Posted: Monday September 17, 2012 8:23AM ; Updated: Friday September 21, 2012 12:54PM
Peter King

MMQB (cont.)

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Fine Fifteen

The wild NFC East
Source: SI
After up-and-down performances by the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants and Redskins in the first two weeks,'s Andrew Perloff takes a look at the wild division that is the NFC East.

1. San Francisco (2-0). Alex Smith, year eight. And aren't you Niner fans very happy this morning he wasn't thrown out with the trash on any of about 68 autumn Monday mornings in the previous seven years?

2. Houston (2-0). Umm, I think I picked the wrong Texan as my 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in our magazine's NFL preview. I picked outside linebacker Brooks Reed, who's a fine player. But through two weeks, 3-4 defensive end J.J. Watt is one of the three or four best defenders in football: three sacks, five passes deflected ... and this is out of a position that's supposed to clear traffic for the linebackers to make big plays. The Texans have allowed 17 points in eight quarters thus far, and Watt's the biggest reason.

3. Green Bay (1-1). Offense is still a little shaky for my taste, but at least Mike McCarthy gets 11 days between games (with four full days off for the players Friday through today) before beginning prep work for the Monday nighter at Seattle.

4. Denver (1-0). Peyton Manning likes domes. Tonight is Manning's only dome game of the year. For that and several other reasons, I think the Falcons are in trouble.

5. San Diego (2-0). Jettisoned by the Panthers and Broncos, tight end Dante Rosario got signed as insurance for Antonio Gates and Randy McMichael by Norv Turner. In five previous seasons, he'd scored five touchdowns. On one afternoon in San Diego, he scored three.

6. Philadelphia (2-0). Nine turnovers in two games (but 942 total yards), and the Eagles are 2-0. Somebody's living right.

7. Baltimore (1-1). Ravens 67, Foes 37, after two weeks. I don't think there's a lot of shame in losing the kind of blood feud they lost to the Eagles on Sunday.

8. Atlanta (1-0). Brent Grimes missing the final 15 games will ultimately doom this team, unless Matt Ryan channels his inner Peyton. Weekly.

9. Arizona (2-0). Allowed 34 points in two games and won both, with a favorable schedule on the horizon. Three of the next four come at home (Philly, Miami, at St. Louis on a short week, Buffalo). By the way, Ryan Williams, you are a very lucky man, having been taken out of the doghouse by the missed Pats field goal attempt with a second to go.

10. New England (1-1). Waaaaaay too much leakage from the offensive line, and now it looks like half of the tight end luxury package (Aaron Hernandez) is gone for at least a month. I don't know how Tom Brady lasts 16 games if he's under the kind of pressure he was on Sunday, and if he's without Hernandez until Halloween.

11. Seattle (1-1). I've got the feeling that, by November, we'll be talking about the Seahawks as a legit contender with a top-five defense. If they stay this stingy (13.5 points allowed per game), it'll be more than a feeling.


12. Pittsburgh (1-1). The Steelers weren't supposed to be as good on defense without their two most famous defenders, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. Then they went out and held the Jets to three points and 129 yards in the last 49 minutes of a 27-10 victory.

13. Washington (1-1). Good chance Washington would be 2-0 if Josh Morgan didn't have a momentary lapse of sanity in St. Louis. But all penalties and all points count.

14. Dallas (1-1). Bad sign for the Cowboys: They got physically handled by Seattle. Bad sign II: Sean Lee got his clock cleaned by an injury-prone wide receiver.

15. New York Giants (1-1). There was a nine-way tie for 15th. I don't know; I suppose 25 fourth-quarter points by the Giants does it for me. Or Eli Manning following three first-half picks with a 510-yard passing day.

The Award Section

Offensive Players of the Week

Reggie Bush, RB, Miami. I remember chortling in the preseason when Bush said his goal was to lead the league in rushing. Who's chortling now? Bush's 26-carry, 172-yard afternoon in the South Florida boiler led the Dolphins to their first win of Joe Philbin's head-coaching career.

Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants. Eli Manning targeted Gotham's dynamic duo 32 times at the Meadowlands. The final numbers, combined: 21 catches, 378 yards, 18.0 yards per catch, two touchdowns. Cruz, in particular, deserves a hand for playing with a heavy heart after burying the grandmother who helped raise him in nearby Paterson, N.J.

Dr. Z Unsung Man in the Trenches of the Week

The award for the offensive lineman who was the biggest factor for his team in the weekend's games, named for my friend Paul Zimmerman, the longtime SI football writer struggling in New Jersey to recover from three strokes in November 2008. Zim, a former collegiate offensive lineman himself, loved watching offensive line play.

Cordy Glenn, T, Buffalo. C.J. Spiller followed up a 169-yard performance last week with a 123-yarder Sunday against Kansas City, becoming the first back since Jim Brown in 1963 to have an average of more than 10 yards per rush after two weeks of a season. Against K.C., Glenn had a key block on the opening touchdown, a short pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler, and a few minutes later sprung Spiller on his first touchdown run of the day, a five-yarder, with a crushing block. And on the third scoring drive by the Bills, Glenn made a block to help spring Spiller for 27. Not bad for the 41st pick in the draft, starting as a rookie at the toughest spot on the line.

Defensive Players of the Week

Patrick Peterson, CB, Arizona. The Cardinals defense is very good. Physically, the Cards took it to the Patriots Sunday, and the key play of the game, for my money, came with New England down 20-9 and 12 minutes to play, with the Pats having a 3rd-and-1 at the Arizona 39. The momentum was turning, and it seemed a matter of time before Brady would find a way to finish this drive and put one more together, and the Patriots would win a game that was far too hard. So Stevan Ridley ran around right end, and Paterson busted through the protection to blow up the play, tackling Ridley for a four-yard loss. He also intercepted Brady and had three tackles and a pass defensed.

Clay Matthews, OLB, Green Bay. He had six sacks in 2011. Took him five days to get that many this year. After a 2.5-sack day in the opener, he had 3.5 sacks of Jay Cutler Thursday -- and it actually should have been four, because he was falling with Cutler in his grasp when Erik Walden jumped in for a free half-sack. Hey, why not share a sack among friends? Defensive coordinator Dom Capers, by the way, has been looking for a bookend defender to take some of the pressure off Matthews, and he may have found him in linebacker D.J. Smith.

Special Teams Players of the Week

Matthew Mulligan, TE, St. Louis. On a day with two jillionaire quarterbacks dueling at the Bob Jones Dome, a backup tight end born in Bangor, Maine, and raised in Enfield, Maine, and high-schooled in Howland, Maine (and should I mention he went to the University of Maine, in Orono, Maine?) was the late star of the show. Mulligan blocked a Sav Rocca punt near the end of the third quarter of a tight game, and St. Louis recovered at the Washington 24. Four plays later, Mulligan worked his way through the line at the Washington one and caught the game-winning touchdown pass in a 31-28 Rams victory.


Adam Jones, PR/CB, Cincinnati. Two minutes into Bengals-Browns, Jones took a punt at the Bengals 19 and sprinted through the Cleveland punt team like the old Pacman. After the 81-yard touchdown return, Cincinnati never trailed.

Coaches of the Week

Norv Turner, head coach, San Diego. This is Turner's 15th season as a head coach. It is also his first 2-0 start. Anyone else find that amazing? Turner has gotten Philip Rivers to play relaxed, and without feeling he has to do everything by himself. With Turner's defense now in the hands of new coordinator John Pagano, the Chargers have held their first two foes to 24 points. That's what I call a terrific hire.

Shawn Slocum, special teams coordinator, Green Bay. See opus on Green Bay's surprise touchdown above.

Goats of the Week

Josh Morgan, WR, Washington. For his absurd unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (he threw the ball in anger at St. Louis cornerback Cortland Finnegan) that turned what would have been a game-tying 47-yard field-goal attempt into a 62-yard impossibility for Billy Cundiff. The latter had made only one of his previous 10 attempts from 50 yards and beyond -- but trailing by three points and facing fourth down with no timeouts remaining, the Redskins felt they had no other choice but to try the kick. Dumb play on Morgan's part. Simply no excuse for it.


Stephen Gostkowski, K, New England. After hitting four field goals to keep the Patriots in the game, Gostkowski shankapotamused an easy (for him) 42-yard attempt far left with one second left in the game. Arizona 20, New England 18.


Peyton Hillis, RB, Kansas City. What's the one thing a big back never does on the goal line, particularly with his team's season teetering on the brink of disaster? Hillis did it -- fumbling with the Bills up 21-0 and 40 seconds left in the first half, trying to score to get the Chiefs back in a game they desperately needed. Why so desperate? Because K.C. has Drew Brees up next.
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