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Week 8 Judgements: Now we'll see how good Eli really is

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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1. I want to wait a couple of weeks before declaring this a "career season" for Eli Manning. Yeah, I know, so far, so good, but look what he and the New York Giants are up against the next six weeks: At New England, at San Francisco, Philadelphia, at New Orleans, Green Bay and at Dallas.

2. Here's why you should trust Manning: He hasn't been intercepted in four of his past five starts and has 11 TDs in that span. Here's why you shouldn't: Because the one game where he hiccupped, he had three pickoffs ... against Seattle. I swear, the more I see of the Seahawks, the more I wonder how in the world the Giants lost to them.

3. I said it before, and I'll say it again: Philadelphia wins the NFC East. NBC's Tony Dungy is right: The Eagles are the one team in the NFC that can match up with unbeaten Green Bay.

4. Two more guys who should be included in MVP conversations: Philadelphia's LeSean McCoy and Buffalo's Fred Jackson.

5. Well, look at it this way: Rob Ryan wasn't wrong. Someone got its ass kicked.

6. Time to give Philadelphia defensive coordinator Juan Castillo credit. Three weeks ago, he told skeptics his unit would come around. "We have the answers," he said after the Eagles lost their fourth straight. Eagles fans snickered. Then Philadelphia produced five interceptions and five sacks in its next two games, both victories. Oh, yeah, the Eagles outscored their opponents 54-20, too.

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7. The first team to clinch this year should be ... the San Francisco 49ers? They're already four games up on the NFC West competition, and I use that term liberally, with nine games to play. All those in favor of Jim Harbaugh for Coach of the Year please raise your hand.

8. Yeah, that was pretty bad, but it will only get worse for Tim Tebow. Here's why: Next stop is Oakland ... in Oakland.

9.This is how dreadful New England's defense has become: You're down by 6, there's 2:35 left, you have Tom Brady and you have all three timeouts left. If you're Bill Belichick, what do you do? If you have a defense you trust, you kick off, stuff your opponents and let Brady finish them off. But Belichick doesn't trust his defense, and I wouldn't, either. So he's forced to kick the onside because his defense stinks. It didn't work, and what a surprise. His teams reportedly haven't recovered an onside since 1994 when he was with Cleveland.

10. Now available as a motivational speaker: The Rams' Steven Jackson. His pregame address got teammates so pumped they went out and stunned New Orleans, which got me thinking: Any chance the Dolphins or Colts rent the guy for, oh, say 30 minutes some weekend?

11. I hereby nominate Baltimore offensive coordinator Terrell Suggs for Coach of the Week.

12. On second thought, Reggie Bush was right.

13. I'll give you one good reason why Bill Cowher shouldn't be interested in Miami: The Dolphins' ownership. Jim Harbaugh turned down big money for less in San Francisco, and my guess is he wasn't exactly comfortable with the Dolphins' hierarchy. Maybe the Dolphins wind up with Andrew Luck, but owner Stephen Ross isn't going anywhere soon. Which is another way of saying these aren't the Rooneys, Bill.

14. This is where we find out about San Diego. The Chargers play three games in 11 days ... at Kansas City and home to Green Bay and Oakland.

15. Guess that means we don't include Brandon Marshall in next week's expert picks.

Five Things I Like

1. Andy Reid after byes: The guy is 13-0. I heard someone last week saying the record wasn't significant because the Eagles keep changing players, which is true. But so is this: There's only one coach who has been through it. Minnesota's Leslie Frazier had it right when he said that Philadelphia won't appreciate Reid until he's gone.

2. Bruce DeHaven's special teams in Buffalo: For the second successive game they block a field goal, which is why the Bills brought him back. The guy is one of the best in the business. Maybe now Seattle knows what it lost.

3. Eli Manning in the hurry-up offense: I swear, he's a different quarterback. I just wish the Giants would cut him loose a little more during something other than two-minute drills.

4. Anquan Boldin vs. his ex-teammates: Ray Rice scored the touchdowns that helped beat Arizona, but the Ravens never make it back from a 21-point deficit without Boldin. He took over the game, producing 145 yards in catches -- some acrobatic -- and wearing out an Arizona secondary that threw in three pass-interference penalties on the guy.

5. Buffalo's hands: When the Bills lost a fumble in the second quarter Sunday, it was their first of the season. That goes a long way toward explaining why they're 5-2.

Five Things I Don't

1. Seattle's special teams. After surrendering two returns for touchdowns in the season opener, the Seahawks thought they plugged the worst leaks. They were wrong. Cincinnati ripped off three long returns, including one for a 56-yard touchdown. A year ago, the special teams were a strength for Seattle; now they're a liability. So is virtually everything else.

2. Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw saying he felt pain where a screw was inserted in his foot. X-rays were negative, but stay tuned. If Bradshaw is sidelined it means Brandon Jacobs gets the call, and he did little beside draw a chorus of boos from the home crowd Sunday.

3. Arizona's Kevin Kolb leaving Baltimore in a walking boot. You think it was bad with Kolb? Wait until he sits down.

4. Washington's pass protection. Buffalo entered the game with four sacks for the season. It had nine vs. the Redskins, with tackle Jammal Brown serving as one of the Bills' favorite turnstiles. Bad enough that Washington doesn't have a quarterback. Now it doesn't have anyone to protect him.

5. Detroit's Stephen Tulloch mocking Tim Tebow by going to one knee after sacking the Denver quarterback ... then tight end Tony Scheffler doing it later after scoring. Geez, guys, how about growing up?

Just Asking But ...

 Who shook the ground more in St. Louis -- the Cards or Rams?

 Is it too late for New England to recall Leigh Bodden?

 What has happened to Colt McCoy?

 How long do you give Tim Tebow as a starter?

 Who wins the AFC North?

Five Guys Who Have Some 'Splaining To Do

1. Seattle coach Pete Carroll: He has had better days. It wasn't his clock management at the end of the first half that bothered me nor his subsequent decision to go for a touchdown -- by running Marshawn Lynch, no less -- on fourth-and-2 at the Cincinnati 3 with no timeouts and 14 seconds left. Nope, it was his decision not to start Tarvaris Jackson, who was sidelined the previous game-and-a-half with a chest injury. Carroll later said Jackson "gives us our best option" at quarterback and that "in my mind, I knew he could play." So play him. He didn't until the Seahawks had fallen behind by the middle of the second quarter.

2. Tennessee running back Chris Johnson: He has 302 yards rushing, one touchdown and 2.8 yards per carry. Once upon a time you could blame it on a late start ... but that's over. Now it's all on Johnson. I don't know if it's a fat contract or conditioning or what that's to blame. All I know is that the guy should've shaken this funk by now.

3. New England coach Bill Belichick: He's regarded as a defensive genius. So why can't he fix the Patriots' secondary? Answer: Maybe he doesn't have the players.

4. Side judge Mike Cheek: He's the guy in the Pittsburgh-New England game who failed to call a Rob Gronkowski TD a touchdown when it was apparent the tight end crossed the goal line. Horrible. It cost the Patriots nearly a minute-and-a-half they couldn't afford to lose.

5. Washington coach Mike Shanahan: Bad enough to get drilled by 23 points in a game where your quarterback is sacked nine times, but shut out? It's the first time it has happened to Shanahan as a pro coach, and at least he can say he wasn't blanked in this country. "I'm at a loss for words," linebacker Brian Orakpo said. Imagine how his head coach feels.

Monday Morning Quarterbacks

Time to pay a visit to our rookie starters again, and let's hear it for Andy Dalton. He might not put up Cam Newton's numbers, but he does put up victories. At 5-2, he and the Bengals are a half-game out of first in the AFC North.

PLAYER/ATT/COMP/YDS/TD/INT/W-L:

Cam Newton, Carolina/287/174/2393/11/9/2-6
Christian Ponder, Minnesota/77/40/554/3/2/1-1
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati/218/136/1479/9/7/5-2
Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville/173/79/907/5/4/1-5

Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

5: Times teams trailing by 20 or more points rallied to win, the most in any NFL season
6: Sacks allowed by New Orleans, the most under Sean Payton
6-1: Alex Smith in his last seven home starts
7: Sacks of Tim Tebow
11: Calvin Johnson TDs
15.5: LaMarr Woodley sacks in his past 15 games, including the playoffs
16: Consecutive games in which Ben Roethlisberger has 200 passing yards
29: Consecutive games 49ers haven't allowed 100-yard rusher

My Top Five

1. Green Bay
2. San Francisco
3. Pittsburgh
4. Detroit
5. Buffalo

My Bottom Five

32. Miami
31. Indianapolis
30. Arizona
29. Denver
28. St. Louis

Next Weekend's Three Best Games

N.Y. Giants @ New England ... Another air raid for Patriots' troubled pass defense.
N.Y. Jets @ Buffalo ... Take your pick: The Harvard QB or Rex.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh ... Might be the premier rivalry in the NFL.

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