With the Dallas Cowboys on the bye this week, these are a few of the NFL games that we can pay attention to. Primarily, sizing up the NFC East teams.
Philadelphia travels to Pittsburgh:
The Steelers are coming off a bye rested and getting healthier. Both teams struggle to protect the quarterback but the Eagles manage to run the ball better than the Steelers. The Steelers are an NFL best on offense in converting third downs while the Eagles are third in the league not allowing them. On the flip side to that, the Steelers really struggle with their own third down defense ranking 30th. This Eagles offense has been a turn over machine and the last thing Andy Reid and his offensive staff want to do is give the Steelers short field opportunities. If the Eagles manage to win this game, its bad news for the rest of the NFC East because they have already beat Baltimore at home which leaves just Cleveland and Cincinnati on the schedule and the real possibility of going 4 – 0 against the AFC North which is a feat in itself. Pittsburgh will not be able to run the ball so it will come down to their receivers having to win on the outside against these Eagles corners. If the Steelers can keep Roethlisberger up right, their chances of winning improve greatly but that is a big if. I have always believed in the NFL that the more desperate team finds a way to win. With the Steelers looking at the possibility of being 1 – 3 that thought has already begin to sink in as they were on their bye.
Atlanta travels to Washington:
I have always felt like that if you take Atlanta out of the Georgia Dome, you had a great chance to defeat them but the Falcons made a cross country trip and slapped around a pretty good San Diego squad. The Redskins had a physical game last week in Tampa and managed to come away with a victory. The Falcons stole a game from the Panthers that they had no business winning but to their credit, they did. The Redskins really struggle to put pressure on the quarterback and without Brian Orakpo that job has become even more difficult. Matt Ryan and the talented wide receiver core for the Falcons of Roddy White and Julio Jones will make it difficult on the Redskins back end. Where the Falcons struggle is playing run defense and Mike Shanahan knows this and will use Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III to try and control this game much like he was able to do against the Saints opening day. The Falcons are 29th in the league on third down defense and ranked 31st in the red zone. The Redskins have more than enough talent to play with the Falcons but if it turns into a tight, tough game, their kicker Billy Cundiff is one of the worst in the league when it comes to connecting on kicks, just something to keep on eye on.
Denver travels to New England:
There has been a ton of talk in NFL circles that Peyton Manning is playing with limited arm strength and opponents are game planning for that. The Broncos have a real weapon in receiver Demaryius Thomas and how the Patriots play against him will tell you a lot of how they really feel about Manning’s arm strength. Denver’s offensive line is ranked 10th in the league in protecting Manning while the Patriots are ranked 25th in the league at sacks per attempt. So if Manning gets time, there could be some plays made down the field. Throughout his career Bill Belichick has been able to defense Manning like no others. On the other side of the ball, Tom Brady has the Patriots offense humming and with Steven Ridley running the ball with effectiveness it has taken pressure off Brady. You could say that this game could come down to turnovers but Brady doesn’t make those mistakes and the Broncos don’t intercept many passes. The Patriots do a great job of holding the ball and converting third downs where the Broncos have struggled on third down defense. I have a feeling that both quarterbacks will be protected, but this game will come down to who is better in the secondary.
And if you’re REALLY bored:
The New York Giants play Cleveland
IRVING, Texas – While the players and coaches will be off most of the weekend here during the bye, the Cowboys are still trying to churn the bottom of the roster.
There is an open roster spot, and the Cowboys have worked out two players now this week after former receiver Raymond Radway had a workout Friday at Valley Ranch.
Radway has spent the last two training camps with the team and all of last year on injured reserve after he broke his leg on the final play of the 2011 preseason. Radway returned this season and just didn’t show the same burst during training camp and the four preseason games.
He worked out for the scouts and selected coaches on Friday. Radway does have practice-squad eligibility so there is a chance the Cowboys could sign him to the squad and call up another player to the active roster.
The current practice squad consists of receivers Danny Coale and Tim Benford, defensive tackles Robert Calloway and Ben Bass, guard Ron Leary, fullback Jamize Olawale and running back Lance Dunbar, who actually went on a road trip to New York to start the season with the plan he would be called up to the roster. That never materialized but Dunbar is someone with speed and quickness that could bolster the special teams.
Earlier this week, the Cowboys worked out former cornerback Bryan McCann, although it’s unlikely he will be re-signed at this point.