Final Word: NFC East

November, 6, 2009
11/06/09
4:00
PM ET

NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 9:

The Cowboys believe they can attack the Eagles' defense in the middle of the field. I just returned from Valley Ranch, where two Cowboys offensive players said they thought the middle of the Eagles' defense would be vulnerable. In particular, the Cowboys believe Eagles safeties Sean Jones and Quintin Mikell could leave some holes in that area of the field. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is very respectful of cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown, but he also knows that both players like to gamble at times. The Cowboys hope to use some of that aggressiveness against the Eagles. Players are saying that Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott has been a little more aggressive with his defensive backs than his mentor Jim Johnson. The past couple of games, McDermott hasn't had to blitz a lot to generate pressure. I think you'll see a few more blitzes Sunday because the Eagles believe that quarterback Tony Romo doesn't respond as well to contact as some of the other quarterbacks around the league.

 
 AP Photo/Stephan Savoia
 Tom Coughlin is trying to motivate the Giants to a victory over the Chargers.
Tom Coughlin is reaching into his bag of motivational tricks against the Chargers. He's let his team know all week that this game's pretty much a must-win. That's not normally Coughlin's style, but he's not used to being on three-game losing streaks. If the Giants lose, Coughlin's all-or-nothing approach will look pretty lame. But I don't think that will happen. More than ever, Coughlin has talked about getting off to a fast start this week. In recent losses, the Giants' defense has been overwhelmed on opening drives. Quarterback Eli Manning hasn't responded well to the pressure -- and it looks like that injured foot is bothering him. To his credit, he's not using as an excuse. ESPN's Chris Mortensen told me Thursday that he thinks Manning's foot has to be bothering him. Let's see if Manning can respond at home Sunday.

The Redskins will be relieved to return to the field. With the constant drama surrounding owner Dan Snyder and his organization, it has to be somewhat refreshing to actually play a game. Unfortunately, the Redskins will face a Falcons team in desperate need of a win to stay in the playoff hunt. Even though he'll probably be rusty, the Redskins have to find a way to get offensive tackle Levi Jones on the field. He's better than some of the lightweights they've been putting out there. Hopefully Jim Zorn and Sherm Lewis holed up and figured out a way for quarterback Jason Campbell to get the ball away quickly. They need more three- and five-step drops in the game plan. Otherwise, the Falcons will be in Campbell's face the entire game. It's encouraging that second-year tight end Fred Davis is making some progress. I think he'll need to become Campbell's best option until tight end Chris Cooley returns. With this offensive line, you don't have enough time to hit Santana Moss on a post pattern. Perhaps Devin Thomas is ready to take on a larger role, too. This team isn't going to challenge for a playoff spot, but a win over the Falcons would certainly help the atmosphere at Redskins Park.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips will match wits with his old pal Brian Stewart. When Cowboys owner Jerry Jones vowed to take his organization "to the woodshed" after last season's 44-6 loss to the Eagles, he soon fired his defensive coordinator, Stewart. Phillips and Stewart have been close friends for years, so it's made for an awkward situation. Now Stewart is the secondary coach for the Eagles. And he spent part of the week prepping the Eagles' offensive coaches for the Cowboys' defense. As Bradie James told me yesterday, "Stew knows our entire defense." But Phillips have changed up a couple of things and he thinks the new personnel will help disguise his approach in some ways. It will be interesting to see if Stewart's inside knowledge pays off for the Eagles.

How effective will Brian Westbrook be after missing time with a concussion? Westbrook has admitted to being worried about his long-term health -- and that's understandable. But he can't take that mentality onto the field Sunday. Westbrook isn't having a big season, in part, because of injuries. The honest truth, though, is the Eagles haven't really needed him much this season. Rookie LeSean McCoy's been pretty effective and DeSean Jackson, Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin have all played starring roles at times. The Cowboys will try to defend Celek one-on-one with Gerald Sensabaugh, which could be a mistake. Sensabaugh has done a pretty nice job on tight ends this season, but Celek's having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. He's tied with Jason Witten in catches with 37, but he's averaging over 12 yards per catch. Witten is under 10 yards per catch right now and he hasn't been a vital part of the offense since Miles Austin began lighting up the league. Keep your eye on that Sensabaugh vs. Celek matchup. It could be huge.

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