Friday, November 26, 2010
Final Word: NFC East
By Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 12:
Bears QB Jay Cutler could be susceptible to the strip sack against the Eagles defense.
The Eagles need to continue their remarkable turnover margin. When I last checked the Eagles were plus-15 in turnover margin, which leads the league. But it looks like cornerback Asante Samuel (7 INTs) will be a game-time decision with an MCL sprain. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown seven interceptions over the past four games and he doesn't always protect the ball in the pocket. I think this is a game where defensive ends Trent Cole and Brandon Graham can be looking for the strip sack when they get close to Cutler. The Bears are last in the league in allowing sacks per pass attempt. Cutler gets sacked about once every eight times he drops back. And I don't see that changing Sunday afternoon in Chicago.
The Eagles have the 26th-best punt coverage unit in the league. And that's not a good thing when you're facing the explosive Devin Hester, who has two touchdown returns this season. Sav Rocca has done a much better job in recent weeks of pinning teams inside their 20-yard line. But with Hester, Rocca will have to be a little more creative and think about angling the ball away from him. Eagles special-teams coach Bobby April arrived to much fanfare, but he has been pretty pedestrian to this point. This is a game where his unit needs to make some plays.
Welcome back to the starting lineup, Brandon Jacobs. New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin benched the talented Ahmad Bradshaw because he has lost five fumbles and hasn't done enough to address the issue. I don't think Jacobs can channel his 2007 form, but I do think he's capable of running downhill on the Jaguars. With the Giants losing starting receivers on a weekly basis, they'll need to lean on their running game Sunday. I'd look for Bradshaw to come off the bench and do something special. In fact, I'll be surprised if he doesn't go for more than 100 yards in this game.
It's time to unleash Keiland Williams on the sad-sack Vikings. Mike Shanahan made the curious decision to enter training camp with Clinton Portis, Willie Parker and Larry Johnson as his three running backs. Now, he's having to scramble to find replacements on a weekly basis. Portis probably has played his last down with the Skins, so it's time for Williams to show what he has. With Ryan Torain missing another game, Williams will have to be the workhorse against the Vikings. He started only three games at LSU during his career, so he's not used to being the feature back. But he can make plays in the passing game, and that's something this team desperately needs. The Skins will encounter a Vikings team playing its first game for interim head coach Leslie Frazier. As we've seen with the Cowboys, a coaching change can have a dramatic effect on a team's performance level. The Skins need to survive that early surge from the Vikings. If Brett Favre tosses a couple of early interceptions, that surge will vanish.
This should be a big game for the Giants' pass rush. Jaguars left tackle Eugene Monroe will miss this game with a concussion, and it's not as if Jacksonville has a lot of other options. The Giants will recognize their former fourth-round pick Guy Whimper if he steps in for Monroe. The Jaguars have given up 27 sacks this season even when Monroe has been in the lineup. I'd look for Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to take full advantage of the Jaguars' injury situation and try to force the issue on the right side. The Jags probably will counter by using tight end Marcedes Lewis as a blocker, and that will take a significant weapon out of play.