Friday, January 1, 2010
Final Word: NFC East
By Dan Graziano ESPN.com
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 17:
The Cowboys will have a difficult time covering Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson.
I thought we had looked at every conceivable angle of Eagles-Cowboys this week, but let's go even deeper. I'm interested to see how the Cowboys attempt to defend wide receiver DeSean Jackson. He wasn't effective in a 20-16 loss at the Linc and the Cowboys did a really nice job of keeping someone behind him at all times. Since that game, cornerback Mike Jenkins has been playing at a Pro Bowl level. You'll see him try to get a good jam on Jackson and then you'll see safeties Ken Hamlin and Gerald Sensabaugh helping over the top. One of the underrated matchups will be Jason Avant against cornerback Orlando Scandrick. That will be an important contest because Avant is capable of making big plays.
I'm curious to see how much pride the Giants display after a disgraceful performance against the Panthers. Will the defense stand up and play for embattled defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan? The host Vikings are a team that desperately needs a win heading into the playoffs after a December collapse.
The Redskins appear to have little if any chance of winning this game at the Chargers. But let's take a look at how right guard Edwin Williams and safety Kareem Moore play.
These are young guys being asked to play well in starting roles. And you could even see Lendy Holmes starting at safety now that LaRon Landry's been ruled out.
This has to be coach Jim Zorn's last game, although he's in full denial mode. Will his players put it on the line for him one more time or fold like they did against the Giants? We're about to find out.
I'm anxious to see how the Eagles use their linebackers.Akeem Jordan saw the majority of the snaps at middle linebacker last week. He can't cover Jason Witten in the middle of the field. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermoot could go with Will Witherspoon and Jordan as the only linebackers if he wants to try to nickel cornerback Joselio Hanson on Witten.
Jeremiah Trotter can help blow up the running game at middle linebacker but he would get abused by Witten. McDermott has some interesting decisions to make.
I could see Eli Manning getting in a shootout with Brett Favre. And this could be Hakeem Nicks' game of the season. He's shown the ability to make plays after contact. If the offensive line can give Manning time, I think he'll light up this Vikings' secondary.
I'm also very interested to see how Ahmad Bradshaw performs as the feature back. The Vikings have an excellent defensive line but there will be some cutback lanes available. If he has a big day, Giants fans will spend the offseason calling for him to be the starter in 2010.
I think these teams will combine for at least 68 points. Just call it a hunch.