Five nuggets of knowledge about the Week 16 games in the Beast
The Eagles need a fast start on offense. There will be a ton of emotion at the Linc early in the game based on the return of former Eagles safety Brian Dawkins. The Broncos have lost to teams such as the Redskins and Raiders, so it's not like they're a particularly focused bunch. If the Eagles can score early, I think it will put a lot of pressure on Kyle Orton and the Broncos' offense. This is also a game in which the Eagles have to account for defensive end Elvis Dumervil on every play. He has 15 sacks and is capable of taking over a game. If he lines up on Winston Justice's side, Philly needs to provide some help. Same goes for Jason Peters, although he's been playing a lot better lately. If Brian Westbrook plays, I think it will be important to let him get a couple of touches early in the game. Once he gets tackled once or twice, he should be good to go. But coach Andy Reid shouldn't allow his desire to play Westbrook interrupt the offensive rhythm he's established the past few weeks. Against this Broncos team, Donovan McNabb can't afford to make loose throws like he did against the 49ers. Champ Bailey and Dawkins will make him pay if he starts floating the ball across the middle.
The Cowboys must find a way to cover Skins tight end Fred Davis in the red zone. The second-year player has been on fire since Chris Cooley suffered a season-ending injury. Davis provides a big target for Jason Campbell and he does a nice job running after the catch. The Cowboys will use a combination of linebacker Bobby Carpenter and cornerback Orlando Scandrick on Davis. It's important that Carpenter gets a jam on Davis coming off the line of scrimmage -- especially in the red zone. The Cowboys had success covering Tony Gonzalez and, to a certain extent, Antonio Gates. Davis is becoming adept at finding soft spots in coverage and the Cowboys need to shadow him at all times.
The Giants must make this the worst afternoon of Matt Moore's young career. I remember the Panthers' quarterback, Moore, when he went to training camp with the Cowboys. He's a heady player who should have never been allowed to leave Valley Ranch. The Giants need to do to Moore exactly what they did to Jason Campbell. I love that defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan stole a page from Jim Johnson's playbook and had rookie Jonathan Goff blitz the "A" gap against Casey Rabach and Mike Williams Monday night. They had the double "A" blitz a couple times. It creates all sorts of confusion with the interior of the line. This is also a game in which Justin Tuck could get his sack totals back up where they need to be. Moore shows a lot of poise for a young guy, but no quarterback responds all that well to being hit in the mouth down after down. If the Giants can get to Moore early, I think they can cause some turnovers. And you have to close down Giants Stadium with a win.
I think the Giants can run on the Panthers. One of the reasons the Panthers are ranked fourth in the league against the pass is because teams have gashed them with the running game. The Panthers are ranked 26th against the run, allowing 130 yards per game. Ahmad Bradshaw showed his speed against the Redskins. I think he could end up with a 100-yard effort against the Panthers. Ball security will be a key against this Panthers defense. The Panthers have forced 17 fumbles and that's why Eli Manning needs to do a really good job of protecting the ball. Julius Peppers took over the game against the Vikings. David Diehl needs to have a nice game against Peppers. This is a Panthers team that got off to an awful start, but has kept playing for John Fox. By the way, if the Panthers fire Fox, it wouldn't surprise me if Tom Coughlin made him an offer to be his defensive coordinator. Bill Sheridan's had a really rough first season with the Giants and I know Coughlin's been frustrated with the results.
Miles Austin should have a big day against the Redskins' safeties. Watching safety LaRon Landry launch his body at players is a familiar sight. But it's gotten to the point where he's not even close in terms of taking the right angles. He's constantly going for the highlight-reel hit instead of making the sure tackles. I'm tired of hearing about how talented the guy is. It's time for him to actually show some consistency. If he tries to come downhill too aggressively against Austin, the Cowboys will have at least one 50-yard touchdown. If this game comes down to a field goal, things could get interesting. Former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham is now with the Cowboys. Former Florida State kicker Graham Gano is with the Redskins. He had an extra point attempt blocked against the Giants and I'm not sure Gano's completely healthy.