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Posted: 5 hours 50 minutes ago

Balanced NFC East will put Cowboys to ultimate test

kirwansmall.jpgBy Pat Kirwan | NFL.com

Senior Analyst

Readers have jumped at the chance to have their questions answered. My inbox has been full with inquiries on all aspects of football. From X's and O's to theories about the future of the game, I've seen it all.

Time to dive into this week's batch.

Question: What are the Cowboys' chances to go all the way this season? Scott Collier, Edinburg, Texas

The Cowboys have a quarterback in Tony Romo sits to pee who can win in this league, a defense that can apply pressure and a few playmakers like Terrell Owens. That adds up to Dallas likely being in the hunt.

Coach Wade Phillips has the demeanor to lead these players and keep an even keel. The NFC East is brutal and there are questions surrounding DB Roy Williams, as well as the second wide receiver and possibly the nose tackle positions. My fear for the Cowboys is the same worry I have for the Giants, Eagles and Redskins. They may cannibalize themselves during the season leaving very little for the deep playoff run.

Question: If the owners just voted to get out of the CBA, how can there be free agent restrictions if there is no operative CBA? Karel Roche, Santa Ana, California

Karel, when the owners voted to opt out of the CBA, it did not terminate the CBA on the spot. There are mechanisms in place and time built in for a new CBA to be formulated, if possible.

As Gene Upshaw said "we are on the clock" and the triggers that will most definitely encourage both sides to sit down at the bargaining table don't go into affect until after the 2009 season. Both sides will probably spend the next year or so formulating their plans and working behind the scenes to make progress late in 2009. The next 24 months will be interesting and you should get your hands on a copy of the CBA to read up on the schedule of events to follow over the next three years.

Question: Should there be a separate category for stripping a ball because in my opinion a fumble is an accidental drop while a strip is an intentional act? When the Patriots and Steelers played last year in Week 13, Randy Moss caught a pass from Tom Brady, dropped the ball and picked it up and threw a touchdown pass, how did he get away with that one? And finally, when a team wins a super bowl, which members of the organization receive rings? Cody Jones, Texarkana, Texas

I get your point Cody but NFL defensive players are credited with "forced fumbles," which takes care of recognizing their effort. To expand a lost ball to two different categories leaves too much grey area on a number of fumbles.

The Moss double pass actually wasn't a double pass with a drop. Moss was behind Brady, making the exchange a dropped lateral and fumble, which he picked up and threw.

As for what members of an organization receive Super Bowl rings, every team is different. Some teams give rings to everyone in the organization from players, to scouts, to grounds keepers. Other teams have a shorter list of eligible employees which is really bad for moral. I witnessed one team give the real rings to the players, coaches and front office executives, while everyone else got a cheap imitation.

Question: Why would the Eagles, who are perennial contenders and throw the ball close to 65 percent of the time, lack the ability to draft or develop elite receivers? Do the Eagles receivers struggle against press coverage? Are they drafting the wrong type of receivers for their system? Shawn Yahrling, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Shawn, I hear your frustration but keep in mind the Eagles did have Terrell Owens once upon a time. Philadelphia also tried to sign Randy Moss this past offseason and next year may go after a guy like Roy Williams.

Andy Reid recognizes that there is a reason to secure a true No. 1 receiver. By definition a No. 1 receiver is a guy who commands double coverage. There probably isn't more than a half a dozen players in the league who fit that bill and most teams have to play with solid No. 2 wideouts, which Philadelphia has a fair share of at this time.

The Patriots won two Super Bowls with solid receivers and the Eagles can too. Reid told me before the draft that he was comfortable taking the best available player. No receiver in the draft proved worthy of being taken in the first round. The Eagles traded out of the first round, so by time Philadelphia selected at No. 47, six receivers were off the board.

Although DeSean Jackson may not break into the starting lineup, his speed can be very effective in the slot. A healthy L.J. Smith and Brian Westbrook as a receiver out of the backfield are still your bread and butter. I expect the Eagles to use Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis a bit differently this year as well as more deep balls from quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Remember how aggressive the Eagles were when they went after Asante Samuel in the offseason. They'll do the same next year if a true No. 1 is available.

Question: How about a 17-game schedule with eight home games, eight away games and one neutral site contest with a number of places in our country that may someday be NFL cities getting a full compliment of eight games? Charles Messick, Denver, Colorado

This would allow cities like San Antonio and Los Angeles to get games and prove they have the loyal fan base to support a team. It is food for thought.

Thanks to the efforts everyone put into their emails and I will continue to chip away at the growing list of people trying to learn a little more about the game.

Have a football-related question for Pat that you would like answered in a future column? Email him at footballmentor@aol.com. "Movin' the Chains," Pat's SIRIUS NFL Radio show with co-host Tim Ryan, can be heard weekdays from 3-7 p.m. ET.

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I just love how the Skins are once again picked to finish at the bottom of the division. Seriously, it's great....that's right ignore the Redskins, and then get beat by them. What other team in the NFL has made the play-offs twice in the past 3 seasons, and is being picked to finish last in their division?

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I just love how the Skins are once again picked to finish at the bottom of the division. Seriously, it's great....that's right ignore the Redskins, and then get beat by them.

Kirwan isn't picking the skins to finish at the bottom of the division. In fact, he doesn't make any predictions on how the division will play out. The skins are named last when listing all the teams in the division but Kirwan doesn't say(or hint) they are listed in any kind of order.

What other team in the NFL has made the play-offs twice in the past 3 seasons, and is being picked to finish last in their division?

I can imagine there may be some who will predict CHI to finish last in the NFC North.

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most teams have to play with solid No. 2 wideouts, which Philadelphia has a fair share of at this time.

The Patriots won two Super Bowls with solid receivers and the Eagles can too. Reid told me before the draft that he was comfortable taking the best available player. No receiver in the draft proved worthy of being taken in the first round. The Eagles traded out of the first round, so by time Philadelphia selected at No. 47, six receivers were off the board.

The logic the Eagles and Redskins used to draft a 2nd round WR should have been used by another NFCE team. ;)
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The title of this article should be insulting to the fans of the winning SB team.

The pukes continue to choke, but they're favored by the press. Just unbelievable.

Balanced NFC East will put Giants to ultimate test

My fear for the Giants is the same worry I have for the Cowboys, Eagles and Redskins. They may cannibalize themselves during the season leaving very little for the deep playoff run.

Would this be more respectful to you?

In a response to a question about the Cowboys, Kirwan provides a response that most would agree with. Any team from the NFCE is going to go through 6 battles in the division before heading into the playoffs.

You could easily substitute Skins & Eagles in the place of Cowboys too. It will be a tough road for any team, including the SB champ Giants, to make it to the top of the NFCE.

Does Kirwan "favor" the Cowboys? You can't tell if he does in the standings but he (like most pundits) do "favor" their bi-line/material to be influenced by the Cowboys. He could have easily placed the Giants in the title and led off with a NYG question but putting Dallas in the title ensures greater number of eyes clicking on to your article.

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The title of this article should be insulting to the fans of the winning SB team.

The pukes continue to choke, but they're favored by the press. Just unbelievable.

TR1, give me your top 3 favorites (according to you and your analysis) to represent the NFC in the SB?

Oh, and a good reason why?

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The pukes continue to choke, but they're favored by the press. Just unbelievable.

new season same old BS

it is amazing to me how every off season the pokes get more press and stories than the teams that played in the Super Bowl :doh:

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new season same old BS

it is amazing to me how every off season the pokes get more press and stories than the teams that played in the Super Bowl :doh:

Let their heads get all nice and swelled up, and then. . . . . BANG!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happens every year.

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Let their heads get all nice and swelled up, and then. . . . . BANG!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happens every year.

That may have happened in the past, but doesn't mean it will this season. Don't get me wrong, I hate the pukes, iggles, and VaGiants, but stranger things have happened.

Remember before last season how everyone said that the VaGiants would just fold down the stretch like always? And how did they finish the year?

Just my :2cents:

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Remember before last season how everyone said that the VaGiants would just fold down the stretch like always? And how did they finish the year?

Just my :2cents:

actually they did fold down the stretch in the regular season like always, losing 2 out of 3, having to come from behind to beat Buffalo just to make the playoffs

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Kirwin contradicts himself because he says the NFC East will beat up on each other and it hinders them in the playoffs. But that's not true. Usually when the NFC East is real competitive, the team that emerges from there makes a long run or wins the SB. Last year Philly finished 8-8 and in fourth and the Giants won it all. All the years that the Eagles had free reign, they lost in the playoffs or SB.

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Kirwin contradicts himself because he says the NFC East will beat up on each other and it hinders them in the playoffs. But that's not true. Usually when the NFC East is real competitive, the team that emerges from there makes a long run or wins the SB. Last year Philly finished 8-8 and in fourth and the Giants won it all. All the years that the Eagles had free reign, they lost in the playoffs or SB.

i agree, no matter if NY, Philly or Dallas wins the division, that team will be battle tested and ready for the post season.

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His underlying tone is that all the other NFC teams are "practice" for the Cowboys. Unbelievable. Maybe if Dallas was in Seattle's division it would be more of a test. But Kirwan feels that the SB champs, a playoff team in Washington, and an improved 8-8 Philly team will be a "test".

Here's the test:

Dallas trying to cope w/ Glenn, Ellis, Pacman, and Williams issues.

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