- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2006

Sometimes this actually feels like a real job. It’s 9:17 on Sunday night and it’s nearing a 12-hour Sunday. My flight to National has been delayed until 9:45 so the best-case scenario is getting home around midnight.

Anyway, it beats having to get up Monday morning and have to go work at, you know, a bank or a school or a hospital or a law firm.

That rant out of the way, here’s my 10 thoughts for this Sunday evening/Monday night:

1. The Redskins are in serious trouble defensively. They simply don’t have enough talented players to stop a team from going downfield and they simply don’t have enough sure tacklers to prevent running backs from gaining chunks of yards. Tiki Barber went over 100 yards again Sunday in a 19-3 win over the Redskins that was awful to watch (and I’m not even a Redskins or Giants fan). Shawn Springs is not the only answer to solving the pass defense problems. It starts at safety. Sean Taylor needs to play like a first-round draft pick. Ditto for Adam Archuleta.

2. Expect the offense to be inconsistent the rest of the season — one great game, one middling game, one bad game, etc — because Al Saunders doesn’t have the quarterback at his disposal to consistently put up 400 yards and 28 points a week. That puts the pressure on Clinton Portis and the offensive line to carry the mail when Mark Brunell has one of those days. And with this offensive line, I’d throw the toss sweep out of the playbook as long as the opponent features sideline-to-sideline linebackers, like the Giants. It worked against Jacksonville, but Antonio Pierce is a better middle linebacker than Jax’s Mike Peterson.

3. A view inside the Redskins locker room around 4:30 p.m. Players are talking to the media. Most of them aren’t happy to do it, but all of them are cordial and realize it goes with the territory. Chris Cooley, Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas, Adam Archuleta, Renaldo Wynn and Phil Daniels all answer the questions. When the locker room is clearing out, a bunch of writers are waiting for Al Saunders and Gregg Williams. Williams has a reputation for vanishing after a loss, but standing in the middle of the hallway after a win in, “Talk to me!” mode. Saunders is a stand up guy. Period. While Williams lingers in the trainer’s room — he can see us, we can see him — Saunders walks out and holds court for his offense’s poor performance for nearly 15 minutes. Williams, meanwhile, sneaks out a back door and high-tails it to the team bus. Pathetic. In the competition to be the next head coach of the Redskins, Saunders has the edge because he’s accountable to the media, just like his players.

4. Starting my around-the-league thoughts, I can’t wait to see the NFL Network replay of Cowboys-Eagles. I was told by several people Sunday night that it was an absolute slug-fest, won by the Eagles. It was a huge win for Philadelphia, its second in six days and improves the Eagles to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the NFC East. The Cowboys are 2-2, tied with the Giants for second place. The Redskins are 2-3. The most important thing in this division is holding serve at home. So far, Dallas is 1-0, the Giants 1-0, the Eagles 1-1 and the Redskins 0-0.

5. Can Chicago be this good? The Bears destroyed another opponent — Buffalo — at home on Sunday. The Bears are 5-0 and will be favored to go 8-0. I haven’t seen a Bears game on TV so I’m waiting for a Sunday or Monday night game to get a view on how good Rex Grossman is playing and how unstoppable the defense appears to be. But as of now, the NFC playoffs go through Solider Field, not Seattle’s Qwest Field.

6. Impressive win by Jacksonville, which steamrolled the Jets 41-0. I wasn’t impressed by the Jags during their overtime defeat to the Redskins, but they certainly showed some resolve in bouncing back from consecutive close defeats on the road. I’m also not sold on New Orleans, which improved to 4-1 with a win over Tampa Bay and its rookie quarterback. The Saints have beaten two bad teams on the road (Cleveland and Green Bay), rode emotion to a home win (Atlanta), lost at Carolina and beat a team at home whose was playing a rookie quarterback. Carolina at 3-2 remains my favorite to win the NFC South.

7. We’re not even a month into the season and these teams are finished, done, kaput, no chance of making the playoffs: Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona, Houston, Tampa Bay, Miami, Cleveland, Green Bay, Detroit, Tennessee, Buffalo and the New York Jets. That’s 12 of the league’s 32 teams. (Bad news for the Redskins — none of these teams are in their division; good news — they still have Tennessee and Tampa Bay on their schedule). So much for parity in the NFL.

8. Early thoughts on best games next weekend: Carolina (3-2) at Baltimore (4-0 entering Monday night’s game at Denver); NY Giants (2-2) at Atlanta (3-1), interesting game because the Giants should be able to pressure Michael Vick to throw, always a bad alternative for the Falcons; Philadelphia (4-1) at New Orleans (4-1), a chance for the Saints to show if they’re for real. Seattle (3-1) at St. Louis (4-1), like the Saints, the Rams get a chance to show/see if they’re a playoff contender.

9. Non-NFL thought. Why do restaurants and bars at airports close so early? Don’t know there’s a flight leaving later than 8 p.m. every night? I got to the Newark airport around 8 p.m. on Sunday night. I walk into a bar/food place to watch the start of Steelers-Chargers. I ask for a menu and the waiter says, “All we’re serving are cheese pizza and chicken strips.” So much for selection. I went for the pizza because I was hungry.

10. As a part of my trip to the NJ/NY area, I took a train from Newark airport into Manhattan on Saturday. This guy from North Dakota has always been impressed with the enormity of a place like NYC. Most of the time, I just walk around and watch the people. I walked from Penn Station to Times Square, had lunch at Bubba Gump (adding NYC to my list of Bubba Gumps, a list that includes Maui, San Francisco and Chicago), went to the Virgin Records mega store and finally, before getting back on a train, had a slice of NY style cheese pizza (for my Dad, who grew up in Manhattan). A five hours well spent. But a note to self: NEVER try to drive in the city. Ever.

OK, ready to get on the plane and tomorrow, head out to Redskin Park for the post mortem and hear how much Joe Gibbs will defend the Tennessee Titans and make them out to be the 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Later.


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