As I watched the Monday Night Football game last night, I was thinking, "I could totally live with just having to deal with a team that was slightly underachieving but had some hope for the future." Instead, we get the added debacle of our current ownership and management mess. But I'll save thinking and writing about that for tomorrow. Today, my thoughts are squarely on last season's anomaly--that is, starting 6-2 and finishing 2-6. Watching that first half of the season, you would have been hard-pressed to find someone--anyone--that would have picked the Redskins to miss the playoffs. The losses to teams like Pittsburgh and the Giants notwithstanding, the team had a very real chance to get the wins necessary to make the postseason. But the free falling Skins could not save themselves.
Is it possible that we have a team that can reverse its 2-5 start? Not probable, but possible, yes. No team has a tougher schedule in November than the Redskins. Our opponents combine for a .750 winning percentage. Going on the road this week in Atlanta will be very tough, especially with those guys coming off a loss to their division rivals.
Assuming that the coaches can solidify the offense from an X's and O's perspective, the only thing that can turn the Redskins around is if they adopt an attitude that they are capable of winning every game they have left on the schedule. This plus the kind of "bunker mentality" that "nobody is giving us a chance" is how teams band together and fight just hard enough to beat teams they might not otherwise be capable of defeating.
The problem with this theory is that teams that adopt that kind of attitude usually do it in the process of rallying around someone or something. Coach Zorn could be that person to rally around, but he has been so publicly castrated that you almost feel like rallying around him is the same as dancing on the deck of the Titanic. Players have been shown clearly who is in charge, even if that authority is ripping the franchise apart. Chris Samuels would always take it upon himself to make sure guys played with pride and professionalism no matter what the record. His leadership is at least somewhat diminished now that he is no longer wearing pads. Who is going to step up and assume the role of rallying the troops? London Fletcher? Greg Blache? Jason Campbell seems to always have his glad game on, so maybe he is the guy that keeps the players focused on the season. I look forward to your comments on this one.
Ten Yard Fight - 10 Chances To Make One Good Point
1) I hope all you mediocre fantasy teams out there capitalized this week on the bye weeks of Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, Big Ben, Randy Moss, and even guys like Cedric Benson, Matt Cassel, and the Steelers defense. I did and it was great, until I realized that all of the teams I beat (in a cumulative scoring system) had studs on the bench. I'll take it, but it is yet another reminder that my team is woefully undermanned coming down the stretch.
2) In the Jets-Dolphins game, the high passer was Mark Sanchez with 265 yards, the high rusher was Thomas Jones with 102 yards, and the high receiver was Dustin Keller with 76 yards. Chad Henne threw for a paltry 112 yards, Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown each had 27 yards rushing, and Williams led all Dolphin receivers with 41 yards. Final score Dolphins 30, Jets 25...huh?
3) It was good to see the Rams get their first win of the season...against someone besides the Redskins. Although by the associative property of scheduling (or is it transitive?), their win against a team that beat the Redskins means they are...wait, it just means we're all in the same crappy neighborhood. If you want an example of a guy who is playing as if his team is undefeated and every game is a playoff game, look no farther than Steven Jackson.
4) I realize that Calvin Johnson is hurt, but you simply HAVE to let Matthew Stafford go deep more often if you're calling plays in Detroit. That guy has a cannon for an arm and he actually has great touch on his deep balls. I predict that next year, the combination of Stafford, Johnson, and Kevin Smith will be one of the most potent offensive threats in the league. (I bet they draft an offensive lineman to help that come true...Vinny...Vinny?)
5) Speaking of playing with pride, the game nobody outside of Tennessee and Jacksonville featured two runners that blew up for exciting play after exciting play. Chris Johnson busted out for 228 yards and Maurice Jones-Drew had 177 yards. MJD had a staggering 22.5 yards per carry on 8 carries! I was a little concerned for Chris Johnson with Vince Young starting for the first time this season, but it all seemed to go okay, huh? Looking ahead, I see Vince Young enhancing the rushing the attack of the Titans. They will turn his arm loose on a few more deep throws I imagine, and between him, Johnson and LenDale White, they should be able to keep the ball moving on the ground nicely.
6) In my fantasy column I write for SB Nation, I urged Kyle Orton, Knowshon Moreno and Tony Scheffler owners to start somebody else this week. My thought was that the Ravens defense, coming off of a bye, playing at home, and trying to save some face after giving it up in recent weeks were not to be messed with in any fantasy format. Well, I got one right.
7) I saw something crazy on the television when I was watching the various games this weekend. Fans in the stands were holding these weird things in their hands that had words and messages written on them. All different kinds. They were holding them up and waving them around. Made me think back to a time when you saw that here in D.C. I think it was earlier this season...no wait, I forgot, the rule against signs here has been around forever. (Serenity now!)
8) This Sunday night, NBC is giving us yet another NFC East matchup: Dallas vs. Philadelphia. I guess I'll get to watch The Simspons and Family Guylive that night. It kills me because I love watching football on Sunday night. It's quiet in my house, I can actually pay attention, and I can relax and just sink into a game. I can think of no matchup I would prefer less than this one. Will it be a good game? Probably. Will I flick over to it a million times over the course of the night? Of course I will. But the screen will be filled all night with that which makes me vomit. At least if we beat Atlanta, one of the announcers might throw in an ill-advised, "And with the Redskins beating the Falcons earlier today, the NFC East race could really tighten up here in the coming weeks."
9) Game #1 I am looking forward to this weekend (besides the Skins game of course): Cincinnati hosting Baltimore. I picked Cincy to win that division and a win at home over the Ravens on Sunday would really put them in the driver's seat (they already beat the Ravens on the road and the Steelers at home.) I will be interested to see how the Bengals move the ball after what the Ravens did to the Broncos. Carson Palmer is a step up from Kyle Orton, and his receivers are probably better across the board as well. If Cedric Benson can get a few hard first downs on the ground, the Bengals should be able to move the ball well enough to score. I think Flacco is officially in a bit of a rut. I won't call it a sophomore slump because he is still playing relatively well. Either way, defensive coordinators are figuring out ways to contain him.
10) Game #2 I am looking forward to this weekend: Detroit at Seattle. Just kidding. The Monday Night game next week between the Steelers and the Broncos at Invesco Field (Mile High) is going to be a great game. I can just feel it. Josh McDaniels is already working to make sure his team doesn't begin a free fall. Who knows better than Redskins fans how six wins in the first half of the season can turn into a slide all the way to 8-8? The Steelers are coming off a bye and they need this conference win, since winning their division is going to be dicey. This will be a great Monday Night game.
I'm going to toy with predictions in this column and see where it takes me. We'll keep a running tally of how good or awful I am at picking games. I'll pick winners, but I will only pick games where both teams are .500 or better (unless you want to see me pick the Packers over the Bucs and claim how smart I am.)
Patriots over Dolphins
Giants over Chargers
Broncos over Steelers on MNF in OT
We'll start with those four picks. See you next week.