Friday, October 1, 2010
Final Word: NFC East
By Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:
Why is no one talking about Artis Hicks' triumphant return to Philly? I need to take a break from Donovan McNabb for at least two paragraphs, so let's take a peek at the Washington Redskins' offensive line. Rookie Trent Williams has the athleticism to slow Eagles defensive end Trent Cole, but he's nursing toe and knee injuries and doesn't know if he'll be ready. If Stephon Heyer starts at left tackle, the Redskins must help him out quite a bit. Hicks, the former Eagles reserve, starts at right guard for the Skins. He'll have to play against a defense that has produced 12 sacks, which is second in the league. Cole and Juqua Parker have combined for seven sacks and rookie Brandon Graham's becoming more comfortable each week. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will try everything to establish the running game, but that will be difficult if Williams doesn't play. Expect to see Redskins running back Ryan Torain early and often Sunday. He's quicker than Clinton Portis and a better fit for what Shanahan's trying to accomplish now.
The Giants are glad Olsen doesn't have a twin. Bears tight end Greg Olsen will play in his home state of New Jersey for the first time since high school Sunday night. A matchup nightmare for linebackers and safeties, he has 10 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns this season. This is a game when safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle must be technically sound. Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz likes to run Olsen up the seam to give quarterback Jay Cutler a quick option off a three-step drop. If Giants linebackers take one false step, Olsen will burn them like he did the Cowboys in Week 2. Olsen's on his way to stardom. Who said Martz doesn't value tight ends?
The Redskins may try to contain Michael Vick by assigning a defensive back to shadow him.
Skins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wants Michael Vick to scramble. When he was the head coach for the New Orleans Saints, Haslett had a front-row seat to the Vick Experience. I think he will have a defensive back spying on Vick at all times. He has told his players to get their hands up earlier than usual in an attempt to disrupt Vick's rhythm. The Eagles' quarterback looked brilliant against the Lions and Jaguars, but those teams did a poor job containing him. The Redskins will try to lure Vick into throwing the ball across his body. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall played with Vick for several years, so he knows a lot of his tendencies. Look for outside linebacker Brian Orakpo to play a different style in this game. He can't race up the field. Instead, he'll hold the edge and try to force Vick the other direction. For some reason, my gut's telling me Vick will really struggle. But my gut's been wrong on occasion.
Will the Giants show an ounce of discipline against the Bears? The New York Giants embarrassed themselves with five post-whistle personal fouls in last Sunday's loss to the Titans. It's no secret the Titans are a chippy team that loves to intimidate their opponents, so the Giants shouldn't have been surprised. I expect to see a smarter team show up against the Bears. But the Giants also must be disciplined before plays end. Eli Manning and Ahmad Bradshaw must take care of the ball in the red zone. No one cares that the Giants outgained the Titans by 200 yards last week. It's all about the scoreboard. I expect the Giants to make much better decisions against the Bears. And for whatever reason, I'm still not buying the Bears as a team to beat in the NFC. Cutler will make a back-breaking mistake at some point.
Donovan McNabb will put Eagles rookie safety Nate Allen to the test. I think McNabb's poised to have a big game against the Eagles' secondary. The Lions moved the ball against them really well late in the game. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will want to establish a quick tempo early in Sunday's game. If the running game is decent, McNabb will be effective in the play-action game. Santana Moss will line up all over the place, and Shanahan will put him in motion quite a bit. I assure you that McNabb will look to beat Allen with a double move at some point. And if Allen takes a false step, Moss will take it to the house.