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Friday, October 2, 2009
NFC East: Final Word

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com


Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend's games:

 
 AP Photo/Tim Larsen
 Brandon Jacobs will be looking to lift his 3.4 yards-per-carry average against the Chiefs.
The Cowboys' secondary has to tackle on Sunday: One of the big issues in the loss to the Giants was the inability to bring down receivers after they'd made the catch. The Broncos are going to line up in a lot of three-receiver formations and they may even have four out there at times. Brandon Marshall's a big, physical player who likes to work the middle of the field, but Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney will line up in the slot and then try to squirt away from you after fairly short catches. Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins must do a good job of tackling in the open field. Orlando Scandrick had an awful game tackling against the Giants, and that's one of the reasons he's not starting against Denver. Watch out for Denver's Eddie Royal in the open field. It's not like quarterback Kyle Orton has a rocket arm, but he's efficient. The Cowboys need to do a good job of keeping everything in front of them.

The Giants need to put the Chiefs away early. Early last season, the Giants struggled a bit with closing out bad teams. They barely beat the Bengals in the first half of the season and then they lost to the Browns. You don't want to give a team like the Chiefs any early hope. The Chiefs will do their best to take away the running game early and that's why Eli Manning will try to make a play downfield. If Hakeem Nicks (foot) is ready to go, this is a game where he could end up making a huge play. From what I can tell, Manning really wants to get on the same page with the rookie because they were starting to make some major progress late in the preseason. Good news for the Giants: Running back Ahmad Bradshaw is out of a protective boot and it looks like he's a go for Sunday.

Don't worry about style points. The Redskins simply need a win against the Bucs. Because of a relatively weak schedule, coach Jim Zorn has an opportunity to get this thing headed in the right direction. If the Redskins lose this game, I'm not sure how much longer Dan Snyder can stick with Zorn. The coach looked absolutely lost late in the Lions game. The hitch and pitch on the game's final play was laughable -- especially when Jason Campbell could've easily fired the ball into the end zone. Now Zorn and defensive coordinator Greg Blache are fighting over who should take the blame for the Skins' troubles. Well, how about we just point the finger at everyone? This organization isn't on good terms with its fan base right now. And a loss Sunday would cause even further damage. More than anything, Zorn HAS to commit to the running game in the first half. No excuses. If the Redskins can't pound away with Clinton Portis against Tampa Bay, then it will be a long afternoon.

I expect Brandon Jacobs to have a big game Sunday. I think Jacobs is angry about his 3.4 yards-per-carry average through three games -- and that's a good thing for coach Tom Coughlin and the Giants. He wants to come out and punish a young defense Sunday. There's been all sorts of speculation -- some of it from Tony Siragusa -- that Jacobs is tip-toeing around the line of scrimmage instead of running over people. I think it has more to do with Jacobs working to become a more complete back. Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said that Jacobs may be trying to be too "perfect" in finding his holes. But on Sunday, I think you'll see Jacobs return to his punishing ways. He's the player who gives this offense an identity. It's time to get him going.

The Cowboys better realize that Elvis is in the building. That would be Denver's Elvis Dumervil, who has become a pass-rushing force in this league. He's certainly not a big guy, but he has an enormous amount of energy and quickness. With his low center of gravity, he can beat offensive tackles off the snap. Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams has struggled with smaller, quicker players at times -- especially if he's not able to trip them. I would look for Dumervil to move from side to side looking for the most favorable matchups. He's definitely a player the Cowboys will have to identify before each snap.