The Redskins have become the story du jour this week in the NFL after their win over the Dallas Cowboys . The Washington Times Ryan OHalloran and News 4s Lindsay Czarniak both of whom picked the Cowboys last week — review the win, wonder if the Redskins can handle the prosperity, look at the first quarter of the NFL season and make a pick for Sundays game in Philadelphia .
1. Surprise, surprise the Redskins are 3-1 after winning in Dallas last week. Both of you were in Big D: What was the most impressive aspect of the Redskins third straight win?
Lindsay: The fact that there wasnt one phase of the game I felt you could really say won it for the Redskins. The defense held the Dallas receivers in check and also effectively pressured Tony Romo all day. On offense, how satisfying was it to see both Santana Moss have a day that has him ranked second in the league for receiving yards and at the same time, Clinton Portis has his first 100-yard rushing day of the season? I thought they played well across the board following the lead of Jason Campbell.
Ryan: Just how complete the win was, echoing Lindsays point. The win three years ago down there was a miracle; this win wasnt a fluke. The Redskins controlled both lines of scrimmage and they always felt in control of the game (I didnt see it that way by I digress). The Redskins had smart plans on both offense and defense and it was refreshing to see the play-calling stay aggressive even with leads of 20-17 and 23-17. Every week shows just how much Al Saunders hands were tied by Joe Gibbs the last two years in the play-calling process.
2. After the win, Jason Campbell said the Redskins have to remember that only a few weeks ago, they were being ripped for the Giants loss. Whats the vibe in this locker room? Can this team handle prosperity better than in years past?
Lindsay: The vibe is that this team has a fresh start, feels like they have something to prove a bit because of the new system. I do think theyre better equipped for the success because they are in a stage where they are all growing and learning this new system together and therefore, its likely they feel more of a sense of ownership. I think Jim Zorn has the similar gift as Joe Gibbs as far as relating to players but the difference is, he has actually lived exactly what theyre going through.
Ryan: The tone in the locker room is different than in years past. Its more relaxed and more confident even after the Giants debacle. The offense genuinely believes in Jim Zorns system and Jason Campbells ability to produce within it. The defense is responding to Greg Blaches minor changes to the system and the coaching staff clearly isnt as on-edge as the Gibbs staff. The prosperity test comes next week against St. Louis. The last few years, the Redskins would get too high after a few straight wins. Regardless of what happens in the Eagles game, the test for the Redskins comes during the St. Louis-Cleveland-Detroit games can they beat bad teams, too?
3. OK, not everything has to be going right for the Redskins. Even though theyre 3-1, what is one big issue that you guys would classify as a concern?
Lindsay: The health of the secondary concerns me. Sure we saw Chris Horton stand up and make the interception when Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot were out late in the game with injuries but I really feel like they cant stand many more of those risks.
Ryan: Three things the pass rush, the rookie punter and injuries. The Redskins rank 28th in sacks per pass attempt (only six in 146 opponents passes) but that they may improve when Jason Taylor returns. Durant Brooks has been better in the last two games, but he still hasnt shown consistency. And health is always a concern.
4. Most teams in the NFL have played a quarter of their schedule. Which team has been a surprise and which team a disappointment?
Lindsay: To me, the Broncos are a surprise. Last week, granted, their defense struggled against the Kansas City Chiefs but Im surprised by how strong the offense was in the first three games of the season. As far as a disappointment, what happened to the Bengals? Sure theyve got two Pro Bowl receivers but are only averaging 13 points a game. Ocho Cinco must be stirred up about that. They are winless and it only looks worse as this week when they head into Dallas.
Ryan: Im probably not alone in saying I didnt have Tennessee and Buffalo starting 4-0. But not only are those teams undefeated, theyre dominating. That will probably change later in the season. The other surprising teams have been the Redskins, Carolina and Baltimore. The disappointments are Minnesota, Seattle, Indianapolis and Cleveland. The biggest storyline has been the Tom Brady injury. Not only did that change the Patriots season, it almost swung the balance of power back to the NFC.
5. Prediction time: Both of you picked Dallas in a close one last week and we know what happened. Now the Redskins travel to Philadelphia. Who wins and why?
Lindsay: OK, Im superstitious so I almost picked the Eagles, but I really think the Redskins are going to win this one. I do think it will be close. I know their offense is banged up but the Philly defense is third in the league and remember that they sacked the Steelers nine times. Jason Campbell and company are going to have to be on their toes. I think the Redskins defense will be able to contain the Eagles running game (who knows yet if Brian Westbrook is playing) but these two teams always play intense. Redskins win it 27-21.
Ryan: Even if Westbrook plays, he wont be 100 percent so I give the Redskins the advantage. Jason Campbell won in Philadelphia last year so he wont be intimidated by the atmosphere. The Eagles run defense is best in the league and their pass rush already has 17 sacks so expect Zorn to dial up a lot of early, quick passes by Campbell to Moss and Cooley. If I was Blache, Id send a lot of pressure at Donovan McNabb. Redskins 28-24.
BONUS 6: This past week, we saw the passing of one of Hollywoods biggest legends, Paul Newman a big sports fan as well. Who, currently, do you think could go down as the Paul Newman of this era and why?
Lindsay: Hands down, George Clooney. Hes a guys guy and there isnt a girl out there that wouldnt want to go home with him. I also think partially because of the kind of movie roles he chooses and how his buddy, Brad Pitt, actually kind of resembles one of Newmans best friends, Robert Redford.
Ryan: If Newman is considered one of the best of his generation, the best of this generation is Leonardo DiCaprio and, really, its not even close. He also probably ranks high in Lindsays category of Guy Who Girls Would Want To Go Home With. Not even 34 years old yet, just check out his last six years of work: Blood Diamond, The Departed, The Aviator, Catch Me If You Can and Gangs Of New York. As for Newman, Slap Shot will always be a sports movie classic with too many great one-liners to list.