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ESPN: Clayton 1st & 10 excerpt


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New York Giants at Washington Redskins

The Redskins have come out of nowhere to be in position to get the last wild-card spot. That's remarkable. Early in the season, the Redskins looked like the little engine that could. Gregg Williams did his expected magic with the defense, but Joe Gibbs did nice things with the offense too. He kept in extra blockers to protect Mark Brunell, and he often sent only one or two receivers into pass routes. With time, Brunell worked his offense well, but the offense hit the wall in October and lost three games. Gibbs and the Redskins caught their second breath. They've won their last three, and suddenly, they control the final wild-card spot if they can win their final two games. They have a lot of bad memories from their 36-0 loss in Giants Stadium on Oct. 30. Since then, the Giants have showed signs of strain. Eli Manning has had his problems with accuracy on short passes when defenders get around his feet. That's exactly what the Redskins will try to do. Manning has relied more on Tiki Barber to carry the offense, and he has responded with his best season. Manning is dangerous, though, and Gibbs knows it. He has weapons on offense and he has Barber. Catching the Giants for the NFC East title might be a reach. The Giants should beat the Raiders next Saturday and clinch the division if they lose this game. The Redskins, for their own sake, want to make them work to win the division because it's not out of the question these two teams could meet in the first round of the playoffs.

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Clayton's an intellectual football watcher. While I won't expect to hear him give a good description of what it's like to pick up a blitz, he is OTOH very observant about bigger picture issues such as the team's change in direction. He also clearly works hard to get facts right. I think his pencilneck appearance causes many people to doubt his abilities to cover the NFL.

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