Friday, October 8, 2010
Final Word: NFC East
By Matt Mosley
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 5:
The Giants' sad march through the AFC South continues. The New York Giants were hammered on the road in Indianapolis and then self-destructed at home against the Tennessee Titans. On Sunday, they'll have a chance to match up against the Houston Texans. The Dallas Cowboys exposed some flaws in the Texans' high-powered offense. Those flaws have a lot to do with an offensive line that is missing its starting left tackle. I think the Giants will try to repackage what worked for them against Jay Cutler last Sunday night. Matt Schaub doesn't hold the ball as long as Cutler, but Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware showed that he can be had. The Bears didn't have a running game, which helped the Giants make them one-dimensional from the start. The Texans love to run the ball, so the first priority will be eliminating the cutback lanes for Arian Foster. This is a game where Clint Sintim and Jonathan Goff need to come up big. If you overpursue Foster, he'll put a 60-yard touchdown on you in a hurry.
Kevin Kolb will get his second chance at starting for the Eagles Sunday against the 49ers.
Mike Shanahan will unveil the Ryan Torain show against the Packers: The Redskins must keep Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers off the field Sunday as much as possible. If they can feed the ball to Torain in the power running game at least 20 times, it will lead to good things. Torain has durability issues, but you had to love how he planted Quintin Mikell on his back last Sunday (unless you're an Eagles fan). Torain will have to be patient against a Packers defense that likely will try to run blitz him early in the game. Having Trent Williams back should help the Skins run to the left side. I've really enjoyed watching him deliver some of those roll blocks on the backside that Shanahan loves. Trent Williams and Doug Free are playing like the two best left tackles in the division right now.
Kevin Kolb can't win this game in one series. I know Kolb was excited about the opportunity to get a full week of practice reps as the starter this week. He performed well under similar circumstances against the Saints and Chiefs while filling in for an injured Donovan McNabb in 2009. This is a different feeling for him, though, because he began the season as the starter. Kolb must guard against trying to do too much early in this game. He'll certainly need to throw the ball downfield more than he did against the Redskins, but he'll have to pick his spots. Reid needs to trust in his quarterback and try to put him in good situations. Kolb's biggest strength is his accuracy, so it will be important to connect with LeSean McCoy (he practiced some today) and tight end Brent Celek early in the game to gain some confidence and rhythm.
Cowboys must gang tackle Chris Johnson. You'll see the Cowboys leave defensive ends Marcus Spears and Igor Olshansky on the field a lot more than usual to guard against the run. Johnson's one of the most explosive runners in the game, but he's having a down season by his standards. (Check out AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky's breakdown of Johnson.) The Cowboys must play under control against him and not let him bounce outside. The play of safeties Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball will be really important. They can't afford to arm tackle Johnson. You must tackle him low or hold him up so that help can arrive. The Cowboys will likely have a spy assigned to Vince Young because he's capable of taking off on long runs. There will be a ton of Texas Longhorn fans at Cowboys Stadium, so he'll want to put on a show.
Welcome back to the division, Shawn Andrews. Former Eagles Pro Bowl guard Andrews likely will get his first start since the 2008 season. He has played well for the Giants in brief stints this season, but now he'll have a chance to line up at left tackle. I visited with Andrews after the Titans game and he seems to have an excellent mindset. Even some of the Eagles players who were frustrated by his perceived lack of desire in Philly still talk about his remarkable talent. Andrews still wants to be one of the best linemen in the game, and he's young enough to give it a go. It all starts Sunday against the Texans.