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Friday, October 16, 2009
Final Word: NFC East

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com


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

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley


Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:

 
 Michael DeHoog/Sports Imagery/Getty Images
 A key for the Giants will be whether Osi Umenyiora and the Giants' defense can get pressure on Drew Brees.
The Giants need to take the crowd out of the game early. The Giants are prepared to use a silent count in the Superdome, but I think the crowd noise could definitely be a factor. Giants quarterback Eli Manning approached training camp with a strong desire to improve his accuracy with the deep ball. Even with all his success, the Giants couldn't really be considered a big-play offense. But that's changed this season. Look for offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride to send an early message with a deep ball to Hakeem Nicks. The Giants feel like they can use Saints safety Darren Sharper's aggressiveness against him. Watch for the double move from Nicks at some point in the first half -- and then watch him celebrate a 55-yard touchdown. That's the best way to silence what should be a pretty jacked-up audience.

The Redskins need a blowout in the worst way. I realize the Redskins should take anything they can get at this point, but a decisive win would go a long way toward restoring some confidence in the locker room. The Chiefs almost found a way to beat the Cowboys and coach Todd Haley won't let them simply roll over at FedEx. The Redskins need to dominate an opponent. But I'm not sure they can do it with this patchwork offensive line. Stephon Heyer at left tackle is a scary proposition. Jim Zorn needs to call plays that allow Jason Campbell to get the ball away quickly. That means that it could be a quiet day for Santana Moss, who needs a little time to get downfield.

Brian Westbrook could use a few touches against the Raiders. Andy Reid finally has a ton of offensive weapons. Now, the trick is trying to keep all of his players happy. Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook is going to become frustrated with only eight touches -- as he had against the Bucs last Sunday. This would be a good game to actually use the running game. Reid could even do something conventional, such as allowing Donovan McNabb to hand the ball to Westbrook. This is a game that you want to quickly establish a big lead and then get everyone off the field. I'd feed the ball to Westbrook several times in the first half and let him find some type of rhythm. No use frustrating a player who you'll need in December.

The Giants have to make Drew Brees uncomfortable. The Saints lost their starting left tackle, Jammal Brown, for the season -- and it hasn't really slowed them down. The Giants have to take advantage of Brown's absence in applying pressure on Brees. But they also have to be under control. I think we'll see Sean Payton try to neutralize the Giants' pass-rush with a variety of short passes to Reggie Bush and his other running backs. This is not a team you can be overly aggressive against -- or you'll give up a 70-yard touchdown. I think Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora desperately want to get Brees moving around in the pocket. If he's forced to throw it on the run, there's a chance he'll make some mistakes. This is a huge game for Brees in terms of proving that he can play well in a big game. This definitely has a big-game feel to it.

The Eagles need to reduce their penalties against the Raiders. You know the Raiders are going to end up with a bunch of penalties, but the Eagles can't get drawn into that type of game. The defense made some big plays against the Bucs last Sunday, but it also made too many mistakes. The Eagles have to clean up some of their mistakes before they start playing their division rivals. When you're playing a bad team, it's easy to get sloppy. If the Eagles could finish the game with five or fewer penalties, that would be a real accomplishment. Those mistakes come back to haunt you against good teams. The Eagles need to forget they're playing the Raiders -- if that's possible.