The Giants will try to establish the running game with Ahmad Bradshaw against the Colts.
I know one of these notes should be about the Manning brothers, but I'm sort of worn out with that angle. I'm eager to see whether the Indianapolis Colts can slow New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw in this game after allowing Texans running back Arian Foster to thrill fantasy players across the country with 231 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks the loss of Bob Sanders derailed the Colts' defensive game plan last Sunday, so we'll see if they do a better job against the Giants. New York center Shaun O'Hara continues to fight through an ankle injury and there's no guarantee he's even active for the game. The Colts are known for their speed on defense, so I'd look for them to run blitz more than last week and try to play some games at the line of scrimmage to fool the Giants.
The Dallas Cowboys will have to know where Bears defensive end Julius Peppers is at all times. Chicago likes to move him away from where the tight end lines up, according to ESPNDallas.com's Bryan Broaddus, a former NFL scout who has studied the Bears quite a bit this week. Cowboys right tackle Marc Colombo will have his hands full because Peppers does an excellent job of keeping his pads low and pursuing from the backside. Quarterback Tony Romo must have tight end Jason Witten running routes, but offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will have to pick his spots because Colomobo will likely need some assistance. I think left tackle Doug Free will do fine against Peppers, who doesn't have as much power as Redskins defensive end Brian Orakpo. Free didn't play poorly last week, but he wasn't as sharp as some folks predicted. Also keep an eye on the Bears' other starting defensive end, Mark Anderson. He's a really quick player who could give the Cowboys problems in space.
Mike Shanahan vs. Gary Kubiak will be the best chess match in the division. The Texans' head coach studied under Shanahan for years with the Broncos before finally getting his opportunity as a head coach. Kubiak turned his offense over to Kyle Shanahan and saw some huge benefits in '09. Now, Kyle is the Redskins' offensive coordinator and he knows what the Texans will be trying to accomplish. I'm eager to see how Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett defends one of the best receivers in the league, Andre Johnson. I think he'll let Carlos Rogers jam Johnson near the line of scrimmage and then try to offer some help over the top. But the first order of business will be slowing Arian Foster. If the Texans' running game's working early, look for them to try to burn the Redskins with a double move off the play-action. That was something the Redskins struggled with last season because they didn't show much discipline on the back end.
After Sunday night's game, we'll know a lot more about Perry Fewell's Giants defense. Giants general manager Jerry Reese and coach Tom Coughlin were determined to never repeat their mistake of entering a season too thin at safety. The arrival of Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant to go along with a healthy Kenny Phillips has made that a position of strength. But Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has victimized a lot of excellent defensive backs over the years. The Giants have spent part of the week preparing to substitute against a hurry-up offense. It will be fascinating to see how second-year linebacker Jonathan Goff holds up against a savvy veteran such as Peyton Manning.
We can't have a Final Word without discussing the Cowboys' offensive line situation. I think Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo will give the Cowboys a big lift against the Bears. Montrae Holland didn't play poorly at left guard against the Redskins, but Kosier's better on the move than him. I think you'll see Felix Jones get a lot more involved in the running game in Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett took a lot of heat this week for his bone-headed decision to run a play at the end of the first half last Sunday, which resulted in a Redskins touchdown. He must have a nice bounce-back effort to help the Cowboys forget about that opening loss. The Cowboys must continue integrating Dez Bryant into the offense, but they can't let that process disrupt their rhythm. If you're constantly having to tell him where to line up, it just puts one more thing on Tony Romo's shoulders. We'll be watching that situation closely. The Bears have some issues in their secondary. I think Romo will have a big game.