It’s time to start with either a glass half full or a glass half empty outlook to this week’s blog. If you’re a glass half full guy, well, we’ve still got half of a season to go! For you pessimists, we’re officially halfway through the season. Either way, you’ve still got football this weekend, so get the wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and settle in for some great football.
Three things to keep your eyes and ears open for this weekend:
1. Falcons-Eagles. Interesting matchup between two teams off to very different starts. The Falcons are off to the best start in franchise history… 6-0 for Mike Smith’s squad, but Atlanta doesn’t feel like it’s been flying high of late. It took a 55-yard field goal to beat the Raiders the last time out, Matt Ryan threw three picks and Michael Turner only mustered 33 rushing yards. Coming off the bye, Atlanta will try to improve on running the football this week, as well as shoring up another weakness, run defense.
They’ll get a good test in that category from the Eagles, who also got a bye to rest up for the falcons, but the mood is less optimistic in Philadelphia. Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo after the 3-3 Eagles lost to Detroit in overtime, and Todd Bowles will now try to right the ship on the defensive side. It’s a defense that has only seven sacks this year (and none in the last three games) and will have to hope that the offense doesn’t put them in bad positions after the bye like they did before. Michael Vick has eight interceptions and five fumbles this year, a bad recipe against a Falcons defense that is fourthin the league with 17 takeaways. The Falcons feel very good about this matchup, as Matt Ryan returns home to Pennsylvania to take on the Eagles.
2. Giants-Cowboys. The 3-3 Cowboys go for the sweep of the champs on Sunday afternoon after winning the season-opener back in September. But getting a win in Jerry World against the Giants? Easier said than done. The Cowboys haven’t beaten the G-men at home since the stadium opened a few years ago in Arlington. Eli Manning seems to like the building better than anyone in the league, having thrown for 400 yards to lead the Giants back in the 4th quarter the last time he was in Big D last year. The Giants have done a much better job of late in protecting Eli, but the Cowboys sacked him three times in the first meeting this year at MetLife Stadium.
The big question with the Cowboys, though, is how they’ll manage without leading tackler Sean Lee, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday with ligament damage in his right big toe. Losing someone as important as Lee is sometimes too much to overcome, especially when facing an offense that is as effective as the Giants’ has been for much of this season.
Look for Tony Romo to shoulder much of the burden again, as he did in the first meeting when he threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns. One difference from the early season matchup: DeMarco Murray. He had 131 yards on the ground against New York in game one, but he missed last week’s Panthers game with a sprained foot. How effective he’ll be, and if he plays at all, will be key for the Cowboys’ chances in this one.
3. A critical game in the desert wraps up the week in the NFL and on Westwood One Sports, as the 49ers take on the Arizona Cardinals in a key NFC West matchup. The Niners had a little extra time to recover, following a tough and sometimes ugly win over Seattle one Thursday ago. This one figures to be a low-scoring game too. Neither team gives up much on the defensive side of the ball. The Niners are tops in the NFL with only 272.3 yards per game allowed, and second with 14.3 points allowed per game, while the Cardinals are 4th in the league in total defense.
The Niners have taken control of the division over the last year and a half with head-to-head dominance. San Francisco has won 10 of its last 12 games against NFC West foes, and faces a wounded Cardinals team on Monday. Arizona has lost its last 3 games, and has shown absolutely no ability to protect its quarterbacks. John Skelton is in again for the injured Kevin Kolb, and last weekend, was sacked seven times in a loss to Minnesota. That’s now 35 sacks allowed by the Cardinals this year through seven games, on pace to allow a ridiculous 80 sacks. If the Cardinals can’t figure out a way to protect whoever is playing quarterback, that three0game losing streak will grow to four by the end of Monday Night Football.
Enjoy some delicious wings from Buffalo Wild Wings, a cold beverage or two, and celebrate the halfway point of the football season. Or mourn it. It all depends on whether you see that glass as half full or half empty.
– Kevin Kugler
Westwood One NFL play-by-play announcer Kevin Kugler tackles subjects that are interesting to him each week in his blog. The Football Insider Report is brought to you by Buffalo Wild Wings. Protect the Football. This weekend, Kevin will be in Kansas City as the Chiefs take on the Oakland Raiders. Coverage begins at 3:30 PM Eastern Sunday on Westwood One Sports.