Surveying the NFL landscape from 30,000 feet (in a plane with 118 passengers and two restrooms) …
cWe begin with - who else? - the Redskins. Other than the victory itself, what might be most significant about their close shave against the Seahawks is that it came on the road. Let’s face it, if they make the playoffs it will be as a wild card, and that means going to Carolina, Arizona, Minnesota … wherever. Barring an unusual set of circumstances, they won’t be seeing FedEx Field again after Week 17.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Redskins, after all, figure to finish with a better road record than home record, and there are a number of examples in recent years of clubs taking the road route to the Super Bowl. The Giants did it last season and the Steelers two seasons before that. Seems like it should be a more daunting task, winning three road games in the playoffs, but lately it hasn’t been.
Maybe it’s another indication of how little difference there is between these teams. Or maybe it’s a total fluke and won’t happen again for a long while. Still, winning at Dallas, Philadelphia and Seattle (a notoriously noisy and difficult place to play) can only give the Redskins confidence if they make it to January.
— You have to feel better about the Snydermen’s chances now that Jason Taylor and Shawn Springs have returned from their injuries. Both gave the defense a boost Sunday - Taylor with his pass rush and first-quarter tackle for a loss and Springs with his typically tight coverage and game-clinching interception.
You look at the Redskins’ secondary with Carlos Rogers and Fred Smoot at the corners, Springs and LaRon Landry at the safeties and DeAngelo Hall and Chris Horton in reserve and, well, is there a deeper one in the league?
— Some will note that the Redskins had to play the Cowboys when they had Tony Romo and the Seahawks when they had Matt Hasselbeck - while the Bucs, who they’re competing with for a postseason berth, went up against Brad Johnson and Seneca Wallace.
But … the Redskins have faced one team that’s now 0-11 (Lions), two that are 2-9 (Rams and Seahawks), they’ve played the weakest of the NFC South clubs (Saints) and they have the 1-9-1 Bengals still to come. So it’s not like they got a bum deal from the schedule maker.
— You thought Brett Favre was a good story last season? He’s an even better one this season. Where are all those killjoys who said Favre should have done the classy/dignified/Elwayesque thing and stayed retired? I mean, the guy has the Jets closing in on a first-round bye - and possibly on their first Super Bowl since Joe Namath.
Then there’s the domino effect of him getting traded to New York. It enabled Chad Pennington to go to Miami, where he has been an absolute salvation for a team that went 1-15 a year ago.
Lastly, any quarterback who keeps Kellen Clemens on the bench is aces in my book.
— Just wondering: Have the Giants (29.9) and Jets (29.4) ever been the top two scoring clubs in the NFL? Like I said, I’m stuck on a plane, so I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
— Let’s have no more talk about the Lions being the worst team in NFL history, even if they do finish 0-16. Heck, they’re not even the worst team in Lions history.
That booby prize goes to the 1942 contingent, which went 0-11 and scored a grand total of 38 points. How bad were they? They led only four times all season - 7-3 (vs. the Packers), 7-0 (vs. the Steelers), 7-0 again (vs. the Cleveland Rams) and 3-0 (vs. the Redskins). They wound up losing those games by a combined score of 115-24.
Trust me, you have no idea how utterly horrific teams could be in the early days, when the word “parity” had yet to be uttered (never mind the terms “luxury box” or “club seat”).
— For the first 10 weeks of the season, Matt Cassel was a question mark. Now, after back-to-back 400-yard passing games for the Patriots, he’s a Certified Phenomenon.
You’ve likely heard that Cassel already has more 400-yard days than his illustrious predecessor, Tom Brady (one). But I’ll bet you haven’t heard this: In both games, the New England offense topped 500 yards - 513 in the loss to the Jets and 530 in Sunday’s win at Miami. Brady has guided the offense to only one 500-yard game in his seven-plus-year career.
Does this mean Cassel is running the show as well as Tom ever did? I’m not sure I’d go that far. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he was photographed soon in the company of a Victoria’s Secret model.
— And finally … a few odds and ends about running backs.
1. The Panthers’ DeAngelo Williams has quietly strung together four 100-yard rushing games in a row.
2. Michael Turner of the Falcons, the NFL’s No. 3 rusher with 1,088 yards, has more carries this season (251) than he did in his four previous years with the Chargers (228). Can he hold up for five more weeks - and perhaps longer?
3. Washington’s favorite multiple personality, Clinton Portis, has had at least one 20-yard gain in eight consecutive games. That might not be as scintillating as his five straight 120-yard rushing efforts, but it’s something no other back in the league has done this season.
Indeed, it probably hasn’t been done very often in any season - but again, I’m being held captive on a 737 with no Internet connection and can’t confirm my suspicions. Please send help.
Dan Daly has been writing about sports for the Washington Times since 1982. He has won numerous national and local awards, appears regularly in NFL Films’ historical features and is the co-author of “The Pro Football Chronicle,” a decade-by-decade history of the game. Follow Dan on Twitter at @dandalyonsports –- or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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