dallas flexing its muscle against a Giants team heading in the wrong direction.
Here are some snapshots from a wild weekend of football that included a trade that came from nowhere and appears to weaken the defending Super Bowl champions. It was another weekend that reminds everyone why the NFL is unrivaled for its drama and passion ...
- First, the Cowboys. They beat the Giants 31-21 and if anyone believes the Cowboys are a mirage, forget it. The offense is multi-dimensional operating behind a strong line and it just functions so much better than in recent years. There aren't a lot of hurried snaps. Quarterback Tony Romo has never been better. He's got weapons all over the place. DeMarco Murray is dominating the league. On the other side of the ball, coordinator Rod Marinelli has proven to be the right choice. Projected by many to have the worst defense in the league, the Cowboys have been solid, and very good at times. Don't look now, but the NFC East is a two-team race and the Cowboys aren't going away. The Eagles need to beat Dallas to win the NFC East, because the Cowboys aren't going to lose many games on the rest of their schedule. A great rivalry is so much more competitive this season.
- The Giants, on the other hand, are headed in the wrong direction. They showed more fight at Dallas than they did at Lincoln Financial Field, but the Giants are bogged down by penalties, turnovers and a lack of competitiveness at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. New York's running game lacks explosiveness and the defense just creates no pressure. Upcoming for the Giants: Vs. Colts, at Seattle, vs. 49ers and vs. Cowboys. At 3-4, the Giants are going to have to pull a dramatic 180-degree turnaround to move into contention in the division.
- Washington pulled out a 19-17 win over Tennessee for its second win of the season, but this team is in serious trouble at quarterback. The Kirk Cousins Era ended abruptly on Sunday as he was pulled in favor of Colt McCoy, and while McCoy helped Washington beat the Titans, his track record suggests that McCoy isn't any kind of long-term answer. When does Robert Griffith III return? It's hard to envision Washington doing much damage in the NFC East this season.
- Green Bay is going to be formidable when the Eagles visit in November. Tough, tough game. The Packers are loaded and are playing terrific football. The Packers rolled on Sunday against a Carolina team that is really playing poorly to set up a really interesting Sunday night game against New Orleans. The Saints blew a fourth-quarter lead in Detroit to fall to 2-4 and head coach Sean Payton was testy with the media after the game. Isn't New Orleans a team that nobody wants to play in the Superdome in the playoffs? No doubt. I still think the Saints emerge from the NFC South (which Carolina leads at 3-3-1) but it's going to be tough for New Orleans with all the mistakes that team is making.
- Not sure that Detroit is for real, but the Lions surely showed something coming from 13 points down to beat the Saints, 24-23. The Lions played without wide receiver Calvin Johnson and still gutted out the victory witih a last-minute touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play. The Lions sure are good at home. Away from the Dome, not so sure ...
- Center Daniel Kilgore was carted off the field on Sunday night in the 49ers' loss at Denver, a potentially crucial injury for a line that is already missing guard Mike Iupati and a bunch of defensive standouts. Aldon Smith returns in November to add some pass rush for the San Francisco defense. The Cardinals are the team to beat right now in the NFC West.
- Seattle traded wide receiver Percy Harvin and it sounds reasonable as to the thinking. Harvin had a big cap number, was hurt a lot and reportedly was involved in a few locker room altercations. Does Seattle have enough weapons on offense now? Two successive losses would suggest that the answer is no. It's going to be telling to see the Seahawks when they visit in November. Quarterback Russell Wilson is going to have to win some games from the pocket as teams scheme to slow his scrambling. The Seahawks, loaded with injuries, had a bad loss in St. Louis on Sunday.
- Denver is flat-out awesome. The addition of DeMarcus Ware adds another pass-rushing presence off the edge and gives the Broncos defense some legitimacy. The offense is, of course, incredible. Peyton Manning is a machine. Who beats the Broncos in the AFC? San Diego? The Chargers are good, but as Kansas City showed on Sunday, the Chargers are far from unbeatable. The Chiefs had a great win on the road. New England? No thanks. Not enough around quarterback Tom Brady. The Colts? That defense isn't ready. Baltimore is playing outstanding football right now and might have the best shot.
- Last one here: Is there any team more difficult to get a read on than Chicago? The Bears are 0-3 at home after losing to Miami in a game that wasn't all that close. Weren't the Bears expected to be a Super Bowl-contending team? Chicago is 3-4 and in danger of wasting a whole lot of offensive talent. Bizarre team. And very fun to watch on a bye weekend for the Eagles. Now it's back to work for the team, with a very difficult game in Arizona on Sunday ahead.