- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

POINT-COUNTERPOINT

Each Friday, columnist Dan Daly and Redskins beat writer Ryan O’Halloran debate a football issue. This week’s topic: most disappointing teams this year.

Ryan O’Halloran: I didn’t think they were as good as most people thought entering the season, but I didn’t think Jacksonville would fall off the cliff like this - the Jaguars are 5-10 entering the last week. Jacksonville gave New England a tough playoff game last year, but its season was derailed early because of offensive line injuries. Also, David Garrard played like the guy who didn’t get a regular starting assignment for years, and the previously fearsome defense has allowed 22.7 points a game.

Dan Daly: I’ve gotta go with the Seahawks. I know they’ve battled injuries, but even when Matt Hasselbeck played, he was awful. Somehow they added Julius Jones and a nice rookie tight end, John Carlson, and got worse. I guess the moral is: If you’re planning to step down from a coaching job, as Mike Holmgren is, keep it to yourself. Don’t announce it before the start of the season. I’ve got to believe it changes the dynamic in the locker room. There’s less of a fear factor - or whatever you want to call it. The atmosphere changes to a kind of a “Ding-dong, the Wicked Witch is dead” deal.

RO: If I didn’t consider injuries, then Dallas has to be at the top of my list. The Cowboys figured to have all of the pieces in place at the beginning of the season. But they lost to the Redskins at home and were later blown out by old friend Al Saunders and St. Louis. And the loss to Baltimore last week was pathetic. While Wade Phillips certainly deserves blame, the bloom has to be off Jason Garrett’s rose - another example of a coach-in-waiting-type situation that isn’t panning out.

DD: What’s happened in Dallas, I’m convinced - and to a lesser extent in Washington and some other places - is that players enjoy a celebrity status that far exceeds their accomplishments. And frankly, I don’t think this helps players perform better. The focal point of any NFL franchise should be football. But these teams spend so much time marketing their product that guys become famous just by being on the team. They don’t have to accomplish a darn thing. The Cowboys haven’t won a playoff game in more than a decade. How successful a club are they, really? Here’s what they’re successful at: making money. And that’s my Christmas rant. Bah, humbug.

WEEKEND PICKS

REDSKINS THIS WEEK

REDSKINS (8-7) AT 49ERS (6-9)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

TV: Chs. 5, 45

Line: 49ers by 3

Outlook: A win and the Redskins have consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 1996-97. That’s something to play for. Defeating Philadelphia last week should have made this week a lot easier for the Redskins, who won their other West Coast trip this season (Seattle). They finally reach the 30-point plateau.

The pick: Redskins 30-24

GAME OF THE WEEK

DOLPHINS (10-5) AT JETS (9-6)

Sunday, 4:15 p.m.

Line: Jets by 3

Outlook: It’s simple for Miami - win and it caps an incredible turnaround from 1-15 to AFC East champion. The Dolphins won the coldest game in their history last week despite giving up 492 yards to Kansas City. The Jets lost to lowly Seattle and need a win and losses by either New England or Baltimore to reach the postseason. Miami will cause too many problems for a wilting Brett Favre, perhaps playing in his last game.

The pick: Dolphins 18-14

UPSET WATCH

BRONCOS (8-7) AT CHARGERS (7-8)

Sunday, 8:30 p.m.

TV: Chs. 4, 11

Line: Chargers by 8

Outlook: The Broncos are on the verge of NFL history. Not since divisional play began in 1967 has a team lost a three-game lead in the final three weeks. Two young quarterbacks will duel - Jay Cutler’s 4,210 yards are a Denver single-season record, and Philip Rivers is one TD pass from tying Dan Fouts’ team record of 33. The Chargers have won 13 straight games in December, but Cutler makes one more play.

The pick: Broncos 38-34

THIS WEEK’S LOCK

PATRIOTS (10-5) AT BILLS (7-8)

Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 9, 13

Line: Patriots by 6 1/2

Outlook: The 1985 Broncos are the only 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since the 16-game schedule was instituted in 1978. New England needs a win and a Miami loss to win the AFC East or a win and a Baltimore loss to get the wild card. Expect the Patriots to pound out their frustration on the Bills, who allowed 532 yards last week. The Patriots have scored 96 points the last two weeks.

The pick: Patriots 49-14

FRIDAY’S FIVE

Assistants who could be coaching candidates this offseason:

1 Jim Schwartz, Tennessee defensive coordinator - Interviewed for Redskins job last year and will be an attractive candidate for many teams.

2 Josh McDaniels, New England offensive coordinator - Has tutored Matt Cassel to a 21-touchdown year. Maybe a package deal with Cassel?

3 Steve Spagnuolo, Giants defensive coordinator - Turned down Redskins job last year despite what those inside Redskin Park lead you to believe. Will have more suitors this year.

4 Leslie Frazier, Minnesota defensive coordinator - The Vikings rank sixth in yards and first against the run. A Tony Dungy disciple, which is never a bad thing.

5 Rex Ryan, Baltimore defensive coordinator - His teams are almost always in the top 10 (second this year). He deserves a shot somewhere.

INSIDE THE AFC

* Personnel chief James “Shack” Harris became the first domino to fall in Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are 5-10. Jack Del Rio doesn’t figure to be next because Harris’ departure signals a power struggle win for Del Rio. But Gregg Williams isn’t expected to return, and more staff changes could follow.

* It’s Week 17, which means it’s time for Jim Sorgi’s annual mop-up start. The Colts backup quarterback took all of the key reps in the preseason when Peyton Manning recovered from two knee surgeries. This week’s contest against Tennessee is meaningless. Sorgi is 44-for-79 for 447 yards and five touchdowns in regular-season finales.

* Braylon Edwards said he’s not appreciated by Cleveland’s fans. Judging by his numbers, why should he be? According to Stats Inc., Edwards leads the NFL with 16 dropped passed and passes intended for him but not caught (79). Edwards has been targeted 133 times.

* Despite having the not-so-mobile Kerry Collins at quarterback, Tennessee has allowed a league-low nine sacks. The league average is 30.9.

“To go half a season with only nine, let alone an entire season, is a feat in itself,” center Kevin Mawae said. “If you can hold it down under double digits, then you’ve done something pretty special.”

INSIDE THE NFC

* With 52 more yards by Derrick Ward, the Giants will be only the fourth team to have two running backs reach 1,000 yards. Brandon Jacobs is at 1,089. The other three teams are Miami (1972, Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris), Pittsburgh (1976, Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier) and Cleveland (1985, Earnest Byner and Kevin Mack).

* What a season for Giants graybeard kicker John Carney. The 44-year-old earned his second Pro Bowl appearance (and first in 14 years) by hitting 31 of 33 field goal attempts. His two misses were blocks, so he has been perfect when the football clears the line of scrimmage.

* Arizona (8-7) has packed it in since winning the NFC West earlier this month, losing to Minnesota and New England by a combined 82-21.

“We’ve worked hard to create something here, to gain the trust of a lot of our fans,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We feel like we’ve let them down the last two weeks because of what’s happened here.”

* The Saints have one thing to play for this week against Carolina: history. Drew Brees needs 402 yards to break Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 set in 1984. The Saints are 6-3 when Brees eclipses 300 yards. He threw for only 231 yards in New Orleans’ previous game this season vs. the Panthers, who are playing for a first-round bye.

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