As Week 5 of the 2011 NFL season rolls around, one thing for certain is that the hotly-contested NFL East Division race is still anyone's to be had. The New York Giants and the upstart Washington Redskins sit atop the division at 3-1, while the Philadelphia Eagles are lying at the bottom at 1-3, a game behind the third-place 2-2 Dallas Cowboys.
The preseason division favorite Eagles, dubbed by some as the "Dream Team," are being forced to reconsider the name that was coined for them. Michael Vick conceded as much in an interview with ESPN.
The dream team ... that word is dead now.
For all the drama surrounding the Eagles season to this point, it's hard to believe they have only played four games. As was the pre-season concern about the Eagles, injuries sustained by quarterback Michael Vick have forced the Eagles to play with backup Mike Kafka at times. The Eagles offensive line has struggled to keep Vick off the turf, prompting Vick and Eagles Head Coach Andy Reid to berate the league's officials and question how they were handling the treatment of Vick compared to other quarterbacks around the league such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Certainly Vick's style of play contributes to a lot to the type of hits that he takes, but to this point, many of the hits he has received have been on pressure generated in the backfield, and not when he takes off to run.
This week, the Eagles will face the biggest surprise of the young NFL season to date: The 3-1 and AFC East Division-leading Buffalo Bills. The Bills have run over some of the better teams in the NFL to get to where they are, but suffered a setback in Week 4 at Cincinnati. This would appear to be a good match-up for both teams, as both have been among the league-leaders offensively and struggled mightily defensively. Those statistics would seem to indicate a shootout, something the Bills have found success with this year, while the Eagles have been unable to capitalize in such situations. However, for all the offense in this game, expect the team who is able to make the most stops on defense to come away with this important win.
For the Bills, a win could certifiably stamp them as contenders for a playoff berth. For the Eagles, a loss would be devastating to their chances of repeating as NFC East champions, and leave in doubt their ability to even make the playoffs at 1-4.
The New York Giants will also play host to the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday at 1 p.m. The Giants are 3-1 despite a Week 1 drubbing by the Redskins and a litany of injuries, particularly to their defensive backs. Riding the streaky Eli Manning, the Giants find themselves in position to take sole possession of the NFC East lead in Week 5, as the Redskins and Cowboys are idle.
Their opponents, the Seattle Seahawks, have stumbled out of the gates to a 1-3 record. Most of their issues have been offensive, centered around the second-to-last rushing attack in the NFL and below average production by first-year starting quarterback Tavaris Jackson. Jackson, who was once the future at quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, has led the Seahawks to an average of 13.75 points per game. The defense has been average statistically in every sense of the word.
For the Seahawks to replicate the magic of last season's playoff run, they need to avoid losing to the Giants. Dropping to 1-4, even in the NFL's perennially weakest division, would be a big hole to climb out of the way the division-leading 3-1 San Francisco 49ers are playing at the moment.