Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Fantasy Forecast

I don't know when people pick their starters for their fantasy teams, as every league is different. That's also what makes picking players hard, as different leagues assign different values for different stats. But I'll do my best here.

Like a Boss
Adrian Peterson - Duh. He's the best pure runner in the league. He's playing Detroit, which while improved, isn't ready for this guy. I'm looking for him to have 160+ yards, and 2 or more TDs.

Baltimore Defense - Anyone worth their salt picked Baltimore anyway, but their matchup is interesting this week. San Diego's offensive line is banged up, so I'm expecting a few sacks, at least one INT, and at least one forced fumble.

Jason Witten - Witten is always a bad match for the Giants. There are question marks with their linebackers and safeties, and Jason Witten could pick up 7 catches, 90+ yards, and at least one TD.

Aaron Rodgers - Cincinnati's secondary is suspect (say that three times fast). Rodgers looked invincible in the preseason, struggled in the opener, and should rebound strongly to the tune of 300 yards and 3 TDs (with one INT).

Like a....Bum
Matt Hasselbeck - San Francisco's defense is playing superb ball under Mike Singletary. An unreliable run game in Seattle makes his job that much harder.

Steve Slaton - I would bench any RB going against the Titans defense. Slaton didn't get a lot of room to run last week, and Tennessee's defense minds there gaps better than almost anyone.

Chicago Defense - Losing Brian Urlacher cripples the effectiveness of this defense. The Steelers are looking to air it out, and should put up a lot of yards and points here.

Carson Palmer - Despite switching schemes to the 3-4, Green Bay still has a great secondary. Carson is still getting healthy, still getting to know Coles, and still doesn't have a good offensive line. Poor guy's in for a long day.

Ray Rice - San Diego's run defense looked iffy against the Raiders, and I see the Rutgers kid doing well this week. If you're in a league that rewards receptions by running backs, Rice could give you a lot.

Brian Westbrook - New Orleans' defense has gotten a lot of attention this summer, but Westbrook kills linebackers, and Vilma is the only legit one on the roster. No McNabb means greater emphasis on the run game, and lots of short passes and dump offs, so Westbrook figures to be a HUGE factor on Sunday.

Ronnie Brown - I don't trust Indy's run defense, despite all their efforts to get bigger on the line. Ronnie Brown could rack up 120 yards, maybe 2 TDs.

New York Jets Defense - The undertalented Bills gave Tom Brady all he could handle on Monday. Anyone think Rex Ryan's Jets are worse than the Bills? This game has real upset possibilities, and the defense would be where that comes to life.

Jay Cutler - I'm taking a risk on this one, but losing Troy Polamalu takes away the big play potential of Pittsburgh's defense. Cutler won't throw 4 interceptions again. The Bears will not win this game, but Jay Cutler will pitch a much better game this time around.

Flame away!


Week 2 Pick: Most Interesting Watch

I feel a need to explain how I quantify what the "most interesting watch" is. It will focus on a unique, worth-watching match-up, maybe including a couple of dark-horse or surprising teams, a game with serious division/conference implications, maybe a battle of good players on bad teams. I look at the schedule, and one game will hopefully jump out and make me go "Ooh, that could be interesting..." This week, there were two, but instead of picking Steelers/Bears, I chose:

Seattle Seahawks @ San Francisco 49ers

Over/Under: 39 1/2
Line: 49ers by 1 1/2

My Thoughts:
I'm interested in this game because it will probably give a good indication of who will win the NFC West down the road (get out of the way, Arizona). Long derided as the weakest division in football, the NFC West is shaping up to be pretty competitive this year. This game, in particular, just has me curious. Jim Mora is stepping up as the Seahawks new coach, and he's got TJ Houshmanzadeh and Aaron Curry to help him out. On the other sideline is now-full-time coach (the legendary) Mike Singletary, who has his team playing as hard and ferocious as any team in the league. I can realistically see both of these teams pushing last year's NFC Champion Cardinals to at least third place in the division, and one of these two hits the playoffs.

I'm interested to see what San Fran's offense looks like this week, after a somewhat poor showing in week one. Shaun Hill probably shouldn't start for anyone, much less a playoff contender. However, Frank Gore and Glenn Coffee can bring the pain on the ground, and Vernon Davis is a good a pass-catching tight end as there is, so he has some help. The defense, though, is what this team is all about (never thought I'd say that about the 49ers). Patrick Willis has been one of the best in the business since he got drafted, and with Urlacher out, has to be the best MLB in the NFC. He leads a very tough, talented defense that has taken on its coach's personality.

Seattle, on the other hand, is a good team trying to bounce back off a miserable year. Hasselbeck to Housh hasn't shown the promised fireworks yet, but that is going to be a solid hookup. If people stay healthy, the Seahawks defense should be plenty good to give the offense a chance, and they have a really good group of linebackers. Two things worry me about the 'Hawks, though. One, can they run the ball effectively enough? Willis and company are more than capable of controlling Julius Jones and Edgerrin James. What can Seattle do to establish themselves on the ground? And two: can they stop the run? Arizona did, but I'd rank their defensive line slightly ahead of Seattle's. They've got their work cut out for them this game, as Mike Singletary will want to run right at them all game, and limit exposure to Shaun Hill.

I have a feeling that whichever team wins this game rides that momentum to a division crown. It's almost refreshing to welcome back relevant football to the NFC West. This is an incredibly difficult game to pick, and my gut says the Seahawks pull this one out, but my heart is telling me to run with San Fran. Arizona isn't as bad as the Niners made them look last week, and I think this will be a sloppy game with a low score and a lot of turnovers, but San Francisco's defense leads the way to a close win. Give me the under, laying points and the 49ers.

San Fransisco 20
Seahawks 14

Tough game to call, but should be an interesting one to follow. Last week, being a fool, I only picked 3 games.
My Record:
3-0 straight up
2-1 against the spread

Week 2 Pick: Upset Special

I was tempted by a lot of games for this category, like going Giants over the Cowboys, Carolina over Atlanta, or Arizona over Jacksonville. However, one stood out to me as the most probably upset, and that is:

Oakland Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs

Over/Under: 38
Line: Chiefs by 3 1/2

My Thoughts:
You're probably saying to yourself, "3.5 isn't much of a line to pick against and call it an upset." And you're not (completely) wrong. However, picking a Raiders game always counts as an upset, as I doubt they'll be favored in (m)any games this year. But I saw what that Oakland defense did to a very good Chargers offense on Monday. Does anybody really think the Chiefs are better than the Chargers? They do in Vegas, judging by that line, but I have to disagree.

All of a sudden, the Raiders are playing energetic, physical, disciplined defense, and they can thank Greg Ellis and Richard Seymour for that. Their offense looked pretty much awful in week one, though they did run pretty effectively. Kansas City's spread-style offense will work (oddly enough) better against the Ravens than the Raiders for one reason only: Nnamdi Asomugha. Say goodbye to Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs fans. You won't hear his name all game. Behind him, who is KC's receiving threat? Tony Gonzalez? Oops, nope, he's in Atlanta now. Larry Johnson will struggle to run against a good D-line, and a very decent LB group. Oakland will challenge Kansas City to throw, and force them to throw to someone other than Dwayne Bowe.

I don't see a lot of points going up in this game. The Raiders will likely run a lot, and possibly score off a deep play-action pass once or twice. However, I think their defense is good enough to hold Kansas City down for a pretty close, low-scoring victory. I'll go with the Under here, and pick the Raiders to upset the Chiefs.

Raiders 17
Chiefs 14

One more pick for this week, that being the Most Interesting Game. Hard to categorize, so I hope you agree with the game, if not the pick.


Week 2 Pick: Marquee Game

My choice of Marquee Game for week 2 could have gone in a few directions. If Donovan McNabb was healthy, I would have definitely gone with Eagles/Saints. Jets/Patriots has promise, also. Giants/Cowboys? As a Giants fan, it's too hard for me to pick division games; they're horribly unpredictable. But I think I whittled it down to what is actually the Marquee Game of the week, and that of course is:

Baltimore Ravens @ San Diego Chargers

Over/Under: 40 1/2
Line: Chargers by 3 1/2

My Thoughts:
This game is full of good matchups to watch. Rookie offensive tackle Michael Oher (read the book) against Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips, Larry English, and all of San Diego's good pass rushers. Antonio Gates versus the Ravens talented, ball-hawking linebackers and safeties. Haloti Ngata up against a banged-up Chargers offensive line. Joe Flacco vs Philip Rivers; two young QBs who both like to throw deep. Both teams will be trying to establish the run with some very good backs. Both teams have quarterbacks who are representatives of the new generation of great NFL passers. Both have very talented defenses looking to rebound from unimpressive week one debuts. Oh yeah...this should be a good one to watch.

This shapes up to be a great game for any football fan. There will be huge hits, great defense, explosive offensive plays, and big-name players all over the field. Two AFC heavy-weights trying to establish themselves as elite teams. If you don't have DirecTV and the NFL Sunday Ticket, pray one of the networks carries this one nationally.

I really believe in the Ravens this year, and I think (as I said in an earlier post) that the Chargers will again suffer a somewhat slow start. Baltimore just has very good players at every spot on their roster. Sure, the WR group isn't real deep, but Todd Heap and Ray Rice can make catches if Derrick Mason can't. This will probably be a very close game, but I think Baltimore will run the ball more effectively, play smarter defense, and come out of this one with a hard-earned victory. I can see this one maybe hitting over the O/U, but I say take the points and the Ravens.

Ravens 24
Chargers 21

Yeah, I picked an upset here, but this isn't my pick for Upset Game. That comes later.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Week 2 Pick: Blowout

It's Thursday, which means it's time for me to make my picks for the coming week. Now, I'll be picking four games each week, each from a different category: Blowout, Upset, Marquee (biggest matchup/implications), and Most Interesting (which will be explained in the pick). Up first this week is my Blowout Pick for NFL Week 2.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Over/Under: 46 1/2
Line: Vikings by 10 1/2

My Thoughts:
Listen, the Lions made the right moves this off-season. I like what they did on defense, overhauling the LB corps, drafting Delmas at the top of Round 2. The offense is a work in progress, and has some pieces that should make them pretty good eventually. But right now, week 2, 2009, they aren't ready for this match-up. The Vikings, with or without Brett Favre, are a team built to win big. They feature the best pure runner in the game, a powerful offensive line, and a stifling defense. Minnesota's run D will keep Kevin Smith down, forcing Matthew Stafford to throw more than Detroit wants him to.

Adrian Peterson is going to run wild, much like he did against the Browns. The Lions defense, despite worthwhile veteran additions Larry Foote and Julian Peterson, can't handle this guy. Detroit's secondary is weak enough for Brett Favre to open up more than he did last week, as he's well acquainted with their inadequacies.

I think the Lions can score on Minnesota's defense, but not a lot. Peterson, Harvin, Favre and company are simply too much for an overmatched Lions defense. I'll take the over on this one, because I expect the Vikings to put up good points, with the Lions putting up a slight fight, but getting whupped in the end. Lay the points on Minny, folks.

I'm going with the Vikings in a big, 2 touchdown-plus win over the Lions at Ford Field.
Vikings 34
Lions 17

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wednesday Feature: You Know You're --- If...

Not that I care for Jeff Foxworthy's redneck routines, but there are some glaring stereotypes in the NFL, both for teams, players, and positions. I'll be devoting Wednesdays to a little league-inspired levity, as we all know sports fans (football specifically) can take things a little too seriously. Without further ado...

"You know you're the Oakland Raiders if..."
...Having a game tied at 10-10 through over three quarters qualifies as "dominance."

"You know you're the Detroit Lions if..."
...Scoring 27 points (with a rookie QB) still nets you a blowout loss.

"You know you're an NFL referee if..."
...You feel justified in flagging Vince Wilfork for a legal, safe hit on a QB.

"You know you're Laron Landry if..."
...You're useless both against the run and in coverage against the Giants (yes, I'm a homer, but we own that guy).

"You know you're Adrian Peterson if..."
...You look unstoppable, even with defenders hanging all over you.

"You know you're the Buffalo Bills if..."
...Your game or season comes down to one play that you don't make. A day late and a dollar short? More like a play late and a fumble short.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Week One Recap

Let's take a look back at the Week One games, and some headlines from each.

Pittsburgh Steelers 13, Tennessee Titans 10
Both defenses came out in championship form. Losing Troy Polamalu, even for a few weeks, is devastating for the Steelers. Pittsburgh has one of the worst run-blocking offensive lines in the league. The Titans offense is not ready for big time defenses.

Atlanta Falcons 19, Miami Dolphins 7
Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff is a genius: Mike Peterson and Tony Gonzalez in the same off season? As Chad Johnson would say, Child Please. The Dolphins need a good consistent offense if they want to build on last year; Wildcat and gadget plays won't work as well the second year.

Baltimore Ravens 38, Kansas City Chiefs 24
The Chiefs are better than I thought, hanging in with a really good team; imagine them with Cassel actually playing. The Ravens explode on offense while the defense looks average against a lesser opponent? When the D hits their stride, watch out for Baltimore.

Philadelphia Eagles 38, Carolina Panthers 10
Jake Delhomme has run out of time; if he can't play even decent ball against good teams, he's got to go. That offense is too talented to lose because of the QB. The Eagles are for real, as long as McNabb's ribs don't keep him out for long. With that in mind, Vick looms large in Philly.

Denver Broncos 12, Cincinnati Bengals 7
Where was Cincy's offense, with all those great receivers? This was an ugly, sloppy game that neither team deserved to win. The fluke play at the end doesn't change that. Despite all of that, the Bengals' offense found its rhythm at the end of the game and could be solid if they maintain it.

Minnesota Vikings 34, Cleveland Browns 20
Adrian Peterson is one of the great ones, and his 64-yard demolition derby in the fourth quarter proves is. The Vikings didn't need Brett Favre; they can find a cheaper QB to throw short passes to talented playmakers (Percy Harvin, anyone?), and can make smart decisions (which Favre will do less as the season goes on). The only thing the Browns do well is return kicks.

New York Jets 24, Houston Texans 7
Either the Jets defense is that good, or the Texans offense isn't ready to explode yet. Jets fans will finally be able to rejoice in their QB. Houston's defense, their Achilles Heel last year, remains a work in progress.

Indianapolis Colts 14, Jacksonville Jaguars 12
Typical Colts/Jags: low scoring, hard hitting, Colts win. Jacksonville needs a decent passing game to compete, but MJD always gives them a chance (and does the shopping cart!!). I don't trust the Colts defense in a big spot.

New Orleans Saints 45, Detroit Lions 27
Surprise, Matt Stafford plays like a rookie. The kid should be learning from Daunte Culpepper, not getting killed by the Saints. Drew Brees is insanely good, and has laser accuracy on any throw at any level. He's as good as Manning and Brady, and maybe even better. Six TDs to one INT? Please.

Dallas Cowboys 34, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
The Dallas offense is ready to roll, even without TO. Granted, they played the Bucs, whose offense looked surprisingly crisp, but whose defense is in full rebuilding mode. Receivers won't be that open against better teams. Regardless, there are a lot of sighs of relief being breathed in the Dallas front office.

San Francisco 49ers 20, Arizona Cardinals 16
That Niners defense is really good, and Singletary is the right man to lead them. Old man Kurt Warner can still throw boneheaded interceptions with the best of 'em. Sorry Kurt, but Fitzgerald and Boldin deserve better (sit down, Matt Leinart, I didn't mean you!). San Fran will surprise quite a few people this year.

New York Giants 23, Washington Redskins 17
The Giants' defensive front 7 is in playoff form. The back 4 isn't (and isn't healthy). People can stop chirping about New York's receivers, and start chirping about the short-yardage playcalling. Washington is exactly what they were last year: a good, stout defensive team with no offensive help (call them Johan Santana Moss. Zing!)

Seattle Seahawks 28, St. Louis Rams 0
Why was I so worried about the Rams' defense? It was the lousy offense that laid the egg here. There are too many good players on that side of the ball for this to happen. The D will give up points, especially to improved teams like Seattle, but Jackson, Bulger, and Avery cannot let this happen again. Seattle, meanwhile, looks like the Seahawks of recent years, and should keep Arizona where they belong in this division.

Green Bay Packers 21, Chicago Bears 15
There are 2 Brett Favres in the NFC North! What?! Jay Cutler's 4 INT night washes away that preseason of good feelings. Aaron Rodgers is a star, and the Green Bay offense will be very good. The Packers executed the switch to a 3-4 defense incredibly well, while the Bears losing Urlacher for the year almost kills their chances.

New England Patriots 25, Buffalo Bills 24
Okay, I grossly overrated the Patriots and grossly underrated the Bills. Nonetheless, this was classic Buffalo: they play their hearts out against a better team, take them to the mat, and lose because of one play (McLovin's fumble?! Take a knee, dude!). The Pats looked awful until the fourth quarter, and Belichick better keep a close eye on that defense of his.

San Diego Chargers 24, Oakland Raiders 20
As I thought, the Chargers were out of sync for the first half, but pulled it together in the second. I give a world of credit to the Raiders, who apparently know how to play football. Richard Seymour is a huge difference maker, and made the whole defense play with better poise and maturity. Jamarcus Russell still can't throw to WRs. Louis Murphy looked like a first round pick, while Darius Heyward-Bay looked like the invisible man.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Monday Night Update

Sorry to interrupt a surprisingly AWESOME set of Monday Night Football games, but ProFootballTalk (Second best football site in the universe) linked a terrific article by Jerome Bettis on Apparently, Bettis approaches written journalism the same way he approached defensive lines: aggressively, and with a full head of steam. He makes some bold, hard points that are, frankly, hard to disagree with. In an era when way too many ex-players are getting media jobs and being horribly disappointing, The Bus looks to be giving us some must-read stuff. Enough hype already, the article is right here.



Monday Night Predictions Part 2

Now for the second half of this underwhelming Monday Night spread:

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders

Over/Under: 43
Line: Chargers by 9 1/2

My Thoughts:

If the Raiders had been something other than the laughing stock of the league since they fired Jon Gruden and lost a Super Bowl to him, this rivalry might have some juice. One will often see the Chargers lauded as "the NFL's most talented team," yet they have yet to display a Lombardi trophy to validate such claims. The lack of hardware should not distract you from realizing that this is a really good team, with the pieces and potential to be more than really good. The Raiders, on the complete other hand, are an unmitigated disaster, run by a crazy old man who still thinks he's picking personnel for his 1970's teams. There is, surprisingly, talent on this team, and if they've put the whole "Tom Cable punching guys" thing behind them, might just have enough not-sucking-horribly in them to make a game of this.

The Chargers started slow last year, and even though Ladanian Tomlinson (I'll never call him LT...sorry) played in the preseason, I have this weird gut feeling that this year won't be totally different. They'll win more games, but I just feel like it'll take San Diego 3 or 4 games to really hit their stride. I think Shawne Merriman will be a big part of the slow start as he works his way back from significant knee surgery. He will be a monster pass-rushing force again this year, I just don't know if he's at that form here in Week One.

Assuming Richard Seymour shows up and plays, the Oakland defense might be able to keep from getting blown out. Adding Seymour to a group that includes standout CB Nnamdi Asomugha and underrated LB Kirk Morrison actually makes that a decent group. The offense has speed everywhere, but they haven't shown me enough to make me believe in their point-scoring ability. They should be able to run the ball a bit, but the passing game won't be much of a test for Cromartie and company.

For the Chargers, Philip Rivers is a full-blown star, and should have a pretty good year throwing to the likes of Chris Chambers, Vincent Jackson, and Antonio Gates. Let us not forget, also, that Tomlinson is the third best pass-catching starting RB in the league (Maurice Jones-Drew and Deangelo Williams top my list), and if healthy, should be a big time weapon again. I expect SD's defense to be very good, though maybe not spectacular yet. As Merriman rounds into form, they are likely to return to dominance, but as mentioned above, I'll give them a couple weeks to grow.

I'd hate to be accused of being a front-runner this early in Big Freeze Football's lifespan, so I will go very slightly against my better judgment on this game. I would have to be drunk or stupid to pick the Raiders to win outright, so chalk this one up for the Chargers, but I don't think it's ridiculous to see Oakland covering that 9 1/2 point spread. As for total points, I think the over is a safe bet, but that mostly depends on how explosive San Diego is. Chargers look like the more dominant team, and the Raiders close the gap with a useless, garbage time touchdown that makes the game look less one-sided than it was.

I'll play it somewhat safe and hold off on calling this for an upset, but I say Chargers win, Raiders cover the spread.
Chargers 27
Raiders 20

After my Thursday night pick, I'm 1-0 straight up, 1-0 against the spread. Here's hoping this bold call keeps me undefeated. Disagree violently in the Comments.


Monday Night Predictions Part 1

It's pretty hard for me to dream up a less engaging slate of Monday Night Football than Pats/Bills and Chargers/Raiders. However, in honor of the AFL's 50th anniversary season and our first Monday night games of 2009, here are my calls for the first game:

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots.

Over/Under: 47 1/2
Line: Patriots by 10 1/2

My Thoughts:
Did the Bills seriously cut Jason Peters this offseason? Did they seriously just cut his supposed replacement, Langston Walker? Are they seriously starting two rookie interior linemen? Did they seriously just fire their offensive coordinator less than 2 weeks ago? And did they seriously do all that knowing they would have to face the Patriots in Week 1? ON THE ROAD?!

Listen, a part of me really likes the Bills. Over the last few years, they're a team that has fought hard, been tough and scrappy, and always come up just a play or two short of national relevance. But this offseason of buffoonery will absolutely destroy them tonight. Bill Belichick is one of the greatest defensive coaches of the last 30 years, and the Bills are serving this game to him on a platter. Despite losing Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour, and Tedy Bruschi this summer, Belichick has to be salivating about this game. Trent Edwards to TO and Lee Evans, while not exactly Kelly to Reed, could be a good passing attack. Marshawn Lynch, when not suspended, is a very good running back, and Fred Jackson is a perfectly capable backup. But that offensive line is in for a massacre tonight, as ol' Bill will dial up all kinds of pressure to push through and disrupt Buffalo's rhythm. This is David and Goliath in the trenches of this game, and David simply doesn't stand a chance.

All that, and I haven't even mentioned the Patriots offense, which should be just as good as the record-breaking 2007 group. Tom Brady looked fine in the preseason. He's been listed on injury reports as "Probably (shoulder)" for, what, the last 5 years? He's fine, and has the receivers to go crazy out there. Fred Taylor, a personal favorite, adds some much-needed legitimacy to the running game. The only questions I have for this phase of the game, again, are all directed at Buffalo. Can the Bills dial up any real amount of pressure to knock Brady out of his groove? Is Aaron Maybin, after a lengthy rookie holdout, going to make an impact in this very important game? And can the Bills' defense as a whole, which I actually kind of like, really handle this kind of a challenge? Sorry, Buffalo, I love you but the Pats are just too good.

For the picks, I'm tempted to take the over, if only because the Patriots could put up 48 points on their own if they hit the ground running. Throw in a couple of Buffalo scores, and I can see this game beating the over/under. In the end, New England is just too much for a Buffalo Bills team in major offensive disarray, and the Pats win this one in a blowout.

I'll take the Patriots more than covering the spread in a huge home win.
Patriots 42
Bills 14


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Giants v Redskins Recap

That's about what one would expect from a Giants/Redskins game. Physical football, good defense, hard hitting, and personal fouls. Great stuff there, so I'm gonna take a huge homer moment and dig into the game a bit.

(Editor's Note: All stats taken from, because I'm too lazy to keep track myself)
Steve Smith: All offseason, we've read about "Which WR is going to be Eli's go-to guy?" I think Smith answered that in emphatically Toomer-like fashion. All this cat does is catch first down passes on third down, and that makes him extremely valuable. Third and 4? How about a five yard catch. Call Steve Smith the Mail Man (Karl Malone, anyone?), because he delivers.
6 catches, 80 yards

Ahmad Bradshaw: With the defense completely geared up to stop Brandon Jacobs (which they did moderately well), they were caught with their pants down by Bradshaw. Number 44 cut through the Skins' defense repeatedly, and was faster and more physical than they expected, and his hard-earned 5 yards per carry evidence the effort. 12 carries, 60 yards, 5.0 avg

Osi Umenyiora: Good to see the old boy back, and in excellent form as well. A classic sack/forced fumble/touchdown...this guy just brings it. The defense showed some nice energy with Osi back in the lineup. 4 tackles, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 F Rec, 1 TD

Bruce Johnson: Who? Exactly. Johnson is the Giants' undrafted rookie cornerback from Miami (Fl), and was forced into a LOT of playing time with the injuries in the secondary. Expected to be nothing more than a special teams player, his play was rock-solid in his first pro game. The Redskins have a good, deep receiver group that presented a great challenge for him. While he didn't have any huge impact plays or interceptions (one forced fumble, though!), he also didn't make any glaring rookie mistakes. I didn't see him draw a single flag, his coverage was solid, and he had a few good, timely tackles. This kid just might keep the Giants from drafting a DB high next year, which is good news with a lot of other needs. 3 tackles, 1 FF

Corey Webster: Poor guy has come a long way from being benched for poor play and effort in 2007 to making an INCREDIBLE interception on the sideline. He must have studied being a receiver from Amani Toomer the way he touched those toes down. Is this the year he steps up to Pro Bowl level? I doubt it, but he could have 5-6 picks this year.

Eli Manning: 20 of 29 for 256 yards, a touchdown, and an interception is probably way better then anyone expected of him in his first game with all his new, young receivers. It sure looks like he's going to enjoy working with Manningham and Smith, and if Nicks gets healthy, this offense could be very effective. There's a lot of trust with Eli and Kevin Boss, too, and they're starting to look a little like Simms-to-Bavaro out there. He'll never be great, he'll never be Peyton, but the dude can win games. I've previously been an Eli doubter, but he's gradually making a believer out of me.

Jason Campbell: Not a superstar stat line from Cambpell (19/26, 211, 1TD, 1INT), but he put on a solid, if unspectacular, performance after a tumultuous offseason. After all the trade rumours, public doubting of his leadership and abilities, and insincere supportive platitudes, Campbell played a very decent game against a very aggressive defense. He's the enemy, but I have to salute his performance.

Hunter Smith: Excellent fake on the faked field goal, and good running with a nose for the endzone on the second half of the play. I hate you for doing it, but well done, sir.


Tackling in the secondary: This was an issue in the preseason, and it appears to be lingering. The Redskins made a heck of a game out of yards-after-catch, which will become a real problem as the season goes on. I can hope that this gets a bit better when Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery come back, but it's a definite area of concern that new DC Bill Sheridan NEEDS to address.

NYG Special Teams: Fooled on a fake field goal? Really? That sort of Madden crap should never work in the NFL. That unit needs to be more aware than that, and show better pursuit to the ball. It's bad enough they bit so badly on the fake, but there was some lackluster effort on the back end to get the ball carrier. Tom Coughlin will let them have it for that, so I can hope we don't see many more breakdowns like that.

Giants Punt Return Unit: I'm calling this group out specifically, because they've disappointed for a long time. Hixon is a very good returner, but the gunners and blockers gave the poor guy no time to break off a decent run. If this stays consistent throughout the season, this will cause us major problems against the better teams out there. Field position is always a big deal in NFC East games, and they need to give Hixon a chance.

Albert Haynesworth: For $1oo million, you expect a guy to make a big impact in every game. Four tackles for a DT isn't slacker stuff, but this guy needs to do more. He didn't affect our running game (103 net yards), didn't register a sack, and I didn't even notice him pushing the pocket back all that much. Granted, he saw a good amount of double teams, but for the money he's making, he needs to beat those a few times.

Santana Moss: I might take this Lowlight back later in the year, because maybe Corey Webster is actually that good, but Moss had basically zero impact on this game (2 catches, 6 yards). He has consistently been The Guy in Washington for a while, but aside from a nice little fight, did nothing of value today. If Corey Webster is a Pro Bowl corner this year, I'll forgive Santana, but if not, shame on him for not completely abusing a banged up Giants secondary.


I like Domenik Hixon, so I hope this doesn't get taken the wrong way, but he needs to fall a bit on the WR depth chart and go back to returning kicks full time. Hakeem Nicks (when healthy) is as good or better than Hixon, and Manningham has better upside, but Hixon is the best returner on this team. I think of him like a poor man's Devin Hester; a high quality returner, and an average or slightly better receiver. Look, his routes are good, he's pretty fast, and has okay hands, but we have other good receivers. We can't have Danny Ware getting hurt on kick returns, if only for depth reasons. That doesn't even take into account the fact that Hixon is a dynamic returner, and I think that's where he helps this team the most.

For all the hype the new defensive line got, I was somewhat underwhelmed. Not that they were bad, or didn't impact the game, but I was expecting a much more intense attack. I'm sure a little of it has to do with Sheridan's schemes and such, but this group could show a little more. They'll probably get better as they work together more, but it was a somewhat inauspicious debut. That said, I think DL Chris Canty will turn out to be an impact player before too long.

Sure, personal fouls, late hits, and unnecessary roughness are technically bad, but as a fan I like to see that intensity. Watching Corey Webster and Santana Moss beating each other up was downright inspiring, and it's always great to watch Brandon Jacobs get in someone's face. This is a hungry, angry (hangry?) team, and they showed it today.

All in all, two good defensive teams beat each other up pretty good, but I never expected the Redskins to really mount a decent challenge. They're getting some good talk as a dark horse this year, but the Giants just played like the better team. The 23-17 end result doesn't reflect just how close this game wasn't.