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Line of Scrimmage: Week 8 - Ten Fearless Predictions


*** Line of Scrimmage: Week 8 - Ten Fearless Predictions ***

By Tony Moss, NFL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Perhaps I'm feeling a bit overconfident after picking a few games right over the past few weeks, but I guess I better strike while the iron is at least lukewarm. Below are 10 things you can expect to see in the NFL over the coming weeks and months:

1. Matt Leinart will wear a Cleveland Browns uniform next year. The USC quarterback is likely to be the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft, and at the very least, will be the first quarterback taken. Many of the current candidates to have the top pick in the draft, including the Texans, 49ers, and Packers, are already set at quarterback, and the Browns figure to finish behind other candidates like the Dolphins and Raiders in the won-loss column. At some point this season, Cleveland will have to figure out whether rookie and third-round draft choice Charlie Frye is the future of the franchise (we'll save them the trouble - he's not), and once that question is answered, they'll target Leinart as their next signal-caller.

2. The Seattle Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Think about it. The Hawks (5-2) still play the 49ers twice, the Cardinals once, and the Rams at home within their division. They've also got eminently winnable games with Green Bay and Tennessee on the road, and the Giants at home, down the stretch. Meanwhile, the NFC East and South are three-team races in which all of the participants figure to beat each other up, while the North is an abomination where an 8-8 record could win the division. I'm not saying they're the best team in the conference, or even that they'll win their first postseason game since 1984, but the Seahawks are set up for success better than anyone else in the conference.

3. Brett Favre will come back for at least one more year. It's been a miserable season for the Packers and there's little chance of the franchise turning things around due to mounting injuries. It would be easy for Favre to walk away from this mess as soon as it careens to a merciful end, but you have to believe the competitor in him will resist walking away on these terms. Even amid the team's woes, Favre has proven that he can still play, throwing a league-high 14 touchdown passes thus far in '05. Expect Green Bay to do some work to upgrade its offensive line and defense in the offseason, and for Favre to come back to give it one more go.

4. The San Diego Chargers will not make the playoffs. It's been heartbreak city for the Bolts (3-4), who have lost four games by a combined 12 points. Now the margin for error is slim for Marty Schottenheimer's men, who probably have to go 7-2 the rest of the way to make it back to the postseason. Figure a split of their home-and-home with Kansas City, and a loss in Indianapolis on Dec. 18th. In addition to those, they've still got the Jets and Redskins to play on the road, and division rivals Oakland and Denver at home. Can they win all four of those, and avoid trap games against the well-coached Bills and Dolphins? I'm saying no.

5. Mike Tice will not last the season in Minnesota. Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has said he won't fire Tice until after the season is complete, but that doesn't mean Tice won't walk away if the Vikings fall out of contention in the NFC North. To fall out of contention in the NFC North is to be a total train wreck, and the Vikes seem much closer to that scenario than to pulling out of their 2-4 funk. With the writing on the wall, Tice will step aside, just as Dennis Green did for him at the end of the 2001 season. Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who should have been a head coach a long time ago, will be the top candidate to take the interim reins before Wilf cleans house in the offseason.

6. The Redskins will finish last in the NFC East. The team that ends up at the bottom of this division might actually have a better record than the winner of the NFC North, but someone has to finish last. The Eagles are still far too talented to miss the playoffs, and the Cowboys will probably compete for the division title until late in the season based on their defense. That leaves the Giants and Skins, and I have a feeling I can count on Eli Manning and Plaxico Burress to be more consistent than Mark Brunell and Santana Moss. I'm also not impressed with the Redskins defense, which doesn't force many turnovers or put much pressure on the passer.

7. Chris Simms will make Brian Griese expendable. With Griese out for the year, Simms has the Buccaneers' starting job to himself for the rest of 2005. Simms has actually looked pretty good when we've seen him in the preseason and briefly in 2004, and he has the physical makeup, smarts, and pedigree to be a winner in the NFL. It helps that he won't be asked to carry the whole load, just to make some nice throws here and there to Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton. Look for Simms to get that done, for the Bucs to make the playoffs, and for Griese to be trade bait in the offseason.

8. The Cincinnati Bengals will win the AFC North. Yes, the Steelers handled them in the Queen City last week, but I still believe Marvin Lewis and company are the real deal. The offense has been one of the top five in the league, and the defense has been playing with abandon and purpose. Plus, they've still got the Packers, Browns, Lions, Bills, and the Ravens (twice) on the docket, and don't rule out a win against the Colts at Paul Brown Stadium on Nov. 20th. Pittsburgh's schedule is light too, but I believe the Steelers are too vulnerable in the secondary and uncertain in the backfield to be as consistent as Cincinnati down the stretch.

9. Atlanta's Rod Coleman will be the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year I'm starting my campaign for this guy right now. He leads the NFC in sacks (7) and forced fumbles (3), and currently has a greater impact on the game than any other defensive tackle in the league. If Coleman finishes somewhere in the 15-sack range and Atlanta finishes atop the NFC South again, I'm taking Coleman, a guy who hasn't even been to a Pro Bowl in seven years in the league, to take home the hardware.

10. The Chicago Bears will win the NFC North. Someone has to win the National League West of the NFL, and I'm saying it will be the Padres, I mean the Bears. What Chicago has over Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota is a defense that comes to play every week, one that includes a fully-healthy Brian Urlacher. Offensively, Thomas Jones has been great and Kyle Orton continues to keep opponents honest with his arm. The NFL is just somehow better when the Bears are in contention, and it looks to me like Soldier Field will be hosting at least one playoff game come January.

Let's take a look at the week that will be in the National Football League:


The NFL is currently mourning the death of longtime Giants owner Wellington Mara, who passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89. Mara had been with the G- Men since his father, Timothy, purchased the team in 1925, and was credited with helping shepherd the NFL from an unstable entity on the fringe of the American sporting culture into the force that is today. Mara's acceptance of a national television deal for the league in the 1960s, an agreement that stood to prevent a significant financial gain for the large-market Giants, has been judged as helping to spread the NFL's wide-reaching popularity. Mara was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes in April and had surgery the following month to remove the problem. Mara, who began radiation in July and had a total of 33 treatments until late August, was hospitalized for almost four weeks before returning home. Mara is survived by his wife, Ann, along with 11 children and 40 grandchildren.


In a move that could impact the St. Louis franchise beyond the 2005 season, Rams head coach Mike Martz announced on Monday that he would not return this year due to endocarditis, a bacterial infection of his heart valve that has kept him off the sidelines for the team's past two games. Martz was originally expected to return this season, but doctors advised him against involvement in football-related activities due to the stress and long hours that accompany the job. Though the sixth-year head coach vowed to be back next year, team president John Shaw gave something less than full confirmation that Martz would be welcomed back with open arms. "We will watch the performance of the team over the next several months, and we'll make decisions at that time as to what's best for Mike, and what's best for the football program," said Shaw. "But as I speak to you today, I fully expect that Mike will be our coach next year." Interim head coach Joe Vitt is 1-1 in Martz's absence, and the Rams (3-4) come off a 28-17 victory over the Saints this past Sunday.


Among the most significant NFL injuries in Week 7 was the torn right quadriceps tendon suffered by Green Bay running back Ahman Green, an injury that will sideline Green for the remainder of the year and possibly longer. A quadriceps tear generally requires an 8-12 month rehabilitation period, and can have long-term effects on running and jumping abilities. That's bad news for Green, who will turn 29 in February and is nearing the end of his window to sign what would likely be the last lucrative contract of his career. The Nebraska product was named to three Pro Bowls from 2001 through 2003, and had a streak of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons entering this year. For the Packers, who already lost backup running back Najeh Davenport to a broken ankle against the Saints in Week 5, third-stringer Tony Fisher is set to take over starting running back duties.


Corey Dillon, New England (vs. Buffalo) - He's ready for a breakout outing against a poor run-stopping defense.

Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay (at San Francisco) - Niners secondary is a mess, and Galloway will be among those taking advantage of that fact.

T.J. Housmandzadeh, Cincinnati (vs. Green Bay) - With Al Harris defending Chad Johnson, Housmandzadeh will be matched up against the team's other shaky corner(s).

Pittsburgh Defense (vs. Baltimore) - Ravens might get shut out against the Steelers' attacking defense.

Drew Brees, San Diego (vs. Kansas City) - Chiefs have not been terrific against the pass, and Brees carved them up twice last year.


Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota (at Carolina) - Don't count on him having back-to- back strong outings.

Steven Jackson, St. Louis (vs. Jacksonville) - Jaguars' top-notch run-stuffing crew should handle Rams' shaky line.

Tony Fisher, Green Bay (at Cincinnati) - He'll be the Packers starter, but who knows how many times Green Bay will give him the football.

Anquan Boldin, Arizona (at Dallas) - If the Cardinals couldn't get him the ball against the Titans, don't expect them to do much better against the Cowboys.

Tiki Barber, N.Y. Giants (vs. Washington) - Had two quiet days against the Redskins last season.


1. Pittsburgh (vs. Baltimore) - Think the Steelers are going to lose three straight on their home field? Think again.

2. Carolina (vs, Minnesota) - Vikings have played poorly on the road this year, and Panthers, coming off a bye week, will pounce.

3. Dallas (vs. Arizona) - Cowboys will come home fighting mad about the way they lost to the Seahawks last Sunday.


The Sports Network's updated NFL Power Poll, which ranks all 32 league teams, can be found at:

http://www.sportsnetwork.com/default.asp?csportsnetwork&pagenfl/misc/nfl- poll.htm


I was 11-3 in my picks last week, and get this: I picked two games dead-on, predicting that the Vikings would beat the Packers, 23-20, and that the Rams would down the Saints, 28-17. Nice. On the down side, I was just 7-6-1 against the spread. Shame on the Eagles, Seahawks, and Giants for winning but not covering. I am now 72-30 (.706) when picking winners, and 60-39-3 (.603) with Vegas involved.

Arizona (2-4) at Dallas (4-3), Sunday, 1:00 (Dallas -9)

Storylines: Dallas comes into Sunday's game last in the crowded NFC East and coming off a dispiriting 13-10 loss in Seattle last Sunday...Dallas led 10-3 with a minute to play, and an interception by quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the final seconds led to a game-winning field goal for Seattle's Josh Brown...Running back Julius Jones (sprained ankle) has missed the last two games and is considered questionable for Sunday...Bledsoe leads the NFC in passing yards (1799), and is second in the conference in passer rating (94.9)...Linebacker Dat Nguyen (neck) is expected to play this week after missing the last three games...Arizona is coming off a 20-10 home win over Tennessee...Dallas cut kicker Jose Cortez earlier this week, and undrafted rookie Shaun Suisham (Bowling Green) will make his NFL debut...Quarterback Josh McCown, who has gone 2-1 since taking over for the injured Kurt Warner, will remain the starter...Wideout Anquan Boldin (36 receptions, 2 TD) was held without a catch last week...The Cardinals are next-to-last in the league in rushing offense (71.2 yards per game)...Arizona kicker Neil Rackers leads the league in field goals (20), and is a perfect 20-20 on the year.

Fast Fact: Arizona has lost 13 straight regular season games in Dallas since last their last such win there, during the 1989 season.

Prediction: The Cowboys should manhandle the Cardinals on both lines, and bounce back from last week's loss in a big way. Cowboys 30, Cardinals 10.


Chicago (3-3) at Detroit (3-3), Sunday, 1:00 (Detroit -3)

Storylines: Lions and Bears enter Sunday's game tied atop the NFC North...Detroit was a 13-10 winner over Cleveland last week, with Jeff Garcia (22-of-34 passing, 210 yards) making his first start in a Detroit uniform...Wideout Kevin Johnson (Achilles) was lost for the season in the game, fellow target Charles Rogers will be serving the final game of an NFL suspension this week, and No. 1 receiver Roy Williams (quadriceps) remains questionable...Defensively, Lions cornerback Dre' Bly is tied for second in the league in interceptions (4), but will be out with a dislocated bone in his wrist...Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers (sprained MCL) is questionable...The Lions lead the NFC in interceptions (13), and are tied for the NFC lead in takeaways (18)...The Lions and Bears are 14th and 15th in the 16-team NFC in total offense...Chicago was a 10-6 winner over Baltimore last Sunday...The Bears are last in the NFC in passing offense (123.8 yards per game)...Among players that have appeared in only six games, Chicago running back Thomas Jones leads the league in rushing (641 yards)...The Bears lead the NFC in scoring defense (11.3 points per game), and are second in the conference in total defense (260.2 yards per game)...Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher is tied for second in the NFC in sacks (6)...The Bears' Bobby Wade leads the NFL in punt return average (14.0).

Fast Fact: Lions quarterback Jeff Garcia has not won back-to-back starts since Weeks 13-14 of the 2002 season, when he was with the 49ers.

Prediction: In the most important game for the Lions in some time, look for the home team to battle through its injuries and do enough to earn the win. Lions 16, Bears 9.


Green Bay (1-5) at Cincinnati (5-2), Sunday, 1:00 (Cincinnati -9)

Storylines: Cincinnati is trying to recover from a 27-13 loss to the Steelers last Sunday...The Bengals own a half-game lead over Pittsburgh in the AFC North...Cincinnati running back Rudi Johnson, who had just 12 carries last week, complained publicly about his lack of touches after the Week 7 loss...Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer is second in the league in passing yards (1800), passing touchdowns (13), and passer rating (104.4)...Bengals wideout Chad Johnson is second in the league in receiving yards (655), and leads the AFC in receptions (43)...Cincinnati is second in the AFC in total offense (370.3 yards per game)...The Bengals lead the NFL in turnover margin (+16), takeaways (23), and interceptions (15)...Bengals cornerback Deltha O'Neal is tied for second in the league in interceptions (4)...Cincy kicker Shayne Graham is tied for second in the league with 14 made field goals, and is 14- for-17 on the year...Green Bay was a 23-20 loser at Minnesota last week, surrendering a 17-0 lead and also losing running back Ahman Green (torn quadriceps tendon) for the year...Tony Fisher will start in place of Green...Wideout Robert Ferguson (knee) is expected to miss 2-4 weeks as well...Green Bay QB Brett Favre leads the league with 14 touchdown passes.

Fast Fact: Tony Fisher's only career start came on Dec. 8, 2002, when he rushed for a career-high 96 yards on 25 carries in a win over the Vikings.

Prediction: Palmer should have a field day against a weak Green Bay secondary, and the Packer attack is too depleted to keep pace. Bengals 31, Packers 17.


Cleveland (2-4) at Houston (0-6), Sunday, 1:00 (Houston -2)

Storylines: Winless Houston will try to seize a golden opportunity for its first win of the year...The Texans lost to the mighty Colts, 38-20, after playing Indianapolis to a 14-14 tie at the half last week...The Texans line has allowed a league-high 35 sacks...Houston is last in the league in total offense (203 yards per game) and passing offense (87.2 yards per game)...The Texans are last in the AFC in scoring defense (29.8 points per game) and rushing defense (166.7 yards per game)...Dom Capers' club is tied for last in the NFL with three takeaways, and is tied for last in the AFC in turnover margin (-7)...Cleveland lost its second straight game last week, falling to the Lions, 13-10, at home...Quarterback Trent Dilfer posted a 22.4 passer rating in the game, but is expected to remain the starter...Running back Reuben Droughns posted his first 100-yard game as a Brown last week...The Browns are next-to-last in the AFC in rushing offense (81.5 yards per game)...The Browns (13.0 points per game) and Texans (12.3 points per game) are 30th and 31st in the NFL in scoring offense (12.3 points per game)...Cleveland (359.5 yards per game) and Houston (380.2 yards per game) are 15th and 16th in the AFC in total defense, respectively.

Fast Fact: The last Houston-based NFL team to start 0-6 was the 1984 Oilers, who started 0-10 en route to a 3-13 finish.

Prediction: If the Texans can't beat the Browns at home, they might not win this year. Expect them to be well-aware of that fact and come in fired-up to win on Sunday. Texans 20, Browns 17.


Jacksonville (4-2) at St. Louis (3-4), Sunday, 1:00 (NL)

Storylines: St. Louis will be playing its first game since head coach Mike Martz announced that he will not return this season due to a bacterial infection in his heart...Linebackers/Assistant Head Coach Joe Vitt, who has presided over the team's last two games, will be at the helm for the rest of the season...Rams quarterback Marc Bulger (shoulder) and wideouts Torry Holt (knee) and Isaac Bruce (toe) are all questionable after missing last week's 28-17 win over the Saints... Backup QB Jamie Martin threw for 198 yards and notched his first win as an NFL starter... Holt is tied for the league lead in receptions (44), and is second in the NFC in receiving yards (638)...St. Louis running back Steven Jackson is tied for second in the NFC in touchdowns (7)...The Rams are second in the NFC in scoring offense (26.3 points per game) and passing offense (277.1 yards per game)...The Rams' 22 sacks allowed are tied for second-most in the NFC...End Leonard Little, who missed last week's game following the murder of his brother, is expected to be back in action ...Rams are next-to-last in the league in scoring defense (30 points per game)...St. Louis is tied for second-worst in the league in turnover margin (-8)...Jacksonville's Week 7 bye was preceded by a 23-17 overtime victory in Pittsburgh...Cornerback Rashean Mathis had a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown to end the contest...Running back Fred Taylor (ankle), who missed the Pittsburgh game, is expected to play against the Rams...Jacksonville is second in the AFC in total defense (274.3 yards per game) and passing defense (153.5 yards per game).

Fast Fact: Rams quarterback Jamie Martin's first career NFL start came on Dec. 13, 1998, as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Martin suffered a season- ending knee injury and the Jags lost, 16-13, to the Oilers.

Prediction: The Rams are too banged-up to beat a good team at this stage, and Jacksonville will come in fresh following its bye week. Jaguars 24, Rams 14.


Miami (2-4) at New Orleans (2-5), Baton Rouge, Sunday, 1:00 (New Orleans -2)

Storylines: New Orleans will be playing its first of four games at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, and its first in the state of Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina forced the team from its New Orleans headquarters...The Saints will be facing Miami and head coach Nick Saban, who called Tiger Stadium home as head coach of LSU from 2000 through 2004...New Orleans blew a 14-0 lead to lose to the Rams, 28-17, last week...Wideout Joe Horn (hamstring), who has missed three of the last four games, is questionable for this week...The Saints defense is next-to-last in the NFC against the run (126.1 yards per game)...New Orleans is last in the league in turnover margin (-12), fumbles lost (11), and turnovers committed (21)...Miami's losing skid was extended to three games with a 30-20 home loss to Kansas City last Friday night...Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown rushed for 95 yards on just eight carries last week, including a 65-yard touchdown run...Miami linebacker Zach Thomas leads the league in tackles (83)...Dolphins strong safety Tebucky Jones (torn pectoral) will miss the remainder of the season...Miami's Wes Welker leads the AFC in punt return average (12.0).

Fast Fact: Dolphins head coach Nick Saban is 30-5 (.857) all-time at games played at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge.

Prediction: Don't discount the emotional element, but a Miami team that can run and tackle seems to have the edge on both sides of the ball. Dolphins 21, Saints 20.


Minnesota (2-4) at Carolina (4-2), Sunday, 1:00 (Carolina -8)

Storylines: Minnesota is attempting to build momentum after coming from behind to beat Green Bay, 23-20, last week...The Vikings won the game on a 56-yard Paul Edinger field goal at the final gun...Quarterback Daunte Culpepper threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns in his best outing of the season...The Vikings offensive line has allowed an NFC-high 29 sacks...Minnesota is tied for second-worst in the league in turnover margin (-8), and has thrown a league-high 12 interceptions...Mike Tice's team is last in the NFC in scoring offense (15 points per game)...Vikings are last in the NFC against the run (142 yards per game)...Carolina's bye week was preceded by back-to-back road victories over Arizona (24-20) and Detroit (21-20)...Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was knocked out of the Lions game with a head injury but will play against the Vikings...Carolina running back Stephen Davis is second in the NFC in rushing touchdowns (7)...Panthers wideout Steve Smith leads the league in touchdown catches (7)...The Carolina defense is second in the NFC against the run (77.7 yards per game)...John Fox's club is tied for the league lead with nine recovered fumbles on defense.

Fast Fact: During Mice Tice's three-plus year tenure in Minnesota, the Vikings have won outdoors three times - at Green Bay in 2003, at Houston in 2004, and at Green Bay in the 2004 playoffs.

Prediction: The Vikings' Week 7 win was an aberration, and they don't have it in them to beat a good team on the road. Panthers 26, Vikings 13.


Oakland (2-4) at Tennessee (2-5), Sunday, 1:00 (NL)

Storylines: The Titans hope to have quarterback Steve McNair, who missed last week's 20-10 loss in Arizona with back spasms, back in the lineup this week...Backup Billy Volek was knocked out of the Cardinal game with a concussion, but is expected to be available as well...Titans receivers Drew Bennett (hand) is out this week, and the status of running back Chris Brown (shoulder stinger) and wideout Brandon Jones (knee) is in question...Running back Travis Henry will return from a four-game NFL suspension on Sunday...Titans are tied for last in the AFC in turnover margin (-7)...The Tennessee defense ranks second in the AFC in sacks (22), and Titans end Kyle Vanden Bosch ranks second in the NFL in sacks (7.5)...Oakland was a 38-17 home winner over Buffalo last Sunday, but lost cornerback Charles Woodson (fibula) and strong safety Derrick Gibson (wrist) for 6-8 weeks...Oakland wideout Randy Moss, who scored a touchdown last week while battling through a groin injury, is second in the AFC in receiving yards (509)...Oakland running back LaMont Jordan, who had 122 yards and three touchdowns last Sunday, is now tied for second in the AFC in touchdowns (8)...The Raiders are second in the AFC in passing offense (262.3 yards per game), have committed an NFL-low five turnovers, and have thrown an NFL-low one interception.

Fast Fact: The Raiders are 2-16 on the road since 2003.

Prediction: In a duel of two bruised and battered clubs, give the edge to the one that claims the homefield advantage. Titans 27, Raiders 23.


Washington (4-2) at N.Y. Giants (4-2), Sunday, 1:00 (N.Y. Giants -2)

Storylines: Longtime NFC East rivals are tied atop the division, along with Philadelphia... Washington dominated San Francisco, 52-17, last Sunday...Mark Brunell threw three touchdown passes, Santana Moss had 112 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Clinton Portis rushed for 101 yards and his first three touchdowns of the year...Brunell leads the NFC in passer rating (98.3)...Moss leads the NFL in receiving yards (743)...The Redskins are second in the NFL in total offense (387.2 yards per game), and have thrown an NFC-low three interceptions...Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington had nine tackles last week in his first significant action of 2005...The Redskins lead the league in passing defense (157.5 yards per game), but have an NFC-low four takeaways and two interceptions...The Giants, who will be playing their first game since the death of owner Wellington Mara, rebounded from a 23-10 fourth quarter deficit to stun the Broncos, 24-23, last week...Quarterback Eli Manning threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer in the closing seconds of the contest to seal the win...The Giants lead the NFL in scoring offense (28.8 points per game)...Tom Coughlin's team is next-to-last in the league in total defense (411.8 yards per game) and passing defense (295.8 yards per game), but leads the NFC in turnover margin (+8) and is tied for the conference lead in takeaways (18)...The Giants' Willie Ponder leads the NFC in kickoff return average (28.4).

Fast Fact: Of Giants head coach Tom Coughlin's 81 career NFL wins (regular season and playoffs), current Redskins QB Mark Brunell was the starting quarterback in 67 of those games.

Prediction: Giants will pressure Brunell and slow Portis while Manning accrues some mileage on the other side of the ball. Giants 27, Redskins 24.


Kansas City (4-2) at San Diego (3-4), Sunday, 4:05 (San Diego -6)

Storylines: Important battle in AFC West features two teams trying to catch division leader Denver (5-2)...Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer will try to extend his win streak to three games against the franchise he coached from 1989 through 1998...San Diego was a 20-17 loser in Philadelphia last week, and the Chargers have now lost four games by a total of 12 points... Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who was held to seven rushing yards last Sunday, is second in the NFL in touchdowns (11), leads the AFC in rushing touchdowns (10), and is second in the AFC in rushing yards (659)... San Diego wideout Keenan McCardell leads the AFC in touchdown catches (6)...The Chargers lead the AFC in scoring offense (27.6 points per game)...The Bolts are second in the NFL against the run (76 yards per game)...Chargers and Chiefs are 15th and 16th in the 16-team AFC in passing defense (263.7 yards per game)...Kansas City was a 30-20 winner over Miami last Friday night in a game moved up two days due to the threat of Hurricane Wilma...Chiefs running backs Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson combined for 183 yards and three touchdowns in the victory...Kansas City QB Trent Green (289 passing yards) and tight end Tony Gonzales (7 receptions, 67 yards) come off their best games of the 2005 season...The Chiefs are second in the AFC in rushing offense (137 yards per game).

Fast Fact: The Chiefs have held San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson under 80 rushing yards in four of their seven meetings against the running back, and have held him out of the end zone on three occasions.

Prediction: Kansas City is better-rested and will be hungry to avenge last year's sweep to the Chargers, but the Bolts need the game more. Chargers 31, Chiefs 30.


Philadelphia (4-2) at Denver (5-2), Sunday, 4:15 (Denver -3)

Storylines: The Broncos will stagger home after last week's 24-23 loss to the Giants, in which they allowed a 23-10 lead to slip away...Denver running backs Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell combined for 180 rushing yards and a touchdown in the loss...Bell (455 yards, 3 TD) leads NFL running backs with 6.9 yards per carry...The Broncos are second in the league in rushing offense (158.7 yards per game)...The Denver defense is second in the AFC against the run (89.6 yards per game)...Philadelphia was a 20-17 come-from-behind winner against San Diego last Sunday...A blocked field goal by Quintin Mikell was returned for a 65-yard touchdown by Eagles cornerback Matt Ware with 2:25 to play to provide the decisive points...The Eagles lead the league in passing offense (299.7 yards per game), and are last in the league in rushing offense (57.5 yards per game)... Philadelphia wideout Terrell Owens is tied for the league lead in receptions (44)...The Eagles defense limited San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson to seven rushing yards on 17 carries last week.

Fast Fact: Since Mike Shanahan took the helm in 1995, the Broncos are 22-4 (.846) in home games that follow road losses.

Prediction: Broncos will come in spitting mad after last week's narrow loss, and will run on Philadelphia much better than did San Diego. Broncos 28, Eagles 16.


Tampa Bay (5-1) at San Francisco (1-5), Sunday, 4:15 (Tampa Bay -11)

Storylines: Quarterback Chris Simms will make his first start of the 2005 season for Tampa Bay, which lost starter Brian Griese (knee) in its 27-13 win over Miami in Week 6...Simms will be making his third career NFL start...The Bucs enter Sunday with a half-game lead over second-place Atlanta in the NFC South...Running back Cadillac Williams, who has missed the last two games with an injured foot, is expected back in the lineup...Tampa Bay has lost an NFL- low two fumbles, and is tied with an NFC-low nine turnovers committed... Buccaneers lead the league in total defense (233.3 yards per game) and rushing defense (62 yards per game), are third in scoring defense (12.0 points per game), and are second in the NFC in passing defense (171.3 yards per game)...San Francisco was a 52-17 loser in Washington last week, extending its losing streak to five games...Niners quarterback Alex Smith sustained a right knee sprain in the game, and is questionable for Sunday...Mike Nolan's team has allowed 22 sacks, tied for second-most in the NFC...The 49ers are last in the NFC in total offense (203 yards per game), and next-to-last in the conference in passing offense (124.7 yards per game)...Niners are tied for second-worst in the league in turnover margin (-8), and have thrown 11 interceptions, second-most in the league...San Francisco is last in the league in total defense (452.7 yards per game), passing defense (295.8 yards per game), and scoring defense (35.3 points per game)...49ers defensive tackle Bryant Young is tied for second in the NFC in sacks (6).

Fast Fact: The final game in the NFL career of Phil Simms, father of Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms, was a 44-3 loss for the Giants at San Francisco in a 1993 NFC Divisional Playoff.

Prediction: Yes, the 49ers are that bad, and the Tampa Bay defense will give Simms a number of short fields with which to work. Buccaneers 34, 49ers 7.


Buffalo (3-4) at New England (3-3), Sunday, 8:30 (New England -9)

Storylines: A primetime battle for first place in the AFC East...The defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots were 28-20 losers in Denver prior to their Week 6 bye...New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi is expected to make his first appearance since returning from an offseason stroke...Running back Corey Dillon (ankle), who missed the Broncos loss, is expected to play this week...New England QB Tom Brady leads the NFL in passing yards (1,821)...The Pats lead the AFC in total offense (377.8 yards per game) and passing offense (295.5 yards per game)...The Patriot defense has recorded an NFL-low one interception, and is tied with a league-low three takeaways...New England is 15th in the 16-team AFC in scoring defense (27.3 points per game)...Buffalo, which lost by a 38-17 count in Oakland last Sunday, will try to bounce back...Bills quarterback Kelly Holcomb is 2-1 since taking over signal-caller duties...Mike Mularkey's squad is next-to-last in the AFC in total offense (238 yards per game) and passing offense (113.4 yards per game)...The Bills are tied for the AFC lead in turnover margin (+8)...The Buffalo defense is next-to-last in the league against the run (159 yards per game)...Bills kicker Rian Lindell is tied for second in the league with 14 made field goals, and is 14-for-15 on the year...Buffalo's Terrence McGee leads the NFL in kickoff return average (34.3).

Fast Fact: After a week off to recharge its batteries, look for New England to come out with fire and outclass the Bills. Patriots 35, Bills 19.

Prediction: The Bills are 0-4 in their last four primetime games, and have been outscored by a composite of 119-18 in those defeats.


Baltimore (2-4) at Pittsburgh (4-2), Monday, 9:00 (Pittsburgh -9)

Storylines: Pittsburgh, which went to Cincinnati last week and won, 27-13, will try to humble a second straight AFC North rival on Monday night...The Steelers will be trying to snap a two-game losing skid at home, which included losses to the Patriots (23-20) and Jaguars (23-17 in overtime)...Pittsburgh amassed 221 yards on the ground last week, including 131 on 18 carries from running back Willie Parker...Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger leads the league in passer rating (120.7)...Steelers are second in the AFC in scoring defense (15.8 points per game)...Baltimore dropped a 10-6 decision in Chicago last Sunday, extending its road losing streak to six games dating back to last season...Ravens QB Kyle Boller (hyperxtended toe), who has not played since Week 1, is unlikely to return against the Steelers...Running back Jamal Lewis (326 yards, 1 TD) is averaging just 2.9 yards per carry in 2005...The Ravens are dead last in the league in scoring offense (11.5 points per game)...Baltimore leads the AFC in total defense (251.7 yards per game) and passing defense (152.8 yards per game), but is expected to be without linebacker Ray Lewis (hamstring) and strong safety Ed Reed (ankle) on Monday night...The Ravens are tied for last in the AFC in turnover margin (-7).

Fast Fact: Of the eight teams that have appeared on Monday Night Football 50 or more times, the Steelers' 32-20 (.615) record ranks third behind only Oakland (36-21-1, .629) and San Francisco (37-22, .627).

Prediction: Pittsburgh will be determined to end its home losing skid, and will smell blood in the water against the sinking ship that is Baltimore. Steelers 25, Ravens 6.

© Sports Network

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6. The Redskins will finish last in the NFC East.

Unless there is an injury, The Skins by common sense have the best chance to dethrone the eagles of the three.

1. The Giants have no defense, and their 4-2 record has been built on a weaker schedule that included 4 home games in their first 6. Now their schedule becomes harder and they have to play more away games than home, after Sunday. Too many people get all excited about takeaways... but you have to look when they occurred and what the team did with them. They got 6 gifts against the Saints in the bogus away game, and 4 from the Rams, 2 from the Cards, and 4 in a loss to Dallas. That's 16 in four games... 14 in three (one a loss)

2. The Cowboys were a fraud to begin with, They can't score points regularly, their defense chokes in the fourth, they have problems in their kicking game, and now play their remaining NFC East games on the road, after losing one at home to the Skins. They aren't great on the road, losing to Seattle late, to Oakland, and almost lost to San Fran on the road. Plus they still play 2 tough AFC West teams, Denver, & Kansas City at home, plus Carolina on the Road. Add into the mix, they have lost a key member of an already shaky OL.

3. Washington is by far the most balanced team in the NFC East... heck NFC period ( #2 Offense, #2 third conv., #4 Defense, #1 return coverage team). While they still have 5 NFC East games, having beat the Boys on the road... the rest of their schedule is winnable, with the toughest games outside of the East being Tampa on the Road and A hot & cold Charger team at home. They have two winnable road games,.. one with a beat up Rams team, and against a bad Cardinal team. If they win the next two games they are in the cat bird seat, in the NFC East. If the beat the Giants on the road, and lose to the Eagles (who are also hurting) They still have the inside track to at least the wild card. Also after Sunday the Skins have more games than road.

Yes things change, and anything can happen... injuries, bad calls, a bad bounce in a close game.. but barring any real biggie... the Redskins have the most realistic shot based on what they have done so far.

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The guy at least admits that the entire division is pretty good and that everyone may finish with a winning record. Also considering there's only a half a game seperating 1st from 4th it's very possible.

But like what's been said, his rational just doesn't add up. The Cowboys D will keep them in it but not the Skins? How about the fact that the Skins O is alot better than the Cowboys? Shouldn't that be factored in also? Eli and Plaxiglass more reliable? I'll disagree with that, but even if he's right, how about that awful NY defense?

Can any of our division rivals claim to be ranked in the top 5 in both offense and defense? The Skins are becoming a very balanced team and all that's missing is the turnover issue from our defense. If/when that starts happening.....the Skins are going to be the best team in this division.

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It's amazing how fast everyone is downplaying the redskins stats, accusing them of failing to score, giving up a few big plays and still refusing to admit that the skins are a pretty good team. All we seem to have seen all week so far is all about Eli even though a lot of the giants points they scored were given to them via a short field through turnovers. Add to that all the talk about Eli's comebacks, well, there is a guy named Brunell that has more than a few impresive comebacks under his belt already too.

Either way, if the Skins can protect the ball, don't do any worse than a -1 turnover ratio against the Giants, they simply won't have a chance. We saw what happens when we win the turnover battle and actually have a short field for our offense against the 49er's.

2. The Seattle Seahawks will be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Think about it. The Hawks (5-2) still play the 49ers twice, the Cardinals once, and the Rams at home within their division. They've also got eminently winnable games with Green Bay and Tennessee on the road, and the Giants at home, down the stretch. Meanwhile, the NFC East and South are three-team races in which all of the participants figure to beat each other up, while the North is an abomination where an 8-8 record could win the division. I'm not saying they're the best team in the conference, or even that they'll win their first postseason game since 1984, but the Seahawks are set up for success better than anyone else in the conference.

He may actually have a point here, the Seahawks really have an easy schedule to play with a lot of gimme wins on it, just depends how they do against the teams with a better than .333 win percentage which won't be many.

And speaking of schedules, the Giants really did get a gift with 9 home games, both Denver and KC at home leaving the only real tough non-division road games against the Chargers, which they lost, Seattle and if they can get it together by the end of the season, the Raiders.

If we can make the playoffs this year, we will have certainly earned it.

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i can't say that he's an idiot for saying we'll finish last. i don't agree with him, but 9-7 could possibly put you in the cellar of this strong division.

his rational is horrible. eli manning is in his 2nd year. sure, he looks to be ahead of the curve, but lets see how he plays in a hostile environment in a tough road game in november or december with something on the line. brunell has been there many times over. plaxico over moss? smoke another one. this guy is from pittsburgh, right? he should know about burress.

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the skins will get their yards and (hopefully, if recent trends continue) their points.

#2 offense vs. #31 defense should indicate that.

also, the giants will struggle a bit against our defense, though Eli figures to get a few good drives and big plays here and there.

#4 defense vs. #15 offense suggests that as well.

special teams should be about even...the giants have much better return men, but our ST coverage have been very good in shutting down dangerous guys like Dante Hall.

this all bears very favorable to the skins, except for the following intangibles that may well decide the game:

Intangibles in favor of the giants--

1) Giants home field...always very tough to play at the meadowlands.

2) Death of Mara...you know the Giants will be playing with added motivation.

Intangibles in favor of the skins--

1) The giants last second, thrilling win over Denver may be the perfect setup for a hangover effect...though Coughlin is as good a coach as any to keep that from happening.

And finally, the biggest factor that's gotta give....Turnovers. The giants are the best in the league at creating them, and the skins O is among the best at not giving them up. Brunell has only two picks vice 12 TDs all season...the biggest problem has been a case of fumbleitice, and that could be the turning point. Even though the skins aren't likely to turn it over much, the Giants figure on getting at least one or two by slapping the ball out of Brunell's hand or some other way. And that is how the Giants have been scoring so many points, off turnovers. And unfortunately the skins D just doesn't get those kind of opportunistic turnovers to counter the threat.

When all is said and done, the skins advantages on O and D could likely be neutralized by the Giants advantages in the intangibles area...thus leaving the teams evenly matched throughout. The deciding factor will be the turnovers...if the skins don't give the giants and Eli a short field by turning it over, they win. If they do, it will be another messy conundrum of "what ifs" not unlike the heartbreakers against Den and KC.

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I agree that there's a possibility of the Skins finishing last with a .500 or 9-7 record and actually his prediction of the upcoming game fits dead-on with mine. I guess I just don't understand why the Cowboys and Giants seem to get so much respect than the Redskins.

Now that the preseason picks of us finishing 4-12 or 5-11 have been blown out of the water, they have to disrespect us in some other way, I guess.

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"Bahhh...I love how people are always saying that you can't win anything without a defense. Well, sing with me, "Which one of these teams, doesn't belong!" The Giants defense is putrid. They are finishing last in the division."

I like your point. The only thing I would add is that...others can look at what we have done so far and say "You have a spotty record against quality teams." Not saying that we aren't there - just saying that he observation that the Skins haven't produced consistent victories against better teams is valid - and will remain valid - until a new pattern is established. That's why this is a big game and probably a must game. It will establish if our team is really "for real." If last week is any measure - I say we are.

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His rationale that we will come in last because he doesn't believe our defense is that good, Brunnell and Moss aren't that good either. Methinks he doesn't watch games or look at statistical comparisons. The number 1 receiver in the League so far is so so... the number five defense is worse than the number 31st defense. I expect a close game and it is a game that I worry about, but his logic indicates that he is a contrarian.

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Is it too late to add another section to FedEx (similar to "Around the NFL") called "The Bulliten Board"?

(It could be be a "permanent gallery", or restricted to only the upcomming game. You could allow us folk in the Peanut gallery to post, or simply restrict it to moderator-posted clippings. Just a thought for something to do with y'all's spare time.) :)

Edit (after reviewing the "Redskins Breaking News" section): never mind.

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With the Giants, Eagles, and Skins having not faced each other yet, it's impossible to know who is ahead right now for the division. Each has faced the Cowboys at the Cowboys and they are 2-1. To me the Skins and Cowboys are the most complete teams on offense and defense, but the Cowboys will likely be hurt badly by the kicking situation. With so many games decided by field goals I don't like their kicking situation. I've seen better teams than this years cowboys be done in by a bad kicking situation. The Giants probably have the best offense but is it enough to offset the bad defense. The Eagles offense is really one dimensional this year and their QB is ailing. They can't run the ball at all, and McNabb doesn't appear to be able to scramble as much with the injury. I'm not sure what to make of their defense. They've looked great and aweful at times. But they too have kicking woes. The Redskins have two kickers right now (if they don't blow it), top 10 offense and improving, and top 10 defense. They look very solid right now. It could be a mirage. The next two weeks should tell us.

Maybe it's the homer in me, but I really like the Skins chances this year. This game is really important, as is next weeks. To go 2-0 this week and potentially 3-0 over all would put the skins in the drivers seat. Go 1-2 and the skins probably do finish at the bottom, but they still have fight left with Dallas and NY coming to Washington in the 2nd half. 2-1 and they are in the middle of the fight.

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