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Friday, November 20, 2009
Final Word: NFC East

By Matt Mosley

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

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 11 in the Beast.

Miles Austin
The Cowboys hope Miles Austin can take advantage of Washington's aggressive secondary.
The Redskins have to do a better job against double moves. The Skins are coming off a nice win, but the secondary let Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall get deep on two touchdowns and he could have had another if not for a poorly thrown pass. Carlos Rogers, DeAngelo Hall and Fred Smoot are all aggressive players who sometimes get caught guessing on routes. The Cowboys have had success with Miles Austin on double routes and I would expect them to try to take advantage of the Redskins' aggressiveness. It also looks like Redskins safeties LaRon Landry and Reed Doughty have taken some poor angles to the ball on deep throws. The Cowboys have to be more balanced on offense this week, but they'll still take some shots downfield. Look for the Redskins to shade Landry in Austin's direction, which might open something up for Roy Williams on a vertical route.

Can the Giants fix their issues on defense? The good news is that this is the healthiest they've been all season. There's even a chance that cornerback Aaron Ross finally returns to the field. The Giants have paid dearly for not having sufficient depth at safety. If Ross could actually move over and help them at safety, there could be a huge payoff. I also think this could be a big game for former Falcons linebacker Michael Boley. The team pretty much gave up on the speedy linebacker. Now, he has a chance to make them pay. The Falcons lose an important player with running back Michael Turner out this week. Quarterback Matt Ryan will have to get the job done, and he's been very shaky in protecting the footbally lately. He managed games so well last season that it's hard to believe that he could throw so many interceptions. The Giants need to get in his face early and not allow him to find a rhythm.

I think the Eagles will be much better on defense this week. And I'm not just talking about the fact that they'll be staring across from the interception-machine known as Jay Cutler. It looks like Joe Mays will step in at middle linebacker, allowing Chris Gocong to return to the strong-side spot. With Will Witherspoon at the weak-side position, I think the Eagles will look like a more athletic team. Mays isn't a star or anything but he's capable of covering running backs and tight ends. If Sheldon Brown can play through a hamstring injury, I think the Eagles will be OK in the secondary. If Brown can't go, the Eagles are going to be hurting. Quintin Mikell and Asante Samuel are both strong players, but they wouldn't have much help with Brown on the sideline. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott desperately needs his front four to generate most of the pass-rush. You don't want to be bringing a lot of blitzes with the way this secondary looks right now.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett needs to re-discover the running game. Garrett said the game plan got "out of whack" last week against the Packers because of some down-and-distance situations. Some of that's true, but he could've done more to establish the running game. What's the point in spending a first-round pick on Felix Jones if you're going to give him three touches in a tight game? Jones is one of the most explosive players on the team and Garrett has to dial him up this week. Owner Jerry Jones pretty much said the same thing this week. He wants to see the other Jones get more opportunities, so hopefully that happens.

Watch this matchup between Cowboys right tackle Doug Free and Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo. I realize that Orakpo's a stand-up linebacker on first down but he'll see plenty of action at defensive end. He's a strong player who loves to use the bull-rush -- and I think that's Free's biggest deficiency. The former Northern Illinois player moves really well laterally and he's what scouts call a good "foot athlete," but he can get overpowered. Look for Skins defensive coordinator Greg Blache to try and get Orakpo in one-on-one situations with Free. The Cowboys will try to counter that by helping out Free with tight ends. If the Redskins pull off the upset, I think Orakpo will have had a monster game. Keep that in mind this Sunday. And have a tremendous football weekend.