What a great weekend for pro football with showcase games with the Patriots, Jets, Packers, Falcons and wins by the amazing Bills and 49ers.
The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys improved their division standing just by sitting home for the Bye. The Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Buffalo Bills and the New York Giants blew it at home to the Seattle Seahawks when the Seahawks were running with their back-up quarterback.
At 3-1, the 'Skins are a half-game ahead of the Giants and three games better than the Eagles, our next opponent. Washington is a game ahead of 2-2 Dallas, but the Cowboys hold the tiebreaker advantage thanks to that 18-16 loss in week three.
The writers at Redskins Hog Heaven predicted a 2-2 start for Washington in route to a seven-win season. I have been reluctant to change our season forecast even with the Redskins, particularly the Redskins defense, performing better than expected. In preseason, we saw the last six games as a gauntlet with Washington emerging with one or two wins at most. The season has not turned out that way.
Good time to play the Eagles
The Eagles visit FedEx Field this Sunday and they look vulnerable now. They have too much talent to stay that way, but for the moment, all those new pieces are trying to jell. After a 31-24 loss to the Bills, the Eagles have hit rock bottom. There is nowhere else to go but up. Even with mistakes and turnovers, Philly put up 24 points on the Bills. It is a good time to play the Eagles and it is no time to overlook them.
Eagles fans are crushing Andy Reid and Michael Vick (Michael Pick) today. Jimmy Johnson pointed out yesterday that Reid named 13-year offensive line coach Juan Castillo as defensive coordinator and the Eagles have suffered on the offensive line and on defense ever since. To Redskins fans, that's like naming Joe Bugel the DC. Georgetown legend John Thompson said that 80 percent of coaching is inspiring players to play. A good coach can be successful in any sport, says Thompson. Maybe so, but nothing says it works from the start.
It must hurt that Reid and Costillo—and Babin, Jenkins, Rodgers-Cromartie, Asmoguha, Young, Brown—missed the offseason preparation. So, they are working the issues on the run. They may solve it in time for a late season charge, or they could flame out and quit by their second game with the Redskins on New Year's Day.
The risk that a quality team will pull themselves together for a late charge makes Sunday's game a "must win" for the 'Skins. The Redskins, under Zorn or Gibbs even, haven't had the killer instinct to crush a team when they were down. We can tell if Mike Shanahan has instilled that in this group of Redskins by their play against the Eagles.
I cannot help but think of the 2006 Redskins when I look at the 2011 Eagles. Both teams went all out to add players under an "it's our year" mentality. The Iggles year is unfolding as it did for the '06 Redskins. Cue the Twilight Zone theme and meditate on the sentence "You can't buy a championship."
Next four games are brutal
It did not appear that Washington's second four-game round was too tough with games against cream puffs Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers. Now, the Eagles at 1-4 are a desperate, dangerous team. The Panthers are the other 1-4 team. They feature the most dynamic rookie quarterback in a generation. Cam Newton's stats are rather pedestrian. Cam Newton on the field will stress test Washington's secondary. The way to beat Carolina is to dominate their defense.
The Redskins play a Halloween game against the Bills in their "home" stadium in Toronto, Ontario. The Bills are scary good. Buffalo features a running back most of you never heard of, Fred Jackson, currently the NFL's third-ranked rusher.
Buffalo's defensive coordinator is George Edwards who played the same role for the Spurrierskins in 2003. Edwards' defense ranked 25th overall, a decline of 11 placed from the Marv Lewis-led group of the prior season. However, Edwards had a disruptive group with 17 interceptions and 26 forced fumbles, 13 recovered. That is just the defense Edwards is coaching in Buffalo. The Bills lead the league in interceptions, but rank 29th in game stats.
I have slight regard for college head coaches who make parallel moves to the pros...Unless their name is Harbaugh. I don't know yet what Jim Harbaugh is doing to the 49ers to get more out of them than Mike Singletary or Mike Nolan did. I don't know that it will last, but it sure is working now.
Redskins fans are convinced that Harbaugh's nefarious methods include hands transplants for CB Carlos Rogers who has three interceptions already. Rogers had a pick-six on Josh Freeman in the 'Niners 48-3 beatdown of the Buccaneers.
I have a superstition that when ill-treated Redskins alumni return to FedEx Field, we lose. Rogers and the 4-1 49ers close the next four game stretch at FedEx on November 4. West Coast teams tend not to play well when they fly east for games. That didn't hurt the Seahawks yesterday against the Giants. The Snyder jinx trumps everything. The "winnable" games against the Bills and 49ers now seem very iffy.
Donovan McNabb, you are done
The Minnesota Vikings won their first game of the season against the Arizona Cardinals by making QB Donovan McNabb irrelevant to the game. The Vikings rushed the ball 33 times, not counting four scrambles by McNabb, for 168 yards and three touchdowns. McNabb had 21 pass attempts for 169 yards and no touchdowns.
McNabb was brought to Washington and to Minnesota to be the difference-maker by covering up offensive flaws elsewhere. He is not that guy. Why have a six-time Pro Bowler hand off all day to Adrian Peterson? Any rookie can do that. It's something for the Vikings to ponder.
I had a fear of the McNabb-led Vikings raiding FedEx Field on Christmas Eve. That Snyder jinx thing again. It is past tense now. I doubt that McNabb will be on the field that day. If you admire McNabb's career accomplishments, as I do, and believe he was ill-used by the Redskins, then you find it painful to watch him now. This cannot end well for Donovan.