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Overrated underachievers?

October 12, 2008|Dave Goldberg | AP Football Writer

Donovan McNabb apologized this week for the Philadelphia Eagles' 2-3 start, blaming himself more than his teammates.

Maybe he should have blamed all the people who thought the Eagles would be a power this season.

Like a number of teams, they aren't as good as the preseason hype and never were. What looks good on paper never plays out unless a team avoids injuries and/or a brilliant rookie or newcomer emerges.

Though the Eagles have a potentially brilliant rookie, they haven't avoided injuries and they were never as good as the Giants or Cowboys. Their loss at home to the Redskins last week after taking a 14-0 lead suggests they aren't as good as Washington, either.

A capsule look at teams that haven't lived up to expectations:

* Philadelphia (2-3). "I'm embarrassed with the way we played the past two weeks," McNabb wrote in his blog. "I believe that we lost to teams we should have beaten. Not because I think they are not good -- they are. But I still believe we are better; we just didn't show it."

The teams in question are Chicago and Washington. Sorry, Donovan, but look at the scoreboard.

The Eagles' defense was devastating against Pittsburgh, when it registered nine sacks. But it is light up front and depends on blitzing, which means if an opponent can read the blitzes and block them, it moves the ball.

The offense has one true threat: running back Brian Westbrook, who missed the Chicago game with an ankle injury and did not make the trip with the team for today's game with San Francisco because of broken ribs. The injuries are why he's averaging 3.6 yards a carry and 6.9 yards a reception. In 2007, those marks were 4.8 and 8.6.

Receiving? Only rookie DeSean Jackson scares opponents. He also scares the Eagles. Short yardage? The Bears and Redskins both stuffed Philadelphia at the goal line. Blame the lack of a big back and a big offensive line that plays with finesse more than power. The Eagles miss injured guard Shawn Andrews badly.

Sure, the Eagles belong in the top half of the league. In the NFC East, that means last place.

* Dallas (4-1). Yes, Dallas. That's because everyone had the Cowboys in the Super Bowl and a retired wide receiver who used to wear No. 19 suggested on television the week before they lost that they were likely to go unbeaten.

The Cowboys are vulnerable in the secondary, a condition not helped by the potential loss of Terence Newman to injury for a while. It's also unclear who's calling the plays: Jerry Jones, Wade Phillips, Jason Garrett or some combination of the above.

Then, there's the combustible cast of characters JJ has assembled.

Who knows what will become of the former Pacman after his alleged fight last week with one of his team-hired bodyguards? At the very least, commissioner Roger Goodell, who reinstated Jones a week before the season, will review it. At the most, he'll be suspended or cut -- as respected columnist Randy Galloway suggested last week.

Then there's T.O. showing signs of turning his third season in Dallas into replays of San Francisco and Philadelphia.

After being involved in a third of the plays in the loss to the Redskins two weeks ago, Terrell Owens complained he hadn't gotten the ball enough. In a win over the Bengals that was closer than it should have been, Owens made a 57-yard TD catch, then went through a strange postgame routine in which he talked about religion, cried and didn't take any questions.

Last week, T.O. said he was concerned about the death of a family member, something he didn't mention after the game.

Compare how the Cowboys handle these things to what the Giants do. They dumped Jeremy Shockey before the season, suspended Plaxico Burress last game and won 44-6 without him.

So right now Dallas is No. 3 in its division. You can argue that the Cowboys have more overall talent than the Giants and Redskins (maybe). You can't argue that New York and Washington aren't better teams.

* San Diego (2-3). The Chargers can point all they want to last season, when they also started 2-3 and reached the AFC title game. But this team is not as good.

Norv Turner is a wonderful offensive coordinator but a so-so head coach. That's probably because general manager A.J. Smith wants someone compliant after feuding with Marty Schottenheimer. Smith is great at acquiring players. Not so great at hiring coaches.

* Minnesota and New Orleans (2-3). Anyone who watched these two try to hand each other a game Monday night saw the problems firsthand.

Even after winning, Vikings coach Brad Childress publicly went after punter Chris Kluwe for kicking to Reggie Bush instead of out of bounds. He might be right, but do it in private -- Kluwe is popular with his teammates and all Childress did was alienate them. The Saints can blame injuries, too -- although they should have noted when they traded for Shockey that he's never been healthy for a full season. With Deuce McAllister clearly not the old Deuce, they also lack what Philadelphia lacks: a back who can get a yard on third-and-2 feet.

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