We're a furlong past the quarter-pole mark in a 32-horse race… so let's allow ourselves a shallow moment of celebration… we are still in the running with the reins held in…and we avoided a false start or stumble out of the gate.
Thanks to Robert Dougherty of Yahoo.com (who is a huge Eagles fan by the way), we get a concensus recap of the latest power rankings in the NFL—
The Philadelphia Eagles have been hovering in and out of the top 10 of the NFL power rankings all year. Eagles fans will have a hard time ranking them very high regardless, until they win a game without needing a last minute comeback. But since Philadelphia couldn't do that in Week 5, it is back to the outside of the power rankings elite going into Week 6.
The Eagles are lucky that not many other clubs are doing too well, aside from the very best. The Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons now lead the way as the only two unbeaten teams left, while the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens safely round out the top 5. Aside from that, the rankings are anyone's guess.
Dougherty's best guess has the Eagles down to No. 11, with the Pittsburgh Steelers jumping over them after narrowly beating them on Oct. 7 – despite still having a worse record. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers also have to round out the top 10 despite now being 2-3 – although their reputation can't bail them out forever.
The Eagles remain in first place via a tiebreaker over the New York Giants, yet the Giants have to be ranked higher after their late explosion over the Cleveland Browns. However, that is subject to change again with the Giants visiting the scorching 49ers on Oct. 14.
The Eagles' position in the NFL power rankings has hardly been constant. Yet it has been somewhere between the bottom of the top 5 and just below the top 10 most every week. There are far worse places to be, but Philadelphia would prefer to be in a better one – and if its late game luck really is running out, it will be in a worse place soon.
With the Eagles hosting the desperate 1-3 Detroit Lions on Oct. 14, a win – even a decisive win – may not move them too far up the rankings before their bye week. At the least, it is less noteworthy than it would have been to beat the Steelers on the road.
But thanks to a last-second Pittsburgh field goal and another couple of Michael Vick errors, the Birds are on the outside of the elite again. Below, Dougherty's full Week 6 NFL power rankings show how far out the Eagles are this time…
1. Houston Texans: 5-0
2. Atlanta Falcons: 5-0
3. San Francisco 49ers: 4-1
4. Baltimore Ravens: 4-1
5. New England Patriots: 3-2
6. Chicago Bears: 4-1
7. New York Giants: 3-2
8. Arizona Cardinals: 4-1
9. Pittsburgh Steelers: 2-2
10. Green Bay Packers: 2-3
11. Philadelphia Eagles: 3-2
12. Minnesota Vikings: 4-1
13. Cincinnati Bengals: 3-2
14. Dallas Cowboys: 2-2
15. San Diego Chargers: 3-2
16. Seattle Seahawks: 3-2
17. Denver Broncos: 2-3
18. St. Louis Rams: 3-2
19. Detroit Lions: 1-3
20. Indianapolis Colts: 2-2
21. Washington Redskins: 2-3
22. Miami Dolphins: 2-3
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1-3
24. New York Jets: 2-3
25. Buffalo Bills: 2-3
26. Carolina Panthers: 1-4
27. New Orleans Saints: 1-4
28. Oakland Raiders: 1-3
29. Tennessee Titans: 1-4
30. Kansas City Chiefs: 1-4
31. Jacksonville Jaguars: 1-4
32. Cleveland Browns: 0-5
These rankings, as subjective as they are, do give me a better feel of where we are in the early running…of course, always realizing that the goal is to finish strong with a big kick, a healthy team and a stack of "W's" in the rear view mirror.
Meanwhile, one last look at the Steelers game…
People be complaining about the lack of Eagles' sacks on Big Ben? Seriously? Do you know how much preparation Big Ben has taken to avoid sacks? He basically has built his game around the art of avoiding sacks…
Watch his footwork and his sidestep moves and his forward vision with just a little bit of his peripheral awareness… plus the strategy of his linemen blocking so as to allow the acceleration of the Eagles rushers to work against themselves… All of this will be evident in the NFLN Replay which will show Wednesday night at 9:00 PM EST… What you will see is how masterfully Big Ben and the Steelers' offensive line allowed the Eagles' pass rush to come downfield too fast too deep…and then the Steelers' protection guys merely filled in from behind as Big Ben stepped up or around the pressure…
Quite an effective answer to the Eagles' overly-aggressive 9-technique, I might add..
The Eagles' defense played well for most of the game, holding the Steelers to just one touchdown. But they failed to get any sacks against Ben Roethlisberger and did not force any turnovers.
"We tried to get to him as best we could," DE Trent Cole said Sunday. "But he gets rid of the ball fast. He takes two steps and throws the ball fast."
Other defenses had gotten to him this season. Roethlisberger was sacked nine times in the Steelers' first three games while operating behind a porous offensive line.
But the Eagles, who tied for the league lead with 50 sacks in 2011, couldn't drop him.
"I know we're measured here on sacks, but I think we're doing a decent job with the pressure part of it," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday in quotes provided by the team. "What we saw last year was maximum sacks and a lot of scoring. What you're seeing this year is not a lot of sacks and we're keeping the scoring down."
Defensive end Jason Babin, who led the team with 18 sacks last season, has 2 this season and has been shut out in three of the last four games. Cole, who ranks third in franchise history with 69 sacks, has 1.
Babin and Cole explained after the Giants game last week that teams are using an extra blocker, either a tight end or running back, to keep the Eagles from getting to the quarterback.
"Do (the Steelers) max protect against every team they go against?" Cole said Sunday. "No….It's called respect. That's the best (defensive line) the Steelers have seen. Everybody does it against us. It's no different than other teams. Every team does that."
Yeah, well max protect is a sign of respect… but Cole does not address the strategic move by the Steelers' — which was to induce the Eagles' pass rushers to penetrate too deeply on the outside of the pocket to really make a difference. It bothers me that the veteran Cole seemed almost obtuse to the fact that the Eagles had been kinda "punked" by the Steelers' pass-pro scheme.
Defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and defensive-line coach Jim Washburn like to rely on the defensive line to apply pressure, thus freeing the linebackers and secondary to cover receivers. When the line doesn't get to the quarterback, it puts increased pressure on the cornerbacks to cover wide receivers for extended periods, a practically impossible task even for former Pro Bowlers Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
"Our corners are on an island basically every play," Castillo said last week. "And when you're on an island like that, you're going to give up some big plays. We all understand that. We don't want to, but sometimes it happens." It happened on the Steelers' final drive.
"Even on elite defenses, you might give up plays on third down," Asomugha said Sunday. "It's just at the time when you need it the most you've got to be able to make that type of play. Every game's been a fight this year. But we've shown we can pull it out in the end. The confidence was there. On that last drive, everybody was like, 'It doesn't matter what's happened before. We've closed out games before. If they don't score, we win.'
"For them to go down and get that field goal was a little disappointing."
Yep, and if the director of the Eagles' pressure scheme had figured out the matador act the Steelers' pass-pro intelligence was performing a little sooner in the game, it may have have never come down to a last-second FG deciding the game…but rather Michael Vick taking a knee.
Okay, some sour grapes there… But that's my take. How did you see it?