- The Washington Times - Monday, October 30, 2006

A review of the weekend that was, highlighted by a sensational Colts-Broncos game, an equally exciting USC-Oregon State game and lowlighted by the fact that the Redskins return to action this Sunday, meaning the same set of storylines — you know them by heart so I won’t bother — will resurface starting today when the team returns to practice.

1. Indy is the NFL’s best

The Colts (7-0) scored on eight of their nine offensive possessions against Denver on Sunday, including three second-half touchdowns vs. a Broncos defense that entered the game with only two allowed through six games. Peyton Manning was his usual stellar self (32-for-39, 345 yards, three touchdowns). The Colts have major defensive issues — they can’t stop anybody — but as long as the offense can’t be stopped, Indy ranks ahead of Chicago for the league’s top spot.

2. Giants are NFC East favorite

Six days after an emotional win in Dallas and featuring a new linebacker now that LaVar Arrington is out for the season, the Giants survived their trap game, handling Tampa Bay 17-3. This was a big win for the Giants considering they have Houston next week and Chicago at home in two weeks. The win allows the Giants to be 7-2 entering the Bears game. The NFC East is the Giants’ to lose because they’re 2-0 in division road games and Philadelphia is 4-4.

3. The champs are in trouble

Pittsburgh lost at Oakland — we’re not making this up — on Sunday and the Steelers are 2-5. The defending Super Bowl champions are on the brink of elimination and their schedule doesn’t get any easier. Still ahead they have trips to Baltimore, Carolina and Cincinnati and home games against Denver, New Orleans and Baltimore. The schedule is tough and even though nobody is questioning the toughness of Ben Roethlisberger, his ill-timed interceptions bring into question whether he should have been playing on Sunday, a week after being knocked out in Atlanta.

4. The Eagles are in trouble, too

Three weeks ago today, Philadelphia was 4-1, had beaten Dallas and Donovan McNabb was my pick for NFL MVP. Now the Eagles are 4-4 following losses to New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. The Jaguars loss is particularly galling because the Jags didn’t have quarterback Byron Leftwich and the game was in Philly. The Eagles are far from finished, but their schedule — like the Steelers — is brutal. Philly still has road games against Indy and the entire NFC East.

5. A toss up for the NFL’s worst

Arizona is 1-7 and hopeless; San Francisco is 2-5 and hopeless. The Cardinals’ only win came against San Francisco (in Week 1). The Cards lost at Green Bay yesterday and the 49ers lost at Chicago — 41-10 in a game that could have been 65-0 if Lovie Smith wanted to rub it in. Now that the Raiders have won two straight games and Cleveland earned its second win, the Cards and 49ers are in a race for the No. 1 pick. That would probably eliminate Notre Dame’s Brady Quinn from being the top pick since Arizona is set with Matt Leinart and SF is set (probably) with Alex Smith.

6. Firings pay off … for now

The desperation moves by Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel and Baltimore’s Brian Billick paid off Sunday. Both coaches fired their offensive coordinators since their last game. Maurice Carthon was shown the gate in Cleveland and Jim Fassel was canned in Baltimore. The Browns defeated the Jets 20-13 (267 yards offense) with line coach Jeff Davidson calling the plays; Baltimore upset New Orleans 35-21 (even though it was outgained by the Saints 403-293) with Billick calling the plays. These moves hopefully won’t create a bad trend — head coaches finding scapegoats midseason instead of continuing to work the problem.

7. Impressive win for Dallas

I didn’t think the Cowboys had a shot in you-know-what of winning at Carolina Sunday night because the Panthers (now 4-4) needed a win and the Cowboys were giving starter Tony Romo his first chance. But a couple turnovers and some impressive work in the passing game by Romo gave the Cowboys (4-3) a much-needed win and some much-needed confidence entering the Redskins game. Romo’s performance shows that Bill Parcells knew what he was doing by giving the kid a shot.

8. Nothing will change for Redskins

The Redskins remain 2-5 and one of the most disappointing — and worst — teams in the NFC. Not a lot will change unless they somehow find a way to beat Dallas, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay during the next three weeks. If they can get to 5-5 entering the final six games, then there is hope, especially with a three-game homestand coming in Games 11 through 13. One more loss before then, though, and it’s really over for the Redskins.

9. Random college thoughts

* Best game in the college ranks was USC-Oregon State. The Trojans had been winning with mirrors all season and Oregon State did just enough to hang on, 33-31. The other college games were boring for the usual reasons (bad officiating, bad tackling, too long to play the game).

* The best national championship game scenario is Michigan-Ohio State regardless of their mid-November result. One of those teams will finish undefeated; the other will have one loss. Whichever team has one loss is better than an unbeaten West Virginia or Louisville team (they play each other Thursday night in Ky.).

* Nice win for Ralph’s Terps, but I ask this question: Florida State can’t be this bad, can it?

10. Weekend random thoughts

* Spent the bye weekend visiting the parents in my hometown of West Fargo, N.D. (Easy to get to, Dulles-Minneapolis-Fargo for those interested). The bonus was my father’s big-screen television and the Fox Soccer Channel where we spent the early part of Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday morning watching live, English Premier League soccer. The bonus on Sunday afternoon was enjoying the NFL Ticket, which for obvious reasons I don’t have back home in Virginia.

* Speaking of N.D., a big thumbs down to Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes. During his two-minute snooze-type rant about unique towns and street names, ol’ A.R. said he won’t be visiting any towns he hadn’t been to before, meaning, “I won’t be going to Fargo, North Dakota anytime soon.” You’re missing a great time, old man.

* The NBA season starts on Tuesday night. Watching paint dry on the wall or peel off a garage door creates more interest for me.

* My plug of the week is for the writer Vince Flynn, whose latest novel, “Act of Treason” is a page-turner and is a sign that the Minnesota native does his homework. The book has to do with international terrorism, the CIA and is currently No. 3 on the best seller list. A definite must-read for fans of this subject matter.

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